Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday roundup

In many stories you can at least kind of see two (or more) sides, but from the first paragraphs of this one, all you can think is, "what a scumbag!"

I don't disagree with this article on carnivorism and global warming. Organic soy that is neither from Brazil, nor China, is important. The thing is, so much of the deforestation-causing soy is produced for livestock feed, not tofu. But generally, I agree with what he has to say.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday evening roundup and another creepy RM incident

Paul Collier needs to stick to issues he understands--there are so many mistaken assumptions in what he wrote. Of all of these, Raj Patel's is the most comprehensive and on-point. The next one's good, too.

Ah, another we're-not-your-grandmother's-Jews trend story. By the way, yesterday's Daily Show interview annoyed me for many reasons.

I love Candorville.

With so many people who don't want to talk to their seatmates, who are these aggressive, pushy people that don't get it? I really recommend headphones--big ones.

Speaking of aggressive people, a timeshare telemarketer actually called my work number and wouldn't let me get off the phone politely-- I practically had to hang up on her as she continued to interrupt me with promises to save me money. I provide Hilton with my work number because I make a reservation for a business trip, and they dare Hilton's call me at work and harass me?

And speaking of people who don't get it, RM scared the crap out of me just now. It doesn't bother me that he's here when he's supposed to be on his way out of town. All I'm doing is watching "TV" in my office-- it's not like I had any big plans for the house-- but it's a very, very bad idea to not call me, after telling me this morning that he would be leaving straight from the office, and then come in and set off the alarm. What am I supposed to think when I hear the alarm go off? Of course, within seconds I saw him, as he turned it off, but it was not a happy few seconds, and it could have been worse.

He went upstairs, came down just as I was about to go upstairs. Stands in the stairs, asks me about my day. He'd mentioned, after coming in, that he was probably messing with my plans to have the house to myself, and so on. I replied that my only plans were to watch netflix, in my office, so his presence would not affect my evening at all. Were he any less boundaryless, I might have made a joke about having planned to hang out naked in the living room and make coffee, but I certainly did not want to go there. He continues to talk to me--and block my way--for a few more minutes, but I manage to escape, believing, naively, that I once again have my evening to myself.

But wait. It gets creepier.

A few minutes later--just as I was blogging the above--he knocks on the door to my office. I say, "yes?" Note that I did not say, "come in." Nonetheless, he comes in, past the door, and sits down on the floor right in front of me (I'm sitting on a futon). I'm already uncomfortable; after all, I don't recall having invited him into my space, nor given him an opportunity to talk to me for any prolonged period of time. He asked whether I'd already started watching my movie; I said, 'not yet but I'm about to.'

Before I go on, let me reiterate: this is not the living room or another common space in the house. This is my office. This is where I retreat when, among other things, I want to be alone and certainly do not want to engage with RM in any way. And my door was closed--is that not a sign that I don't exactly want company?

But it gets even creepier: he says, "I want to show you a yoga relaxation technique" as he proceeds to put my foot in his hands.

I firmly say, "NO, NO, NO, NO. I don't need to learn a yoga relaxation technique."

He looks hurt, surprised. I continue to look directly at him, unamused, as he slowly realizes that it's time for him to leave the room. He goes downstairs, probably mopes, maybe cries. I think I heard some whimpering or at least sniffling as he just came back upstairs.

I don't understand how he can be so clueless. It's just like what they said in the article about the talkative seatmates: they just want to talk, and it doesn't occur to them to consider whether the person they require to make that happen shares their interest in conversation. Sure, I don't have formal plans for the evening, but I am in my own space and I'm entitled to a quiet evening to myself. How, how, how, after we've had this conversation so many times, can it not occur to him that my idea of a quality evening at home does not involve him?

I guess it would be creepier if he were actively making a point of flouting my boundaries; as it is, he's just not capable of understanding the concept of boundaries, hence the constant state of amazement he experiences every time I reinforce them, hence the failure to learn from and adjust accordingly in the aftermath of the previous incidents (and my reaction to them). I just don't understand how a man at his age, his rank, etc. can get to this point in his life without it crossing his mind that the woman in whose house he rents a room might not welcome his walking into her office, much less grabbing her foot. It would have been bad enough had popped his head in and asked whether he could come in, sit down, show me a yoga technique, and touch my foot (and I would have said, "no, thank you")... but bad enough wasn't good enough for him: he had to make it even worse. Who does that? What goes through that kind of person's head?

Dare I say, based on the fact that he actually left my office promptly and later, said goodnight from all the way across the hall (Gracie had come in, leaving the door slightly open), that I think, hope that now he gets it?

It's Sunday now. I've not seen RM since Friday, but that won't stop me from rambling about what happened. Or rambling in general.

I found myself thinking, yesterday, that whoever thought up the myth of Sisyphus didn’t do his or her own yardwork; otherwise, there’d be no stone to speak of—just an constant supply of leaves. It’s not as dramatic, but much more realistic. Of course, the hole in that would be that yardwork’s kind of fun, especially in nice weather. Yesterday, I enjoyed raking. Last January, I enjoyed coming back into the house and thawing my hands and feet.

I also found myself thinking, ‘you’d never know, from how much yardwork I do, that there’s a man living in my house who likes to pretend to be useful.’ I want to be very careful, about this, though: I don’t want or expect him to do the yardwork, and I in no way resent him for not doing it. What I resent him for is not factoring in the fact that I have done it, when he decides it’s playtime and he wants company. It’s a fine distinction, but I (usually) have no problem with the fact that RM never empties the dishwasher, rakes or scoops out the litter box. In fact, I’d be horrified if he did scoop out the litter box—that’s my job. What I have a problem with is that, by virtue of having done all that—and on Friday, I’d raked, scooped, and cleaned some—I’m in even less of a mood than usual to be social. But the guy’s got blinders on—if he’s not here for it, it doesn’t happen. Actually, I’m giving him too much credit—he’s harassed me for company even after seeing me spend the better part of the weekend on chores.

