Monday, July 24, 2006

This One's for the Non-Fans, Part 8 

Many moons ago, we heard that J. J. Abrams would be helming Star Trek 11: Wherein A Dead Horse Is Beaten Yet Again, and there was a fluttering of hope throughout the Trek fandom. Abrams is, after all, king of rabid fanbases. Wait, that's Joss Wheadon. Abrams is the, um, Prime Minister of rabid fanbases. First there was Felicity, then Alias, then Lost. We all know he likes scifi and weirdness and isn't afraid to go wayyyyyyy over the top. He's intensely loyal to his characters and, for that matter, the actors that play them--Greg Grunberg, anyone?

That's why I was surprised to see him use the same old, tired line that every Trek producer uses prior to filming:

"We absolutely feel beholden to the fans, but at the same time, we have to recognize that you can't only go out and make a movie or TV shows for a group of people that live and breathe a show," Abrams says. His goal: to make a pic that "simultaneously speaks to the people who hold 'Star Trek' close to their heart and at the same time tell a story that resonates" with new fans.

Pardonez moi, Mr Abrams, but that is pretty hilarious coming from someone who created a spy show anchored in layers and layers of hidden agencies, triple agents, and mystical ancient religions. One could never become a "new" fan of Alias, because you were already 4 years into a mythology that eluded even the most faithful fans. By the series' close, we still had no idea what was going on.

Then there's Lost. Knowing your penchant for alienating outsiders, ABC insists on playing summary shows every half-season to catch everyone up on what they missed. Even still, we rarely know what's happening one show to the next or understand the sometimes-meaningful-sometimes-not symbolism you buried in the scenes.

Now you're trying to feed us the ol' "Sure we love the fans, but what about the newbies?!" line, and here's the thing: What about the newbies? Star Trek premiered in the 60s. That gives you 45 solid years of fandom. It is an industry unto itself. There were even enough fans to keep Enterprise going for 4 years, as horrible as it was. FOUR YEARS of Jonathan Archer! That tells you right there how crazy we are.

Let me ask you something. When you finally make your Alias movie in which Sloane arises from his tomb of everlasting life, Lena Olin is resurrected, Sydney and Not Michael Vaughn bust out their dayglo wigs, and zombies wander the streets under the dripping light of yet another Rambaldi doomsday machine, are you going to waste one teenie tiny second on the non-fans?

That's what I thought.

Here's what happens when you make a movie for fans that "live and breathe a show"-- Star Trek II: Khaaaaan! It jumped right into a character left behind during the original series which was, by that point, 20 years prior. TWENTY YEARS. Besides a little monologuing, no time was wasted on the non-fans. Yes, there were lots of explosions, but every character remained him or herself, nobody did anything out of line, nobody married their lifetime love on a cheesy Holodeck and nobody who formerly wore a banana clip on their face got new eyes between movies. They did kill Spock, but hey, then we had Star Trek III: Just Kidding Spock Lives. Again, nobody wasted film trying to explain who Spock was, and it was great. Sadly, after that every movie progressively got farther away from the canon and away from the true fanbase.

The tricky thing now is, ST XI is in the past, which is actually a good thing. All the silliness and plotholes laid out in the movies can simply be ignored. You know who the characters are, and you know they are destined for greatness. All you have to do is show us how they got that way. That's all. They have their personalities and their paths. Do. Not. Re. Write. Them. Some traits are just in the soul--Kirk's wiley heroism, McCoy's sarcasm, Spock's deadpan condescension... No need to show the day Kirk learned to objectify women, or that secretly, he's actually very understanding and respectful. 'Cause, no.

Now, JJ, you can do one of two things. You can raise Trek from the dead and bring it back to life in an X-Files way, which is to say, it's alive but it's wandering around with the tire marks still across it and flies buzzing around its eyes until someone finally, mercifully, puts it out of our spitting, hissing, Abrams-deriding misery. Or, you can recognize that there is no more rabid, knowledgeable, broad, money-spending fanbase than Trek fans and send the franchise off into what will probably be oblivion in the form of a loveletter. You will be revered and praised by a group who would normally look at you like a Johnny-come-lately hack, and we will give you all our money, because we are good like that.

Choose wisely, JJ. And, please, nobody wants to see Greg Grunberg playing Kirk. 'K, thanks.

