Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fudging the numbers in a bad economy...

I think that a lot of the colleges out there are not being 110% truthful with their incoming students. Which is a shame considering how much money they will be taking from them.

Take Sage with all of their 98% commercials. I can probably recite the commercial that's how many times I've seen it. I would love to see the number breakdown however. How many of that percentage is "employed after graduation" and what percentage "continued their education."

Take Albany Law School. I believe they count me as "employed" even though I'm scraping by with two non-legal jobs, as are quite a few of my friends. I also wonder if they count part time folks who are taking legal work here and there when they can as "employed." And they also cut the LLM tuition this year to $15,000 ... one THIRD the normal cost. A THIRD? Dollars to donuts that all of the kids who signed up for that sweet deal are factor into Albany Law's EMPLOYED OR continued their education numbers.

I just think that it's a shame in such a crappy economy that universities cannot be honest with their students. Especially when all of these universities have policies that ensure their students be honest with them. Just set forth straightforward stats.
X % of students are employed in their field of study
Y % of students are employed, but not in their chosen field of study
Z % of students continued their education
That was prospective students can get an accurate assessment of what their chances are. Instead of thinking "oh yeah, there's no CHANCE I'll be in that 2%" Because the reality is, it's much larger than 2%.

It's a bad precedent to start off your student-university relationship on a lie. Because really, in the end it doesn't end up working out for you. Sure, you got their tuition, but will you ever see an alumni gift?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alternative Apple Pies

Alright... 'tis the season for apple creations, and well, there are only so many apple pies a girl can eat. I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite alternative apple pie recipes and if anyone has their own apple pie alternative, I would LOVE for you to share it with me.

Apple Torte

You will need various ingredients

For the CRUST
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 Stick) or Crisco
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
(I usually make two batches of crust at one, and buy the Crisco containers that come in three packs, I use one of the wrapped Crisco Vegetable Oil packages and double the rest of the recipe)

- 8 ounces cream cheese (1 Package)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (not firmly packed, just a fill the measuring cup w/out packing down)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 egg if large or extra large - you may need two eggs if using medium eggs

- 3-4 apples, any kind, I prefer MacIntosh or another soft apple
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

And then enact the various steps

1 - preheat your oven to 350 degrees
2 - find a pie pan - 9 inch for a more shallow torte, 8 inch for a deeper dish torte
3 - mix the ingredients for the crust together, you can start this with a spoon/mixer, but it's usually just easier to get in there with your hands, you'll end up having to finish it up that way anyway
4 - roll out the pie crust, and place in your pie pan(s)
5 - blind bake the pie crust for 10 minutes (blind baking is setting the pie crust in the oven with either pie weights or some wax paper and some dry kidney beans and then baking by itself e.g. w/out filling)
6 - mix together the filling ingredients until creamy and smooth - while you can do this by hand, it is tiresome and takes forever - about three minutes with an electric mixer on medium-high should do it
7 - pull crusts from blind baking - let cool while you perform step 8
8 - core, peel and slice your apples, i always make sure to slice mine VERY thin, cause that's the way I like it, but slices can be made to taste
9 - put apples in bowl, mix with cinnamon and sugar
10 - pour filling into pie crust(s)
11 - arrange apple mixture over the filling
12 - scatter toasted almonds on top of the apple mixture
13 - bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour
14 - refrigerate for at least 1 hour - then serve

1 - always use REAL/PURE vanilla extract in the filling, imitation can be substituted for the crust, where you won't really know the difference, but you will notice in the filling
2 - purchase pre-sliced almonds, to toast them, just throw them in a non-stick skillet and toast on the stove-top for 2-3 minutes
3 - have your ingredients at room temperature when starting - trying to work with cold butter/crisco and cream cheese is a nightmare
4 - if desired caramel sauce (store bought or homemade) can be drizzled over this torte to make it extra-special wonderful ... in the words of a former roommate "I'm just sayin"


Crispy Pear Crisp

Again, you will need various ingredients...

- 6 pears - sliced, my favorite are Bartlett
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (which will be divided)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup regular oats
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 - Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2 - Toss pear slices with lemon juice
3 - Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon stirring with a whisk or a fork
4 - Add the cornstarch/sugar mix to the pears and lemon - toss until coated
5 - Place the pear mixture into a baking pan
6 - Mix the flour, brown sugar and the other teaspoon of cinnamon until combined
7 - Add the chilled butter and mix until the mixture turns crumbly
8 - Mix in the oats and walnuts, stir until combined
9 - Sprinkle the flour/butter/oat mixture over the pears in the baking pan
10 - Cook for 40 minutes, or until the pears are tender and the topping is golden brown
11 - Let cool for 15-20 minutes, serve warm

1 - Steps 6-8 can be performed in a food processor or blender to speed things up
2 - Serve with ice cream - vanilla or maple being the best choices.