Of course, this whole cluelessness thing is a minor detail in the major inappropriateness of the other night, but it’s the most fascinating to me. The rest is just kind of who he is. I told a friend about it last night in all its unbelievable detail. I told her about how the minute he walked into my office, the look on my face conveyed, “what are you doing? What’s going on? I didn’t invite you in?” I told her that any person with a modicum of self-awareness would have read the myriad signals I was emitting before allowing the situation to get to the point where I responded as firmly as I did. My friend, who has met RM, was duly horrified by the incident, but echoed my assessment: he meant no harm; he just has no idea that that kind of behavior is completely inappropriate, just like he had no concept that the pearl earrings were inappropriate. There are more parallels between the two situations: he probably had a similar delusion going on—he was thinking what a great gift he would give me, how surprised, delighted I would be. And that’s the part I find fascinating: nowhere in his world, in which he is ever-generous and helpful, does it occur to him that those on the other end of his “generosity” may not want what he’s giving; that it’s not the thought that counts; that if your goal is to give a genuinely well-received gift, you have to have the other person’s needs and wants in mind. And it would enter the imagination of anyone with half a brain—much less anyone who has lived with me for six months—that my wants and needs on a Friday night, after a long day and a long week, would entail RM barging into my office to teach me a “relaxing yoga technique.” Ewwww.

RM update

It's easier for me to deal with RM if I look at his presence as my having a temporary, second job: it's an additional source of income; it's only for a couple more months; every job has its icky parts (like taking cans out of the trash every week); and every job has its annoying coworkers. This job has perks, too: he feeds Gracie when I travel, and occasionally helps fix things. And my management of the situation improves with experience. His does not, but that's a lesson in accepting the limits of other people's willingness and ability to process feedback and improve.

The other night was a goldmine of trying too hard. When someone really obviously tries too hard, it burdens the other person in the interaction with significant awkwardness. It's kind of like asking "how are you?" first thing in the morning (or asking Gracie how she is, how her weekend was)-- you can't possibly mean it, and there's nothing to say, so why are you making me come up with something, even a generic answer? In all my traveling with friends, whether for a weekend or a week or longer, no one ever thinks to ask "how are you?" first thing in the morning.

On Wednesday night, he came in as I was sorting an entire farm share--the people with whom I share mine are away for the week. It was like a magic, bottomless bag of greens and root vegetables. He made some inane comment. I responded, agreed about the massive amount of greens and roots. He exaggeratedly said, "is that right?" and fake-laughed as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever heard. Shortly thereafter, I told him to help himself to the greens and roots, given that there were more than I could possible deal with over the next week. He laughed, again, and said, "okay! so you'll know that if you see some missing, it was your roommate!"

WTF? Is that even worth saying, for any reason, other than conversation filler?

The small-talk torture continued. He sat down for dinner.

RM: Are you making dinner or breakfast?
A.: Right now, I'm packing my lunch for tomorrow.
RM: Are you going to have dinner?
A.: I'm about to. I've already had some spaghetti squash as a starter.

He was intrigued. I offered him some. He consumed it as topping on crackers. And pretended to like it. Crackers were actually the foundation of his dinner. To each his own, but as always, I wonder why people bother consuming foods devoid of any nutritional value (my own bias here is that I don't actually like crackers, so I'd have been less surprised if he'd had cookies for dinner). I made, ate my whole-grain tortilla with hummus. He asked me if it was good. Of course it was good. Otherwise I wouldn't have made it. That, again, was an inane question. It's one thing to ask someone with whom you're dining in a restaurant how their food is; it's another to ask the same question when they've prepared the food themselves. It's just weird.

Thankfully, we rarely dine simultaneously. Even more thankfully, less than two months to go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SO spot on

Agreed agreed agreed, with some things more than others, and also with some of the comments. It's funny-- the singleton issue touched off some nerves-- I've not experienced this, since I rarely go out to eat by myself, but it's an excellent point. It was brought up in "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress," which, by the way, is an excellent book. I've dubbed Susan Jane Gilman the female, Jewish version of David Sedaris. But back to restaurant service standards. Just last week, a waiter practically dipped his sleeve into my water glass while reaching across the table to pour water for someone else. I also agree about not commenting on the food with "still working on that" or "didn't like that at all, huh?" etc. Also, do know what's on the menu and what's in the dishes. People have a right to know what they're ordering. I was impressed yesterday when the waiter at Brasserie Beck was able to tell me, instantly, that the salmon was Atlantic. Needless to say, I got the trout.

Success Story

Michele Bachelet does great things for Chile.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday evening roundup

I could give a f* about duck art and taxidermy, but this article is full of great turns of phrase.

I'd give Eric Williamson the benefit of the doubt. If you don't want to see naked people, don't look through other people's windows in the morning.

Wednesday morning roundup

For those as interested in place names as I am.

My demographic is taking over the DC metro area (cat(s) not included). I wouldn't go as far as the Brookings dude, however, and call it a "mecca for singles."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday evening (food) roundup

McDonald's feels the financial crisis... in Iceland.

As a vegetarian who occasionally embraces fake meat, I nonetheless agree with the following assessment:
“They want to replace industrially raised meat with industrially raised soy. In place of a chicken in every pot, they want to see a “chicken” in every pot…. Rather than push folks to embrace soy weenies and test-tube “shmeat,” I’d rather see a revival of minimally processed rice and beans, a move toward meat as a side dish, and a return to diversified farming that uses manageable amounts of manure to nourish cropland. Let’s ban the CAFO—but not eviscerate what’s left of our palates.”
But rice and beans sounds boring, staid. You can do amazing, tasty things with beans (and various grains, if you so choose). I just made a delicious black bean stew (sauteed onions, cumin, salt, pepper, celery, canned tomatoes). I make a tasty chickpea-spinach curry, and even non-vegetarians embrace my lentil moussaka and lentil lasagne.

Tuesday morning roundup

Runaways, continued: the prostitution angle.

Meanwhile, some "moral" crusaders have more important issues on their plate.

RM meets the New Yorker

In another interesting development, RM has discovered the New Yorker. He was listening to NPR on the way home one day when he heard about a great New Yorker article, so he asked me about it. Actually, he nearly sabotaged me, i.e. nearly sabotaged Operation-Catch-Up by grabbing the then-latest issue from the stack of reading material I'd compiled to take with me to Colorado. Thankfully, he actually told me that, allowing me to intervene, and sparing any bloodshed that would have resulted. I gave him the previous issue, which had the article he was interested in.

