Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Last One Out Turn Out the Lights

Last week a woman was laid off from my work. My organization now has 17 employees, and I have a few new responsibilities.

We also got rid of our storage area in the basement of our skyscraper. (Side note: How tall does a building have to be to be considered a skyscraper? Our building is 24 floors. I usually just call it an office building, but I'm not sure if that means something different to people who don't live in cities.)

Storage is now in the former mail room and the mail room has been moved to the main work area. I'm convinced we could also do away with the mail room storage, which still holds a lot of junk like dozens of old binders and publications we'll never need, but I don't know if there would be any financial benefit to that.

R. has said that he doesn't think I'll ever have to face the scary task of actually quitting my job because "in ten years it won't exist."In 10 years, I think my company will have more like 10 employees than 17. I can pinpoint the order in which I think they would be laid off, too, and I think I'd be pretty accurate, because for months I've guessed that Ms. X would probably be laid off in April.

There are several people in their late 50s/early 60s who might retire before they get laid off--I don't know if they would be replaced or if we'd just redistribute their responsibilities. My boss is, I think, the oldest person here, and I dread her retirement, since I think she handles the organization really well.

Layoffs in our org seem to happen based on role more than seniority or work performance. I think my position will last for a while--it has existed since the early 70s. Though if I'm still here in 10 years I may be doing more work myself rather than supervising.

Will the company fold altogether? I think it would take a lot--it's been around for more than a century. Eventually, if we're down to just a few employees, we might merge with a larger organization. I could see that happening 20-30 years from now. At which point I'll hopefully be long gone--even if I loved the place, I wouldn't want to stay here that long.

I have a certain fascination with things closing in. Recession economics equal simplification. I'm all right with that. That's the kind of challenge I find interesting and fun--doing more with less. What can I declutter today? What work are we doing that's redundant or that doesn't create much value for the organization? What can I not do?

No spending, a few more discards

Mildly financially related things I did yesterday:

  • wrapped a paperbackswap book
  • brought lunch of leftover taco meat made into a taco salad
  • cooked dinner--butter chicken and broccoli
  • spent nothing
  • changed the amount for my biweekly automatic transfer from checking to savings. I think I can do another $90 per pay period without feeling the pinch too much.
  • 2 tubes of lipstick: I like how I look wearing lipstick, but I never actually do it. Also, R. doesn't like the taste of lipstick, and I like being kissed
  • one pair of earrings
  • one chain that inevitably gets tangled in my hair
  • many papers related to my novel, as I revise and resolve the issues

More upcoming discards:
  • bicycle
  • Family silver? R. is mildly-to-moderately against me selling this, because he thinks it will appreciate in value over the next fifty years. I disagree, but should probably do more research on the historical trends in silver prices (it's monogrammed, so I probably won't be able to resell it except for the metal value).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sour Cream Banana Bread: A Love Letter

I love the Internet. Every week or so I have a moment when I just want to freaking shout this from the rooftops, even though I know it makes me seem like a crazy old person. And I'm only 29! Those of you under 25 or so will have to trust me on this: THE INTERNET HAS REVOLUTIONIZED LIFE.

For instance, cooking. A few months ago, R and I wanted chocolate chip cookies. We had chocolate chips, but no butter and eggs.

We thought that it might be possible to substitute something else, but weren't sure what. In the olden days, we would have looked through a few cookbooks, found that all the cookie recipes use butter and/or eggs, and either given up or tried to make up something ourselves, which might have been fun but probably would have turned out inedible.

Instead, we turned to the Internet and easily found a recipe. The result was not fantastic, but we now I know that you can make chocolate chip cookies without butter or eggs, in cases of extreme chocolate cravings during blizzards or famines.

Today, I searched for "sour cream banana bread" and came up with this recipe. So what? Probably everyone reading this has Googled a recipe a million times. The fact that you can search some sites for things like "banana bread with sour cream but no baking soda" is slightly more interesting, but nothing mind-blowing.

But look again--this boring, ordinary recipe has 383 reviews. I don't care whether these people liked it or not--the value of these reviews is in the modifications the reviewers made. One reviewer added craisins--mmm! Another made it with half Splenda and whole wheat flour. A third used oil instead of butter and claims it made the recipe better.

And one brave soul used strawberry banana yogurt instead of sour cream. Now that's something I wouldn't have tried, but it worked. No sour cream? Use your kids' leftover Go-gurt.

This isn't one banana bread recipe--it's 384. It's the cookbook that your grandmother had with careful pencil notes on oven adjustments and substitutions, only 383 people are making the notes.

These people will tell you what you can use if you're out of something, how to make a recipe healthier, how to make it low-fat/low-salt/vegan/gluten-free. You don't need a hundred separate cookbooks on Low Blood Pressure Cooking and Easy Microwave Dinners for Teens and Five-Ingredient Meals and Atkins-Friendly breakfasts. All you need is Google, RecipeZaar, and some strawberry-banana yogurt.

Read enough reviews and you'll begin to understand how to make these changes yourself. You're intuitively learning kitchen chemistry. I know people who have cooked their whole lives and never really understood that there's nothing magical about the exact ingredients and amounts in, say, a Joy of Cooking recipe. It may be really great when followed exactly, but you can also do all kinds of stuff to it and still end up with something recognizable as banana bread, and maybe even something that you like better.

There goes the oven timer--time to see if the people on RecipeZaar were right.