Okay friends - your turn - share your recipes!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quality Customer Service

Quality customer service? Where has it gone? I have decided recently that most corporations in an attempt to save money have skipped out on the "service-with-a-smile" lesson and just handed out the "how-to-flip-a-burger" lesson before sending their newest employees out into the work environment.

The other day, I made a McDonald's run from my office. For two reasons. 1) I felt like crap and special sauce always makes me feel better (hold the dirty jokes please) and 2) Marc collects the McDonalds pieces too, we're trying to win some money on getting fat here. Don't judge us.

Now, as I was going from the office, I had a few orders beside my own, and some coupons (I love the Entertainment Book). I tried to make my order clearly and slowly, as the woman behind the counter taking my order appeared to only be able to cope with 1 word every 4 seconds. She had to call the manager twice during my order, once to make sure they still served a double-cheesburger meal and once to ask about my coupon. But needless to say, after about 4 minutes, we had ordered my four burgers, three things of fries and two drinks. Not exactly FAST food... I'm pretty sure I could have already been served my meal at my favorite diner, but, all in all, I'm not too upset with cashier-girl. Although none-too-bright, she seemed to be making the best of it by coming to work at McDonald's and trying her hardest.

However, the associate (or Scary-looking-surly-employee - SLSE for short) who was putting my order together was a completely different story. During my ordeal with cashier-girl I managed to mention a couple of times that my order was "to-go" and sure enough, on the ticket that spit out of the register, after we were finally done, read "take-out" in shiny-new-printer-ink black letters. However SLSE began to load my order on a tray. As she threw the first burger casually toward the tray, I said "Excuse me, ma'am, but my order is to go." This earned me a surly stare and a grunt. She turned around, picked up some more burgers and began to slam them on the tray as well. Ok, maybe she had not heard me. I said "Excuse me, ma'am, but my order is to go please." This time SLSE just ignored me. She then got drinks and fries, placed these (none-too-kindly) on the tray as well and shoved it toward me with another grunt.

Not wanting to upset her, because she looked like she would jump the counter and fight me (and those acrylic nails looked like they could cut my throat), I said, "Excuse me ma'am, but could I please have a bag, because my order is to go." I even held up my receipt with the shiny "take-out" printed on it as proof! She ignored me again, at which point I looked helplessly at register girl, who mumbled something to SLSE. SLSE then turned around and glared at me and asked "WELL WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SO IN THE FIRST PLACE!" And proceeded to grab a bag and fling my food purchases into in haphazardly. I did not point out that I had said so in the first place, because again, the acrylic nails were terrifying.

Well from now on, I think I'm going to Burger King. Because at least the whole "Have it your way" motto leaves them in somewhat of a better mood. (Although I do have to point out that I did not make one special request in my McD's order)

I was tempted to write the franchise owner a letter concerning my horrifying experience and decision to switch burger joints. But I felt, why make that woman's life worse (because it obviously sucks so much already she can't show other human beings normal courtesy), and well, I'm lazy, and that process would involve finding a stamp, and an envelope.

And what really talked me out of the whole affair was that I think it might be industry wide. This morning, getting some Dunkin Donuts, in order to rectify the whole not-really-being-awake thing I had going for me this morning, I attempted to order 1) medium coffee and 1) blueberry muffin. I had a coupon for the coffee, which I both mentioned and presented before making my order, so as to prevent any confusion. I was excited about my coupon, because it would bring my order under $3, which was all the cash money I had on me, and I wouldn't have to locate my debit card in my catastrophe of a purse. Well Miss Casher (MS) rings me up and pronounces "$3.30." I look abjectly confused, because a muffin is a little over a dollar and my coupon made my coffee $0.99 cents. I ask "But I had a coupon?" MS glares at me, as if I have done something wrong at this point and goes "Well I already put it through, you'll have to use it next time."

Now, I'm not normally a fussy person, but REALLY? REALLY? I said "Excuse me, but no, I really do want to use it this time, and I did have it ready before the sale, so if you could just get a manager, that would be great." MS stomps (16 year old fight with your mom style) over to an older gentleman and stage whispers for awhile about what a problem I'm being. Manager comes over and asks "And WHAT is the problem here?" Again, as if I have done something wrong.