What makes this situation interesting is that New Yorker readership is not for the cumbaya-everything-is-fascinating crowd, i.e. my roommate. Practically everything in there is worth reading, but unless you never want to read anything else, you have to decide what you're not going to read. For example, I decided that I've had it with Malcolm Gladwell's sport analogies and had no interest in reading his article about how football is like dogfighting.

But RM is fascinated by the whole world, or at least likes to think he is. That's why he asks me inane questions about things he couldn't possibly care about, like what exactly I did when I got to work--did I turn on my computer first thing, or after I got my tea, for example. So he actually reads the "Goings on about Town" section of the New Yorker, which is what I skip through without a second thought, because I don't live in New York, nor do I have the budget for traveling there when there's a play or exhibit that piques my interest. But he actually decided to read every word.

I leave, take a few issues with me, mostly catch up on the flights to and from, and on the elliptical. The elliptical's (kind of) good for that, but it was really nice to bike outside on Sunday. Whole other experience. But I digress. Over a week after I find that issue for him, RM tells me he's almost done with one article. You see, he likes to think about every sentence. Read it, stop, think about it, come up with a counterargument, chew the whole thing over for a few minutes. Fair enough, but not a winning strategy with New Yorker, unless all you ever want to do (not just read, but do) is read the New Yorker. It's a full-service publication: if you give an article time, it will offer its own counterarguments for you. It comes with its own analysis. In fact, it even gives you more information as you go on, so you're better positioned to do more of your own analysis, if you so choose, once you've read the whole thing.

Of course, how RM chooses to process the New Yorker is his business, unless he takes to appropriating the issue I'm reading at any given time. I do find his approach inefficient, but that's none of my business. He said that he's very impressed with the magazine and understands why I read it, and he's implied that he gets why, with the volume of New Yorkers that arrive, I don't want to spend my free time talking to him. Of course, I wouldn't want to spend my free time talking to him anyway, but at this point that's not something I feel I need to explicitly state.

Monday, October 26, 2009


He is standing there--he has opened my office door, and is standing there, holding it open, and just staring at me. I $hit you not.

I was going to be all nice to him because he's being useful and helping me fix something, but he's just being creepy.

I just looked up, as in, "can I help you?" He just commented on how quickly I'm typing. Then I looked up again. This time he got the hint.

The reason he came in was that he'd asked me for Shutterfly's website--he saw a photobook that I ordered and wanted one--and I sent it to him but for some reason he deleted it, so he asked me to send it again. So I just did, and told him I was going to. So he decided to come in and stare at me while I did it. And I had to look up twice for him to go away.

Earlier this evening, he was equally annoying.

I generally don't need people to narrate what I'm doing for me. Yet, when I opened the fridge and surveyed the scene, he said, "you're hungry."

A.: [Shrug]. I'm not sure.
RM: Since you're looking at the fridge, you probably are.
A.: I didn't have a lot to eat earlier in the day, but I had a fair amount for dinner.
RM: Did you have lunch?
A.: Yes.
RM: Oh, so you had lunch.

Why was this conversation even happening? More importantly, why did he feel the need to stare at me for a whole minute, and not get the hint until I looked up at him, twice?? WTF??

Monday morning roundup

Of runaways and PTSD. And busybodies.

Also: China's counties implement (and often rescind) some pretty silly laws.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday evening roundup

Insights on a more effective drug control policy.

A heartwarming new business success story

Great interview with Simon Peres. My issue is speaking about Oslo like this huge success, when the on-the-ground stuff was really never implemented.

Be careful going about as if everything is quantifiable.

What corruption did to Kenya.

I'm in good company in my reaction to the Post's new look.

Really good article on China.

Sunday morning roundup

The U.K.'s extensive surveillance system goes too far. And its multicultural society is no longer a great fit for the Church of England as a concept.

My parents always saved the pumpkin flesh and made (overspiced for my taste) pumpkin bread. I love everything pumpkin: pumpkin (with soft tofu or cream) pasta sauce, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, etc. I don't like pumpkin pie in the most commonly understood sense because it's overspiced and you loose the pumpkin taste. Just a dab of cinnamon and nutmeg. I'd leave out the cloves, too.

Frank Rich looks at the balloon boy saga in the context of the financial crisis.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

RM update

To his credit, he did sweep this morning. To his uncredit, he left an unholy amount of bagel crumbs in the toaster crumb tray. But there was some other stuff of that other category: inoffensive but eye-roll inspiring.

RM: Wow! You're like a gourmet chef!
A.: I'm just chopping vegetables.

But that's how people who don't eat vegetables react to the sight of vegetables: "look at all the pretty colors!" I really wasn't even cooking--just prepping. No herbs or spices were out. No ingredients were mixed together. Vegetables were sliced, tofu was bricked (he asked what it was, and then what it was made of), and vegetables and tofu were roasted.

By the way, I never gave much thought about olive oil quality until I bought Colavita, at the advice of Cook's Illustrated (it was the only oil under $30/available in supermarkets that they deemed acceptable). I ran out, and bought Whole Foods' organic olive oil at the advice of Grist. SO not the same. Thankfully, Colavita has an organic oil that's only slightly more expensive. I'll keep the 365 oil for everyday use, but when you can taste the oil, the difference really stands out. I'm going to make some olive oil-pinot noir cookies-- I think I can use the 365 stuff for that. But I digress.

Anyway, RM was here most of the morning. He went out for a run, and shortly thereafter, I took my bike to do some food shopping. I came back and decided to prep the veggies right away, as I didn't have much fresh food. I cleaned a bit and read the Post while they were roasting. RM popped downstairs occasionally, saw what I was doing. So why did he feel the need to ask me how my day has been so far? I mean, I know he's just being friendly, but that's my point: that level of friendliness doesn't agree with me. It strikes me as unnatural, unnecessary. Who the f* CARES how my day so far has been?

Saturday afternoon roundup

Watch out for queasy metro riders.

ASEAN's growing pains surface over its human rights role.

Saturday morning roundup

WTF? I go away for a week and the Post changes its font? I need to go food shopping before I read it anyway, but here's what the Times has for us:

Africa's Catholic bishops take a stand against rulers that give the Church a bad name.