PS For more pictures on what you get when you cross JJ Abrams and Star Trek, visit my graphics page.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Lemon Scallops Code 

Recently, Adam and I set forth on a great mission, and that is, to recreate the wonderfulness that is PF Chang's Lemon Scallops. Everything I've tried there so far is pretty darned good, but nothing tops the Lemon Scallops. We searched the web and found nearly every other recipe on their menu (the Lettuce Wraps are apparently very popular, and it is definitely a good one). This site, in particular, has a bunch of them. But, the one thing we couldn't find was our precious Lemon Scallops. After much research, we worked up this recipe and declared it a success. Enjoy!

Faux PF Chang's Lemon Scallops
my precioussssssss

1 lb scallops
Sesame oil
Potato starch
1 egg

2 large lemons
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 green onions
1 t chopped garlic
cold water

Preparing the scallops:

Note #1: PF Chang's uses kind of medium to small scallops, between a quarter and half dollar size. We used giant scallops and discovered that, at that size, you really have to tear them in half first so they don't brown before they're cooked inside.

Note #2: We couldn't find potato starch that day, so I dipped them in the egg, floured them in cornstarch, and pan fried them in heated olive oil until they were browned on both sides. (Important: Do not toss a scallop into the oil while distracted, leading to a splatter burn which causes you to jerk your hand back quickly, covering your black shirt in cornstarch. Not that I did that. Ahem.) However, you should be able to find potato starch at either a natural food store (because a it's gluten free starch substitute) or an Asian food market. It browns slower than cornstarch.

This is most likely the way they do it at PFC's, as researched on several Chinese food preparation sites...

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or pan to 180 degrees.
Dip the scallops in egg and roll in the potato starch until covered.
Drop into the oil and fry until slightly brown.
Drain and keep warm.

Preparing the sauce

Juice 1 and a half lemons, straining for seeds, into a saucepan. Cut the other half into quarters and slice one quarter into very thin slices and add to the juice. Stir in the water, sugar, and garlic, and turn on medium heat. Slice the green onions thinly for the white part and larger for the green part, and toss into the mix. Turn up the heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts boiling. Dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water and pour into the boiling sauce. Stirring, bring it back to a boil. If the sauce isn't thick enough for you, repeat the cornstarch and cold water, adding a little and allowing it to boil until it reaches the right consistency. Don't allow the mixture to sit without stirring, as it will burn. Once it's thickened, add in the scallops and stir until they're covered in the sauce. Remove it from the heat and serve.

It would also work to prepare the sauce first, then turn it all the way on low and keep that warm while you do the scallops, but if you haven't fried with oil much, you won't want to be worrying about the sauce already being done and possibly burning while you're wiping the starch off your black shirt, the burner, the floor, and several cabinets. Not that I did that.


Anyway, this serves 2-3 people. Also, at the restaurant, all meals are served with a large bowl of white or brown rice.

P.S. If you're looking for the recipe, think it's great, and want to add it to a copycat recipe site, please don't submit it yourself. Just send me the link and I'll be glad to pass it on to them. Thanks.


Monday, July 17, 2006

PC Amusement 

I really love Dell ads in the Sunday paper, and how they classify their sale PC's.

The E310 has 1GB RAM, Pentium 4 processor, and an 80 GB Hard Drive. They say it's great to "edit photos and more."

The E510 has the same RAM and hard drive with a Pentium D for students to do "presentations and multimedia projects."

My favorite is the B110 with its 256 MB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, and Celeron D processor, deemed a "basic" PC "ideal for simple Web browsing and e-mail!"

Pardon me while I guffaw. Currently, according to Dell, my cell phone is now more suited for "simple Web browsing and e-mail" than my trusty Locutus, sadly limping along from cobbled parts totaling 125 MB RAM, 21 MB total storage spread across 2 full hard drives, and 2, yes TWO, USB 1 connections.

Here is what my computer would be suitable for in a Dell ad:
* Turning off and on!
* Starting Windows XP!
* Running simple non-beta chat programs! 1 at a time!
* Customizing desktop with own 72-dpi images!
* Surfing the web via Unix!
* Producing professional-looking notes in Notepad!
* Creating greeting cards in PaintShop!
* Dot-matrix printer not included.