MS has now upset the woman behind me in line, who has been waiting for a bit who goes. "This lady had a coupon, she gave it to the girl there, who ignored it and then told her she couldn't use it, she had it in the beginning, and maybe if you all were a little more helpful, we would have BOTH had breakfast by now!"

As this Dunkin Donuts is in a gas station, we were now attracting attention. Manager managed to apologize and actually comp my muffin (yay!) and gave the lady behind me a free coffee (because of the wait). As for whatever reason, she appeared more upset and more liable to jump the counter than I was.

I don't get what the world has come to. I get that food jobs are not glamourous jobs and that sometimes customers are jerks. Trust me, I know, I work part time at the Home Depot, and if I ever won the lottery, I wouldn't quit, I would just start asking the jerky customers "Do you treat everyone this way or only people that you feel are beneath you?" So I get it, I do, customer are sometimes stuck-up jerkfaces. But I am never a stuck-up jerkface, I REALIZE your job can suck.

So I have a few things to say to the food workers of the day

1 - You have a job, that's something to say in this economy.
2 - McD's does not even pay minimum wage, in most of the ads I've seen for them hiring, it's been around $9 an hour, which is better than a lot of jobs in this economy.
3 - You get free food for working there. Maybe you should try a Happy Meal and get happy.
4 - I have a coupon, you probably use coupons too, deal with it.
5 - I come to McD's/DD HAPPY, because I have a coupon or a "free-breffus-sandwich" McD's monopoly piece, and I'm excited about warm-happy-cheap-breffus. You should not have RUINED MY MORNING by the time I leave.
6 - If you are really so freaking miserable, apply to Wal-Mart to do the overnight stocking, where you won't have to interact with anyone. This might even be a public service, and qualify you for some sort of grant. Look into it, please.

Cover Letter Courtesy - Addendum

Lately I have been receiving letters along the lines of ... "We have received your application, are forwarding it along to the "decision-makers" (or synonym) and will let you know in the future if an interview is to be scheduled."

I kinda like this letter. It's much better than a rejection letter, and is really all I wanted, acknowledgment that I applied.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dieting between two jobs

Ok, basically since being let go from evil-corporation-that-shall-not-be-named, I have put on roughly 20 pounds. This is due to two factors.

1 - I moved in with and began making dinner for Marc. Marc does not eat diet meals for dinner. So when I make an amazingly scrumptious, ridiculously calorie filled meal for him, it's not like I then pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven and eat that instead. I totally share in tasty, tasty, too many calorie goodness. Marc also keeps junk food lying around. Because he likes junk food. And when I am weak, I like junk food too. Also when I am tired. Also when I am sick. Also when I am stressed. Ok, so pretty much always.

2 - I am working two jobs, basically around 12 hours a day most days in order to make less that I made working the one evil job. This is to pay for the ridiculous amount of debt I am in, and rent, and other expenses of life. Now one would figure this would make meal planning easier. And for the most part, it does. I take 3 pieces of fruit, a diet meal, a protein bar and a yogurt to job 1 - these are consumed between 8am and 4pm. Then I go home, shovel another diet meal and some veggies and go to job 2.

Then problem then is, when I leave job 2 at 10:30-11:00 p.m. I am STARVING again. I usually solve this problem by grabbing a burger, or binge eating on the massive amount of candy that is always lying around our home. Because screw cooking anything at that hour, and celery sticks just aint gonna cut it at that hour.

Did I mention between these two jobs that I pretty much never work out? Because I'm exhausted all the time. So it's not like there's work-out time that can make up for the extra calories.

Endgame? I need suggestions - does anyone know anything wonderful that I can eat late at night that won't completely screw over the day of d ieting? Drinking water does not cut it here either people, I tried that route. It is NO GOOD. What would be especially helpful in this scenario is a portable snack that tastes good and won't ruin my day. That way, I could take it to job 2 and eat it maybe an hour before I leave, so that I burn some of it off.

Also - does anyone know any QUICK calorie busting routines. I am thinking of maybe trying to get up 15 minutes earlier. It would be great if anyone knew some quick tricks that might aid in burning some calories that would not completely eat into the very little sleep I get.