The food industry drops the "Smart Choices" label.

Attitudes and respect, in addition to statistics, must factor into how we assess women's progress over the years.

Michelle Obama just rocks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm home

Having read this before my flight this morning, I made a point of being especially conscious of the issue. When I saw that there was little space for my bigger bag, I asked the flight attendant whether I should check it curbside. She said to shove it in in front of another backpack in one of the bins. It didn't fit. She shrugged. So much for trying to be polite and proactive.

I got in... to a half-unloaded dishwasher. He'd just unloaded the bottom half.

I stepped into the shower. My soapdish was full of water (and scummy soap). This never happens when I'm home.

Most importantly, there were containers and wrappers with (significant) food traces in the kitchen trash, which is uncovered. We have had many a conversation--and I've blogged about them before--about throwing anything with food on it into the trash bin in the utility room. Because we do not want any infestations. Why is that so difficult?

I could go on--there was more--but you get the point. But the kicker is, when he gets in, he expects me to be just thrilled to see him. Not just friendly--thrilled. He got in, we exchanged hellos, asked about one another's week. Shortly thereafter, he was about to go out to dinner, but paused to tell me, again, that he was glad to see me. Added that he knew I was too busy to catch up--doesn't cross his mind that I don't want to catch up, that after a week-long business trip with almost non-stop interaction with coworkers and others, I could use some me time, and that if I wanted to talk to someone, it wouldn't be him. What does he want--an emotional reunion? Or, more to the point, at this point, after how many times we've talked about this, does he really think that's going to happen? Some people.

Some tidbits from the hotel's featured newspapers

If you thought the cupcake trend was out of control, check out the cupcake car... which, by the way, is presented as an example of how purveyors of luxury goods are "toning it down."

Of the jobs in which getting so caught up in discussion that you lose track of where you're going might be problematic, I'd say aviation is up there.

Sustainable eating

If Sweden's newly introduced food labeling system can be implemented with accuracy, I think it's a great idea. Of course some people won't care, but in general, people have a right to know about the environmental impact of their food choices.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Traveling for business is like stepping into a parallel universe where I don't have to do my own housekeeping; I get free copies of USA Today; and I eat in restaurants daily. I have to say that USA Today has gotten better since I first started reading it, intermittently (i.e. on business trips) years ago, but I digress: I'm here to talk to you about restaurants.

This trip has actually been very good for restaurants. Last night, I had the best trout ever. It was cooked to perfection--not under, not over--and served with just the right amount of garlic butter, and with a side of vegetables and really good home fries. It was a universe away from the mediocre trout I had in West Virginia (at Panorama or whatever it's called) a couple of weeks ago--which was both the most expensive trout ever and the "cheapest," in the sense that they only served half the fish. But let's stick with really good trout for a minute, because Rasika deserves a shout-out in that category.

How did I become a trout connoisseur? As a pescatarian, my choices at restaurants can be pretty limited, and trout is a good, sustainable choice for seafood. I don't like to order food that I can make well myself, and most fish fits into that category. Unbelievably, the restaurant where we had lunch today--which is the restaurant at the hotel (we were in a hurry)--offered a boca burger for $10. I guess they get credit for being honest and not even pretending it was a homemade concoction, but how do you get away with serving a pre-frozen veggie burger, much less charging that much for it?

We went to Chilis for dinner (we had more interesting choices in Colorado Springs, and I suppose we'd have plenty of choices had we had the energy to venture into downtown Denver, but we were, are all exhausted), where I had a very good black bean burger and a "shot" of dessert. All week, I've been thinking, I would order dessert if it came in reasonable portions. I want a little bit of something, not a massive dose that's going to make me sick. I'm averse to throwing away food, especially, but not exclusively, when I'm paying a fair amount for it, so I don't like to order what I can't finish. Rather than get a gynormous piece of cake for $6-$8, I'd love to get a few bites for $2-$3. So far, only Chilis has come through in that category.

On the same note, until last night, I'd been ordering appetizers all week, and they were plenty. What does that tell you about typical portion sizes?

Thursday morning roundup

Once in a while, the Onion comes out with an article that's not that much of a stretch.

And once in a while, a Times article contains an enormously obvious "ya think??":
“The way we manage the global agriculture and food security system doesn’t work,” said Kostas G. Stamoulis, a senior economist at the organization. “There is this paradox of increasing global food production, even in developing countries, yet there is hunger.”
I'm being facetious-- it's great that that statement is being published, and it's an excellent article.

David Rohde's escape and epilogue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday morning roundup

A friend of mine has gone this route. My mother's leagues away: she's never wished disease on me, for example.

Oh, South Carolina politicians, you guys are AMAZING!

David Rohde's Part IV, in which, among other things, the Taliban terrorize villagers, and Mr. Rohde stays sane, maintains an illusion of control, through routine tasks like cleaning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Phone call

I knew it was really windy out (in Colorado Springs) but I decided to go for a walk, as I'd been inside most of the day. Half an hour or so in, my cell rings. I hadn't brought my charger along, so I'd been keeping the phone off; I turned it on in case a coworker called with a change of plan for meeting up for dinner, but it was mom that called.

A.: Hello?
Mom: Can you talk, or are you driving again, as usual?

I don't usually drive, nor generally answer the phone when I do, but I'll make sure to drive even less so as to be more available to take mom's calls.

A.: I'm not driving; I'm walking and it's very, very windy.
Mom: Well, we were out... Sunday? Was it Sunday, or was it yesterday? Was it Sunday?


I think it was Sunday. V., was it Sunday?

A.: Mom!
Mom: Anyway, we were out driving. There was this street called Valentine Street. It was a side road. You know where it was--near Auburn...

Mom goes on for a good three minutes while I'm trying to figure out what her point is. Did she see a really neat turtle? Did she buy something, about which she would like me to write a complaint letter, hence the level of detail (day, street name?)

Mom: It was not only a side road, but there was also a stop sign.

Oh, no. I sense a car accident. Meanwhile, my hand--the one holding the phone--is freezing. I hope she doesn't think I'm taking notes. Not just because I took notes for four hours today for work. I mean, she's my mother. But I'm in the middle of the street, in the wind, without a pen.