E-value code: 00000-TOSSITNOW

Friday, July 14, 2006

Office Invasion, Part 2 

Robin and I spent the day of the last posting discussing what we should do about the intrusions. A few results from our brainstorming session:

* Stop each person walking through and ask them not to do it anymore.
* Send out an email to the offending departments, reminding them that it was now an office space, not an Office Space.
* Sic our boss on them, individually or as a whole.
* Trip wires.
* Stop abruptly, swivel chair towards offender, and stare dumbly as they walk through.
* Attempt to engage each offender in a truly annoying debate, such as Frontpage vs. Dreamweaver, butter vs. margarine, Tony's vs. Daytime Emmy's, Shannen Doherty vs. Alyssa Milano, Winter Olympics vs. watching paint peel, etc.

About the time we were getting really wound up, one of the worst offenders came in and offered us fresh cookies. Robin, being a man of moral fortitude, declined. I, being a woman in need of chocolate chips, consorted with the enemy. When he left, we looked at each other for a long time and he said, "Well played."

Well played indeed, but something must still be done. Just this morning someone wandered in asking if they were "still allowed" to use our copy machine. Our passive aggressive response is to keep it unplugged. The boss noted there was no lock, and directed us to start looking for the request form. Given the levels of bureaucrazy, as it were, it will probably be next year by the time we find it.

Meanwhile, Clint wrote and suggested we post this, true to English majors form:

Through me the way into the suffering city,

Through me the way to the eternal pain,
Through me the way that runs among the lost.
Justice urged on my high artificer;
My maker was divine authority,
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.
Before me nothing but eternal things were made,
And I endure eternally.
Abandon every hope, ye who enter here.
Love, Sarah

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Moving On Up 

The truth is, between trips, traveling bosses, and moving offices, I just don't have the energy to be creative with the theories as I'd promised. But I do have this: A Modern Office Dilemma.

Last week, my assistant and I were finally granted an upgrade from refugee status in a borrowed corner of Development, marked off by a doublewide cube with high walls. Yes, we moved to the promised land: the former Emeritus Suite in the East Wing, complete with a single bathroom and a wall of windows. It's a nice little place, though oddly shaped, but our own real office nonetheless with no other departments surrounding us. We even have one of the few non-alarmed doors (outgoing only).

The area was once the home of the retired former CEO, who liked to come in and chat in a sitting area with his colleagues. After a while, he stopped coming in and the workers whose offices line the long hallway leading to the office got used to using the bathroom, lounging in the sitting area, and walking out of the door. A year passed. That leads us to last week.

You can already see the problem. As we moved in, several people wandered through, perusing our things, using the bathroom, walking out the door, etc. We had to say something for them to acknowledge our presence, at which point they'd fail to introduce themselves and skip to the part where they'd announce they would still be using our bathroom and/or door. No asking, no with-your-permission, no if-it's-ok-with-you, just, "Yeah, boy, we sure do like your door. haHA!" One woman tried to convince us not to install a lock on our office or close our door (the bathroom is directly behind the door) using the reasoning that she'd had several cameras stolen and still didn't get a lock. Good reason.

Since then, we've had at least one person per each half-day traipse through here with a polite announcement like, "COMIN' THRU!" before they ram into the door and let it slam behind them. Or, we'd be chatting about said incident when we realize another person has walked into our area and into the bathroom, no doubt having overheard most of the conversation. I can only imagine how my boss will enjoy this as we lay out a monthly issue and are interrupted by someone "comin' thru."

I realize that this is the point where someone might call us spoiled and ungracious, or we should roll with the punches, or whatever else comes to their no-problem-stomping-through-other-people's-offices-and-touching-their-things-without-permission mind.

And, that's the problem: Modern offices are too settled into the caste system. People with offices are afforded privacy. They can close their doors and talk on the phone, snooze, or work quietly and nobody bats an eye. Those of us (that is, the majority of people) unlucky enough to work in a cube or in a common area have no privacy, a forced familiarity with others, and a constant encroachment on what little territory we have (see Waddams, Milton). Now we finally have an office, but because people are used to walking through it, they apparently intend on continuing to the point where we'll be deemed unreasonable for closing our door. After all, they're Office People and we're not.

In my opinion, it's time to set some limits. But, how? Cordon off the area? Petition each department involved for politeness? Send the boss? Send myself? Gently suggest? Strongly suggest? Electric fence? Spiked floors? Whatever it is, besides dealing with it, we will be taking away their candy and won't be too popular. At the moment, however, we're considering installing these at the door:

and, finally, my own creation:



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