Thanks all! And best of luck to anyone else who is trying to lose weight/exercise/find a real legal job in this market.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Road Rage

Every morning as I drive down the Northway, I consider just getting off an exit, finding the nearest Staples and buying a banner that says "KARMA GETS TAILGATERS!" ... This of course, is for the moments during my commute when I'm in a good mood. Most of the rest of the commute is spent yelling things like "WHAT ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZY?" and contemplating flipping people off. However, since I get on the Northday quite a bit upstate, I do not flip people off, as well, some of them probably have shotguns, and are probably crazy, and I'd rather not die in traffic, even in an unconventional shot-gun death in traffic, even if it would make the news.

Seriously, I really do not understand people who think that pushing back and forth through traffic gets them anywhere. The Northway backs up, and it comes to a standstill, yes, this sucks, but freakin deal with it. You nearly colliding with 8 or 9 vehicles in order to get off the exit a mere two spots ahead of where you were (because you were right behind me at exit 12, and managed to get off exit 7 a whopping one space a head of me) blows my mind. It blows my mind even worse when you have CHILDREN in you car. The only thing that makes these maneuvers okay is if one of those children is DYING and you simply must get the to the hospital. Of course, the manner in which you are driving pretty much ensures a good possibility that you will have company when you get there.

The exit is pretty much the point in time when I wish I had another sign that would pop up from the top of my car (written backwards so as to be read clearly in mirrors) that said "HAPPY NOW? NEARLY KILLED ME (and 4 others) AND WE'RE STILL GETTING INTO TROY AT THE SAME TIME!" ... but that would be a big sign, and it would be hard to rig a pop up mechanism. Although a real live pop-up, as opposed to internet ads would be a good twist in life.

Today on my commute, some woman, whose front bumper I COULD NOT SEE, that's how far up my but she was, swerved into the middle lane, cutting off a gentleman who honked at her and shook his fist, then tried to quickly swerve back into the left lane in front of me.... as this would have put her somewhere in the middle of my vehicle, as there was no room to cut me off, I honked. She responded by have what looked like a seizure and flipping me off. I mean all out seizure to... it looked like she was either death metal rocking or slamming her head on the steering wheel.. Well ma'am, I'm sorry for keeping up with the traffic flow and not allowing you to cut me off. Try to keep the crazy down and not cut off the poor guy behind me, who funny enough is now speeding up to not let you back in. Please don't ram his car. Also, stop shaking your head like that, no need to give yourself whiplash BEFORE your inevitable accident.

Of course, this no where near blows my mind as much as the article I read about the Bronx woman the other day. 31 year old Carmen Huertas, after have enough to put her at .1382 stuffed 7 girls aged 11-14 into a sedan (4 door, not a minivan or anything) and proceeded to drive. While driving, she even managed to ask the girls such things as "Who thinks something's gonna happen? Raise your hand. Who thinks we're gonna get into an accident?" Yeah, there's nothing like terrifying a group of young girls before you flip the car, kill one of them, break anothers legs and pretty much injury the crap out of the rest of them. And funny enough, you get to live. Please, please, please get locked up for the rest of your life.

I think everyone should have a drivers test every five years. Possibly more often, because the things that happen out there are scary. Oh yeah, and if you drive drunk, your license should just be yanked. No second chances with a good attorney, etc. etc. That shit should just be taken away for a year or so to give you time to contemplate the horrible things you might have done. Screw with your own life all you want, but when you go putting kids at risk, how do you live with yourself?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Girl Halloween Costumes

Halloween costumes for ladies are ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS! The main thing that bothers me about these costumes is that there is really nothing to them ... take for example this young lady at the right here .... How everyone at the party is NOT going to see her bajingo at the end of the night is beyond me. I mean seriously? Can you even wear panties with this costume? I vote no. And other than Britney Spears, who goes out without panties on?

Yet another thing that bothers me is that for the $0.25 cents worth of fabric that is shown here, ladies are charged anywhere between $45.95 (if it is on SALE) to $77.95 for these ridiculous costumes. That had better be real gold thread on that puppy, and I had better be able to take that cold thread out for the dress, put it in an envelope, and mail it to "Cash-for-gold.com" when I'm done to get at least SOME of my money back.

The other thing that bothers me about these costumes, is that none of them look anything like the person or profession they are suppose to represent. I mean seriously, when have you even seen a nurse or a cop that looked like these two?

My roommate and I were going to get costumes like these a couple of years ago, put them on and when people asked questions such as "What are you? A nurse?" or "Are you a cop?" We would say, "No, we're dressed up as strippers." Because seriously, although I have never seen a nurse or a police officer dressed in either of these costumes, I have, in my short life, seem some strippers, and this about fits the bill.