I'll summarize, although part of me wants to continue telling the story the way mom did, in order to provide a negative example, i.e. how not to tell a story. For example, don't keep the listener guessing as to what you're talking about, unless suspense is warranted. Anyway, a very elderly person rammed her car around in the middle of the street and hit my parents' car. There was a witness who attested that it was totally the other person's fault, and provided contact info. Mom, inexplicably, called her insurance, to be told she had a $500 deductible.

A.: Why are you even calling your insurance company? It wasn't your fault. Your insurance company has nothing to do with this.
Mom: Exactly!
A.: Did you call the police so they could do a report?
Mom: No...
A.: You should have called the police! Then you wouldn't be dealing with this. But never mind now. I'd call or go to the police tomorrow and ask them how to proceed. I don't really know. See if your having a witness will help.

This went back and forth for another five minutes: what could the police do? I don't know, but they could probably tell you what to do. Finally, I told her my hand was freezing, which was true. In fact, my fingers are still thawing. At first, typing was a challenge. Anyway, mom accepted that, although she sounded annoyed that I didn't want to stay on the phone and keep having that conversation with her. Or perhaps that I didn't offer to write a letter about the situation. In any case, I went on with my walk. Which was beautiful. I've never been an I'll-sleep-when-I'm-dead person, but I'm definitely of the I'll-be-warm-when-I'm-dead mindset. The colors here are gorgeous, especially by the (sadly very dry) river, and the time of day and partial cloudiness made for an even more beautiful effect. Anyway, dinnertime. Cheers.

Tuesday morning roundup

In David Rohde's Part III, the Taliban transports kidnapped journalists around Pakistan in broad daylight to shoot a video. Then they sleep under Hannah Montana blankets, and alternate between trying to convert Mr. Rohde and making him sing.

Is everyone composting? Because you should.

How well-meaning activists--especially those who can't deal with the nuances of reality--can be part of the problem. When it comes to a way forward for Darfur--rather than raising awareness--I'd listen to the guy whose first language is Swahili, and whom Alex de Waal believes in, over the celebrities, any day.

The founder of Human Rights Watch writes that the organization has lost critical perspective in its Middle East coverage.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday night roundup

Really, Thailand? It didn't occur to you that this billboard was in really bad taste?

While we're on the topic (of Hitler), a North Carolina church will celebrate Halloween by burning books.

When seemingly innocent vanity plates go wrong.

The dude just doesn't learn

Nor do I, I suppose, since I continue to be amazed at his lack of learning. Things had been good, as they usually are when either or both of us makes oneself scarce. I'd hardly seen him during the week, and he was away all weekend, to walk in, conveniently, just after I started an episode of "Mad Men" (this month's whole netflix subscription went to watching the first season). We said hello, asked about one another's weekend. In and of itself, the following exchange wasn't offensive.

RM: All packed and ready to go?
A.: No, I'll pack tomorrow morning. Less wrinkling.
RM: I realized you'll be away the whole work week. I thought, "I'll miss her!"
A.: You'll have Gracie.

Later, I took out the trash, and moved two empty V8 cans and an empty pudding cup into the recycling bin.

This morning, I came downstairs, exchanged 'good mornings' and took to making my breakfast. He went about gathering his work stuff. Then he just stopped and looked at me, so I stopped what I was doing and looked up. He said goodbye and wished me a good week; I did the same and continued about my business. I could see that he was positioning himself to approach me for a hug, so I made a point of not turning to look at him or acknowledge him in any other way. It worked: he left.

Now why would he think I'd want to engage in a hug with him? Honestly. Some people never learn.

Monday morning roundup

The Chinese government runs into the reality that it can't "exquisitely choreograph" events outside its borders the way it did the Beijing Olympics.

Part II of David Rohde's hostage experience.

Caleb Crain's "Bootylicious", a history of pirates intermixed with book reviews on the subject, is really, really interesting. Yes, it's also six weeks old. I'm just getting caught up on New Yorkers.

I love a good dose of retail therapy as much anyone, but maybe not as much as these people. But I have to wonder why the Post has taken to basing trend stories off of people who would have, "in the old days," bought an Audi without a second thought.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday afternoon roundup

People can't stop writing about the Cold War, but the Post's reviewers love all the books. Definitely on my list is this one, about a prominent Hungarian family's experience under totalitarianism.

This is a right-on article about what really sets kids back in terms of education. I tutor here and there, and not one of the kids that has been referred for tutoring has a live-in father.

People's stereotypes can overwhelm their better judgment. I was telling someone--an extremely class-conscious someone--about the Seaport Foundation. His response was, "what, for kids brought in from DC?" Um, there are plenty of home-grown poor kids in Alexandria, actually.

Sunday morning roundup

DC throws money at organizations that do nothing, while AIDS sufferers die.

The first installment of David Rohde's kidnapping ordeal.

Two perspectives on the thinning of fashion models.

A whole bunch of unfortunate baby names.

Heroism never gets old.

There's something slightly off about the way Bono writes, but this column has some good stuff.

For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about Cardiff, and it was in Cardiff that I first experienced David Hockney's art.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday morning roundup

Beijing denizens are breathing more easily. Residents of Russia's monotowns are hurting.

Calvin Trillin on what caused the financial crisis. BTW, the New Yorker's coverage, including that in, but not limited to, the last few issues, has been excellent (and more serious).

Another article debunks popular cougar theory.

On the topic of being"faced with... the smallest pool of compatible men," allow me to share a personal experience or two. Nothing serious. And I know--as a friend pointed out last weekend, speaking for herself, actually, as we were amazed at what some women are willing to put up with in a guy--I'm hardly in a position to talk. But I think this is interesting.

Some of you know of a friend of mine that was absolutely horrified--the horror stayed with her for months--that (a) a guy wore sweatpants to a party and (b) said guy hit on her. Her! She'd never go for a guy in sweatpants! What makes a guy in sweatpants think he could get her?? And I agree with her. But the guy in sweatpants didn't know that he was out of her league by virtue of wearing sweatpants, and sometimes it's less an issue of leagues, which imply hierarchy, and more an issue of compatibility. But the same underlying issue remains: one party sees a gaping incompatibility and the other has no clue. Like the guy that came to look at the room (who, I can tell you, would have been ten times worse than RM), who twice texted me and once called to ask me out. Well, another situation came up recently. A guy asked me out for coffee. I wasn't inclined to want to have coffee with him, but I didn't immediately decline. I proceeded to learn that he had once lobbied for the Farm Bureau. As in, "oh, you're interested in food policy? I once lobbied for the Farm Bureau."

