My favorite kitchen tool


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Originally uploaded by susancoyotesfan

This is one of my favorite kitchen items. It is my Presto pressure cooker, circa sometime mid twentieth century. It belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and we inherited it when Oscar, my husband’s grandfather died at the ripe age of 97. Yes, it’s dirty on the top because it’s cooking our dinner.

This is a life saver for days like today, when we both were busy studying and taking tests for our on line classes. Neither of us came up for air or remembered about dinner until 6 pm; so, there’s a ham hock with veggies and rice in there cooking. In less than an hour we’ll have dinner (plus prep time, about 45 min).

Wow, you say. Nearly two hours to make dinner??? Well, it beats the hell out of a frozen meal, made with God only knows what for ingredient sources, and preservatives to boot. Everything came from our freezer or our storage. And it surely beats the hell out of spending money on a take out meal.

Believe it or not, a pressure cooker can use less power than a crockpot or regular cooking. That’s because the pressure makes the food cook faster. I could make it even more efficient by cooking on my rocket stove, or by bringing it to pressure and then putting it into my haybox cooker to finish coming back down to atmospheric pressure. In the summer this may well be cooking on my firepit outside, or on my campstove.

My haybox cooker is a wine case with styrofoam glued to the outside, and nested in a cardboard box.  I use an old felted wool blanket folded in it as the ‘hay’ because it’s neater and holds heat really well.

All in all, this has been a lifesaver for two college students trying to maintain honors gpa’s while still working. If only I could find a lifesaver that would help us out that much with laundry and housekeeping.

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Jared is a trailbreaker.


All the news media regarding the shooting, and the salacious drama endlessly paraded by pundits, really misses the point.  Jared wasn’t alone, and isn’t alone.  Not in Arizona, and not in the world.  He merely chose to do something that would make him internationally known; most merely turn their rage and hopelessness on themselves or their families.

Some people simply don’t want to work, want the system to support them, and will do whatever it takes to manipulate the welfare system into supporting them.  These are not the people I am speaking of, nor do I wish to speak of them now.  They are another entity entirely.

I’ve blogged before about the crisis here in Arizona regarding psychiatric services and how that affects delivery of service via the emergency room.  I’ve explained about ‘psych holds’ and how they often spend days awaiting transfer to a psych facility.  Some of these are people already in the ‘system’ so to speak, who are clients of the contracted psychiatric services but many are new.  They were surviving, hanging on, until the economic crisis and stresses of it pushed them over the edge.  They lose their jobs then their marriages; a consequence of being a citizen of Arizona is that often there is no other family within five hundred miles, so the loss of spousal support means the loss of the only emotional support available.  These people are used to taking care of themselves.  The idea of needing help is foreign, and they don’t know how to navigate the system to get any sort of assistance, whether health care or psychiatric care. In the end they simply punish themselves for their own failure to ‘beat’ the system.

Another new thing is that domestic violence seems to be getting more violent; I could be wrong but it seems to me that we are seeing more cases of extreme violence coming to the emergency rooms (and morgues) as traumas — gunshot wounds, stabbings, beatings not just with fists but with bats. This too I attribute to the stresses of our present economic situation.

So what does that have to do with Jared?  Well, a lot, actually.  While I detest the thought of giving him any more notoriety, he is a symbol of what’s happening.  He is intelligent, perhaps beyond average.  He is well read and reads literature that provokes independent thought.  He challenges the ideas thrust upon us by media regarding the proper ways to think, behave, eat, consume.  He appears to have been a sensitive individual who did not have the emotional reserves to simply hunker down and try to fit in, to prostitute his psyche in exchange for a job and a paycheck.  He sees that the system is dreadfully broken.  All this is common to many of the people who come to the emergency room in emotional crisis.  They are perhaps less articulate than he was, but they share the same despair and frustration.  They simply turned it on themselves rather than others, and so remain invisible to our society at large; indeed, they may have even further damaged their chances at ‘beating’ the system because our society frowns on emotional weakness, which is still how psychiatric diagnoses are viewed, as though they are personal failings, and therefore are less likely to get a chance to get a leg up.

It is a measure of the broken-ness of our society that unmannered and violent yet attractive young women from New Jersey, with far too much money and far too little common sense, education, and decorum, are touted as models for our young people.  It is a measure of our broken-ness that Justin Bieber is a model for young people. In some ways I am reminded of Galadriel in Tolkein’s saga.  When Frodo offers her the ring of power, she considers the offer and what she will become.  She says that all will look on her beauty; they will love her and despair.  Perhaps the dedicated watchers of the New Jersey girls look on them and despair in the same way.

Beware, though.  Those that watch are also learning valuable lessons on how to break the rules to get what they want.  As people become more cognizant of the fact that what our society has fed them regarding their chances to make it big is nothing but lies, they’ll be less and less afraid to act out.  And in a world of twitter and facebook, they’ll not all turn it in.

The end of an era.


I have come to the disturbing conclusion, bubbling below the surface of my consciousness for months and causing great mental distress, that my place of employment has passed its days of greatness.  The things – no, the thing – that made my employer unique is simply gone, and it left with the retirement of the previous president and CEO.  Sadly, even though it’s a non profit, it is run increasingly like a for profit institution and words like ‘throughput’ ‘efficiency’ ‘customer service’ ‘market share’ and more are on the lips of more and more people there.  The people at the top, who are supposed to have a clue, are completely out of touch with what transpires on a daily basis in the very departments that effect the raison de etre for the facility.  It really makes me sad.

It’s truly a sad thing when a mid level boss has to actually conduct a study and gather data to prove it’s not his department that is causing the holdup.  It’s a truly sad thing when admitted patients sit in the ED for hours because the floors have sent staff home because of lack of patient load and in the interests of ‘fiscal responsibility’. It’s even sadder when patients sit in triage for hours waiting because the beds they need are filled with patients who are already admitted and can’t be moved.

How can we seriously talk about ‘throughput’ when we’re talking about human lives?  Or market share?  Or efficiency?  People aren’t products!   We don’t manufacture people, we care for them, and those words seriously shouldn’t even be in the same paragraph as human medical treatment.  Any time you talk about efficiency when speaking of medical care you are talking about cutting staff and essential services in the interests of the bottom line, and don’t let anyone fool you into believing differently.  And I’m sorry, but the best way to give good customer service is to STAFF APPROPRIATELY AT ALL TIMES.  There’s simply no other way to do it.  Making people do more with less means that more errors will occur, and more lawsuits will ultimately come for the simple reason that workers are overstressed and hurried.  It’s a hard enough job to do with compassion and personal efficiency.  What’s more, staff are human. The entire efficiency model is based on a debunked paradigm of humanity and the world as machines.
Trying to make nurses and techs work harder than they already do is a losing proposition.

There are several areas in the public sphere that really, honestly, should NEVER be left to a capitalist persuasion.  Life safety — OSHA, fire service, police, emergency medical services; welfare — trash, sewage, water, electricity; medical care — nursing, medicine, hospitalization, doctoring.  Any time it becomes a for profit career or institution it becomes corrupted.  Or at least in modern times, thanks to corporatism, have become corrupted.  Perhaps in the past the corruption was less simply because the sphere of influence was less.

All I have to say is that the economy better hold out til I get my graduate degree completed.