Two years ago, I went as Rainbow Brite... a childhood favorite.
Now this young lady here must have no hips whatsoever, because this photo does not quite do the piece of material I ended up with, justice. I ended up with a skirt that pointed down in triangular fashion with just enough material to cover about what my skimpiest bathing suit cover. And it cost me $49.95. Then I went out and bought about $10 more worth of fabric in order to stitch into the skirt, so that I could go out and get my drink on properly, and not worry about showing everyone my very awesome Rainbow-Brite underwear. Which portrayed the actual characters and was not a travesty, like my costume.

The ideal is, I want a costume that I look good in, but do not have to worry about falling out of. And preferably do not have to worry about wearing heels like -----> those in again. (Cause man did my feet hurt!) And that's what I blame my poor decisions from Rainbow Brite night on, the shoes, not the booze.

And I don't want to go the only other route available to women... a seemingly long dress that I will inevitably trip on, when (that's right, you got it) getting my drink on. Or it's likely that I would drag those epic looking sleeves through some sort of greasy food at four in the morning, when I am either A) trying to get a taxi cab to drive through the McDonalds window or B) chowin

So for this year... any suggestions? I would like an in between look.... and I do not have many costuming skillZ. I can sew a straight line by hand, but as for coming up with, and cutting out patterns. Fah! Ain't happening.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cover Letter Courtesy

So after entirely too many years of education I am working two jobs that do not have anything to do with my education. Crappy economy, yes I know. However, there still seem to be a number of jobs out there that I am qualified for, I know this, because I apply for them daily. Many of these jobs require a cover letter describing why I am suited to the employment they are offering. Now I know it would be silly to apply to a job without a cover letter, however, jobs that just require a resume, you can usually send a standard form cover letter, which you have drafted previously, and make minor changes, such as date and employer address.

Personalized cover letters however, take me some time. I sit and think about the job and think about the skills required for the job and the skills I have and how best to analogize the two to show that I am the best candidate for the job. This can some times take me up to half an hour, and I am by no means an idiot.

Now most of these cover letters are what you would call "normal," describing my work history and why it makes me a good candidate to work in the future for said employer.

EXAMPLE "In my most recent position with "X" I learned how to effectively communicate with people of varying backgrounds and ranges of understanding. As a hearing representative I would deal with both represented and unrepresented workers' compensation claimant. These claimants would vary from day laborers who speak no English, to medical doctors, to anything in between. It was my job to obtain a clear and concise history from each claimant to establish whether or not "X" would be responsible for their case. Through my time with "X" I learned how to interview varying individuals quickly, concisely and in a manner in which each claimant felt he or she could be frank with me. I feel that this experience makes me an excellent candidate for position "Y.""

However, sometimes, in writing 10 or 15 of these cover letters in a week gets boring, and mind numbing. And sometimes I apply for jobs that I know I will not get (e.g. they required 5 years experience or that I be number 1 in my class' grades), and I figure maybe I can at least get an interview if I entertain them in my cover letter.

EXAMPLE "I am an excellent candidate for dealing with new and challenging experiences. I am a quick learner and learn new tasks with remarkable speed. In high school, I worked on a farm one summer and the first task we were assigned was to "wrassle" up the sheep to be sheared. I had never "wrassled" sheep before and did not know that the task could prove difficult if one weighed approximately the same amount as the sheep one was trying to "wrassle." However, within three tries I was successfully tackling sheep and pushing them toward the conveyor which led them on to their annual haircuts. I feel that my willingness to try new things and the speed at which I assimilate new task would make me an outstanding candidate for position "Y."

However, regardless the cover letter. I only get a response from 1% of the applications I send out. Now I know that it is a crap economy and it is the employer's world. But I still feel that each of these companies, firms, agencies, etc., MUST have a standard form rejection letter on hand...

EXAMPLE "Dear Candidate "X." Thank you for applying for position "Y." Company "Z" received many qualified applications for this job, and regretfully cannot hire all of the applicants. While your accomplishments are noteworthy, Company "Z" has hired an individual it feels is better suited to the position. Company "Z" wishes you the best of luck in your employment search" x______________ (which is then stamped with a signature stamp by an underpaid secretary)

See. That took me 1 minute. 60 seconds. Maybe I could do that as a job, write standard form rejection letters for various and sundry companies so that the world will feel less suicidal as a whole.

And really, who doesn't at least write you a 60 second letter about the sheep wrassling experience when you're applying to a law firm worth billions? That didn't even get a giggle out of the underpaid secretary reading it?
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