For those of you who don't quite appreciate what that means, imagine he'd told me he'd once lobbied for Operation Rescue. Actually, I think that would have been less offensive.

Going back to one of the articles I posted on Thursday, I have to roll my eyes, again and for a different reason, at that line about how the supposed agri-intellectuals shouldn't scoff at people who want to eat at McDonald's. If anything, people scoff at me. People think there's something wrong with you when you do eat healthily. My mother is the most direct about it--if I opt not to eat something, she starts lecturing me about how I shouldn't take anything, including healthy eating to extremes. There's no rhyme or reason to her lecturing, though--she'll dish it out no matter what, because she operates under the impression that I have complicated reasons for eating or not eating everything that is possible to eat, just like she thinks that I watch every show on TV and recognize every TV personality, or watch the shows that I do because I think they're brilliant in every way.

Mom: Why do you watch this show? This show seems stupid.
A.: I'm watching it because it's on.
Mom: Who's that?
A.: I don't know.
Mom: But you watch the show.

And so on. I'll spare you the "why did he do that"/"I don't know" sequence.

When it comes to food, that conversation goes like this:

Mom: Why aren't you having any oranges?
A.: I hadn't noticed them...
Mom: Have an orange now.
A.: No, thanks. I'm not hungry.
Mom: It's just an orange.
A.: I don't want to eat anything right now.
Mom: You shouldn't take anything to extremes.

The point is, though, that mom may be the most direct, but other people say and think similar things. Consider my roommate, who got it into his head that I had an eating plan. Why does actively thinking about what you eat make some people think you're some kind of freak?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Phone call

A.: Hello?
Mom: Where are you?
A.: Home.
Mom: Then what's that noise?
A.: I don't hear anything.
Mom: There's a noise.
A.: I don't know.
Mom: Anyway, that plant that you had--that I also have... ours is thriving. Some of our other plants are having a harder time, but that one's just fine. When exactly did you take it in for the winter?
A.: I don't remember, mom. That one died a while ago.
Mom: Well, about what time of year did you take it in?
A.: I don't know. It was over a year ago.
Mom: Roughly when?
A.: I DON'T KNOW, MOM! I don't remember.

If I don't remember something, how is repeating the question is going to help me remember? Why are you calling me at 9pm to ask me the same question three times?

Home cooking

I just think fast food is overrated in terms of efficiency, as well as nasty. But I didn't stop eating at McDonald's because it was disgusting-- I always knew it was disgusting. I stopped eating at McDonald's when I read "Fast Food Nation" and came to understand its impact on the food system. The Atlantic comments and Mark Bittman responds.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday evening roundup

Really? People are saying that? What decade are we in?

Tom Philpott calls out the Gourmet haters.

Personalized cakes gone wrong.

This doggy baked goods phenomenon is getting old. By the way, there were doggy bakeries in Berkeley Springs (WV).

I finally got through the rest of the Times Magazine food issue. The parts I was going to read, anyway; I could give a $hit about Jaime Oliver. Mark Bittman has a brilliant idea to revolutionize food shopping, and I can't wait to read Jonathan Safran Foer's new book.

Having bought a waffle iron this weekend, I'm very excited about these whole grain waffle recipes. Of all of us, I came away from the Apple Butter Festival with the most unrelated stuff (i.e. the waffle iron and a Mark Bittman book, both from yard sales).

Gag me...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Moment of Zen - Krispy Kreme Burger
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

And in case you're up for an exemplar of human dignity and decency:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Chesley Sullenberger
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday evening roundup

Can you really argue that a neighbor's clothesline is why one's house went into foreclosure? BTW, I LOVE my gas dryer-- it's super efficient, dries in a very short time.

This is particularly relevant as some very educated yet shortsighted people try to assign to leftist regimes a monopoly on systematic human rights abuses.

Another columnist takes on the tipping madness. Remind me to tell you about some seriously slow restaurant service over the weekend.

Compare and contrast: food consumption.

Compare and contrast: nepotism.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Apple Butter festival

Even though apple butter is yummy, it wasn't the highlight of the weekend. I'm not sure what was-- too many really fun elements to narrow it down. There was the actual hot springs, from which I emerged with an unfamiliar sense of inner calm. So much that I was still at peace hours later, after that bout of horrendous restaurant service I'd alluded to in an earlier post (not to mention some interesting restaurant entertainment, in the form of a local who shared his medical history with his table, and the rest of us, as his voice carried throughout the restaurant). We ended up at that place after failing to find appealing options in town. Another local, of whom we'd asked directions the day before, warned us against a pizza place that had stolen his house (he lives in a van). "Stay away from them," he said. "They'll nut-rub your food." When he told us he was local, P. suppressed a "really??" It was the nose-ring and strung-out hippie look, complete with the drum tossed over his shoulder, that didn't quite fit with the rest of the town.

Not an hour had passed upon arriving at Owl's Nest, the cabin we'd rented for the long weekend, that an "Idiocracy" reference emerged. Gatorade came up, and I naturally thought, "it's what plants crave!" It wasn't until the next day that I (almost) got a chance to reference Zoolander in the course of playing Taboo. Since I almost did, I got to actually do so by talking about how I almost did, and then Alex further enabled me: what was the underwear reference in Zoolander, he asked? I got to talk about the walk off! I LOVE the walk off! Of course, that would not last as the most memorable board game moment. See, Allen composed a poem. More accurately, a very bad example of one, that had me literally ROTFLMAO.

Owl's Nest wasn't just a catchy name: owl paraphernalia abounded, to be discovered by the hour. Owl imagery adorned mugs, hot mitts, wall decorations, cutlery... you name it. The place also had hideous faux-wood panels. We loved it.

But now it's back to work.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Food rules

Some of these food rules that Michael Pollan has gathered are great, some are 'eh,' and one just pisses me off: "Never Eat Something Pretending to Be Something Else," with veggie burgers as the first example.

Excuse me, but why does meat have a monopoly on being an acceptable ingredient for burgers? Aren't burgers basically the form-- a patty? Then why is it more "natural" to ground up a cow into that form than do the same with soy, or wheat germ and vegetables? And what makes you think your real burger isn't a "chemical concoction" (with antibiotics, at that). Talk about being self-righteous while not knowing what's in your food.

By the way, I generally agree with the principle of eating "real food." I just don't think that veggie burgers are less real than meat.

One of the rules offered in the comments was to leave your food rules at home when you're a guest, which is a 'yes and no' issue as far as I'm concerned. I won't leave my vegetarianism at home, nor will I-- as one of the agreers to that comment wrote--eat dessert or anything else if I'm full. It doesn't take a lot to convince me to eat dessert, but I think it's rude to expect someone to force-feed herself out of politeness. I do think it's rude to not try things just because you generally don't like them, and I think it's rude to pick food apart (I've had parties where I've served, say, smoked salmon on crackers, and people will pick the salmon off the crackers, which in my book implies barn-raising). But as a host, you shouldn't take yourself so seriously that you're hurt when someone won't eat something. That's just absurd.


So, one of my gate contractors copped an attitude when, upon receiving his exorbitant estimate and realizing that he was giving me a price for replacing the entire fence in my back yard, I assured him I was only interested in the 16 feet of gate--currently falling down--that immediately needs replacing. He said he wouldn't "halftail it" because the whole thing will need to be replaced eventually and said "sorry he couldn't help" me even though I was just seeking clarification, rather than turning him down. But it's pretty audacious to offer a price for a lot more than I want to get done, and then be a prick about it, so he's out.

Two are coming by this morning. One just tried to friend me on Facebook (which, in my case, would entail getting me to join Facebook, and if I've resisted when friends have invited me, why would I join to "friend" a contractor?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

RM update

RM was just muttering under his breath and slamming (cabinet) doors. He behaves this way sometimes when he feels ignored or otherwise wronged. Perhaps it is the box of chocolates still sitting, untouched, on the dining room table; perhaps it is the fact that I've shown no interest in conversation. Of course, my right to this lack of interest has been discussed, but he's shown himself to be an in-one-ear-out-the-other kind of guy.

I met an out-of-town friend for coffee this afternoon; she asked for an RM update. I told some stories, threw in some old ones for good measure. She said, "wow, he really doesn't read signals. Or--not even signals--you've explicitly told him that you're not interested in friendship." I told her that the unbelievable thing is that the dude's getting an advanced degree in leadership. She said, authoritatively, "those are the worst." And it's kind of true. It's like how guys go out of their way to proclaim that they're feminists have serious underlying disrespect for women (so many examples--a friend and I were recently discussing this). A degree in leadership, and he doesn't know how to listen? And he doesn't know how to address issues? He slams doors around like a small child. Not only that, but he'll bring up serious things at the worst possible time--like when I've just biked ten miles and there's a forkful of food half an inch from my mouth. That's glib, but you don't want to engage someone when their focus and priorities are obviously elsewhere. Actually, this is another thing that I've seen among people who should know better-- I know that when I took a leadership skills class, one of the key points was, "make it safe." Make sure it's a good time for the person to talk. Don't blindside them.

I'd also told my friend that I'd made peace with RM, ironically, by embracing is in-one-ear-out-the-other nature. See, I owed it to him to communicate my concerns, issues, etc. I don't owe it to him to make him listen or to keep repeating things. I've done my part here, and I no longer feel responsible for getting through to him. As I've told you, it's easier at this point to shrug and move on. It's liberating, in a way. And while it's been the right answer for a while--once it became clear that he was beyond help, trying to talk to him became a clear waste of time--it's more palatable now that he's moving out in two months (well, two months and a week or so, but I'll be away for at least a week, so I'm counting it as two months). He can slam all the cabinet doors he wants, make all the disapproving sounds he wants. He always could, but now I care even less.

Wednesday Evening Roundup

And to think that I buy that brand. I may have to reconsider that.

While we're in the WTF department... WTF???

What Jews apparently can take responsibility for: Old Bay Seasoning.

Wednesday morning roundup

It is striking that in both cases, the assailant argues that his crime was justified because he was provoked.

Funny Maureen Dowd should mention "Mad Men," which I recently Netflixed, and of which I saw the first three episodes over the weekend. Wouldn't you hate to be all but one or two women on that show?

Back to the matter at hand, though, which Tom Shales also sums up nicely (although too wordily) in that Letterman is a comedian and not a politician, so this really is between him, his wife, and the other women in question. And Maureen Dowd invokes that as well:
As Craig Ferguson, whose show is produced by Letterman, joked: “If we are now holding late-night talk-show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I’m out.”
But her main point is even more key: those relations were consensual.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday evening roundup

Is it only Tuesday? It feels like later in the week.


Oh, Honduras. My people have been blamed for any of the ills of the world since the beginning of time, but this instance may be the most preposterous, ironic and humorous. Believe me, you'd be so much less of a shithole if Jews were involved in your country.

Some serious Mensa thinking here.

Absurdity is apparently good for the brain. Maybe I should watch more Fox News. Or read some examples of income inequality in India. And apparently, $170 for a bottle of liquor is "not that expensive for ordinary Chinese people now."

Also disconcerting: images like this one.

Tuesday morning roundup

Wait, Bernard Kouchner, it's okay for Roman Polanski but not Guinean soldiers? Do you realize now that you've lost moral authority on the matter for defending him? And the widespread there's-gambling-in-the-casino shock that women are the target of war crimes... where have these people been? Although I guess it's something that they're shocked.

On universal accountability.

Another week, another person hit by a metrobus. At least these days, people are surviving.

Now, I did not regularly read Gourmet, nor cook from it, but some of these comments just rile me. First of all, I can't stand Rachel Ray, and whenever I've made the mistake of trying her recipes, it's turned out bland and disgusting. Second, who is this idiot:
The death of Gourmet doesn’t mean people are cooking less or do not want food magazines, said Suzanne M. Grimes, who oversees Every Day With Rachael Ray, among other brands, for the Reader’s Digest Association.

“Cooking is getting more democratic,” she said. “Food has become an emotional currency, not an aspiration.”
Food used to be an aspiration? Besides--see Michael Pollan's magazine piece from a month or so ago--the Food Channel doesn't encourage actual cooking, just watching other people cook.

Not sure where to even begin on this one. Where were all these people--those worried about the erosion of personal freedoms--over the last eight years? And what if the birthers took all that energy and devoted it to something constructive??

Why isn't food safety a no-brainer?

Last night, a (conservative) friend shared his mammoth splinter saga and offered the following insight: "Bring on universal healthcare. I look forward to having a bureaucrat between me and my doctor. It may be all that prevents me from beating his inept, slow-waiting room ass."

Monday, October 5, 2009

The day in public transportation

This was going to be a post about how my roommate expect a medal, or at least goes on as if he does, for the slightest thing, but I really can't be asked to care anymore, so instead I'm going to complain about the metro and some of its ridership.

This morning, this guy plunked down next to me and practically bludgeoned me with his messenger bag. He realized it, removed it slightly. As the train progressed on its route, the messenger bag progressed back into my personal space. It was definitely out of line before I let out a frustrated sigh. The guy said, “sorry,” but in a tone that implied that it was oh-so-princessy of me to expect that he keep his bag off my lap. Some people.

Then, this afternoon, I decided to stop at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I could have just gone to the one near the office, but I thought I might hit Harris Teeter at the same time if I went to the one in Pentagon City. See, I've been on a fool's errand for a new, individual-sized French press. Mine broke yesterday, and I set about to search for another one right away. Whole Foods only had an eight-cup press, and a very expensive one at that; C&B outlet had a large one as well, for a third less, but I still didn’t want a giant press taking up space in my cabinets when a smaller one would do. If I want to make coffee for eight people, I’ll use a coffee pot. Last night's search was at least pleasant, though. It was a lovely walk back home through Old Town amid all the recycle bins left out, with many a bottle of wine in each. Some beer, too. It was fascinating. But I digress. (Although before I move on, I should say I took a few cans of V8, as well as some pudding cups, out of the trash and into the recycling last night).

So today I stopped at B3. They did have an individual press, but it cost as much as the large ones, and it was still bigger than the one I needed. I was too tired to hit Marshalls, so I went to HT, got my veggie burgers, and headed home. Only to be stuck on the metro for at least half an hour, with frozen food and all. Now, I know I shouldn't complain about metro slowdowns--better that than metro accidents--but what was creepy was feeling so vulnerable just sitting there in that last car. Not cool that the thought even crossed my mind--and I wonder how many other passengers were thinking about it. Metro's working on it, I guess.

Monday evening roundup

Goodbye, Mercedes Sosa.

I'm trying to find for you an article that was circulating at work, about how complaints about new media (these days, Twitter) go back in history to every new media invention, including writing itself. I can't find it--I'll check the hard copy tomorrow for the writer's name--but in the process of searching, I came upon this list of Businessweek articles about Twitter, including "Is Twitter Pimping Porn to Family Users?"

Goodbye, Gourmet. I hope your successors will follow in your footsteps:
More than just a cooking magazine, Gourmet explored the culture -- and increasingly the politics -- of food.

It was that connecting of the dots between policy, the environment and the dinner table that food writer Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," most lamented losing.

"They were reaching an audience that wasn't sensitive to the political and ecological implications of their eating," he said in an e-mail. "It was largely a hedonistic community that Ruth [Reichl] introduced to some hard issues."
And if you're looking for a testament to just how much food matters:
"The new intelligence has provided fresh ways to try to undermine the foreign al Qaeda fighters. Pakistani authorities say they've started targeting food shipments believed to be headed for al Qaeda operatives, who prefer their own cuisine over local fare. "The Talibs, they're eating mutton, chicken, bread -- the food ordinary people eat," said an officer from Pakistan's ISI spy agency. "The Arabs want their own food.""
In other news: when tipping becomes extortion.

Monday morning roundup

I've got to side with the tortoises on this one, and not just so that people can photograph it. Turning it into a populist argument over the value of a local vs. a rare, endangered species is not going to get you anywhere.

A great turn of phrase from the People's Republic:
"In its announcement last week, Beijing said that state-owned groups would be reorganized to allow outside financing so that they could “live on their own rather than being attached to government departments as parasites.”"

Do billionaires, as a group, have a social function?

Have we definitively entered an era of scorched earth politics?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday afternoon roundup

The Post didn't think much of "Hungry," but I'm posting it here because one aspect of the review stood out, and related to the "meformism" I metablogged about this morning: much of the book apparently reads like a diary-- the unglamorous details of someone else's life, uninteresting to pretty much anyone other than the reader, and yet so often broadcast these days through social media (and now this book, which is said to have redeeming qualities for those with a personal stake in its subject area). It doesn't have to be that way-- I told you how much I enjoyed reading the memoir of another food writer, Ruth Reichl. She made it interesting. She wrote about food without telling you how she liked her oreos.

This book on the WTO seems interesting, although I don't think I'll read it. Which won't stop me from using it to argue with the haters.

Kathleen Parker has the most simple yet comprehensive take I've read so far on the Polanski situation. This one takes the cross-cultural perspective and is also worth a read. As is, as always, what Eve Ensler has to say.

Sunday morning roundup

Dysfunctional health care as we know it: a case study. And a broader perspective.

Ireland remembered what hunger was like and opted to unbite the hand that fed it.

By the way, James Stewart's New Yorker piece that Frank Rich cites, on the eight critical days last September, as lived by Geithner, Bernanke, et al, was excellent (although I can't say I understood it all). And here's the too-true Journal article.

Sunday morning ramble

I heard my name as I approached the Opera House at the Kennedy Center last night. It was colleague, who was in the main hall, watching a concert on the Millenium Stage. He asked me what was going on in the Opera House-- I told him it was a concert sung by Olga and Ildar--two Russian opera singers--and conducted by Placido Domingo. He said he'd seen Thomas Pickering, as well as a number of ambassadors, go in. I admitted that I'd never have recognized Thomas Pickering if I'd seen him; my colleague shrugged, said he was a C-Span junkie.

The concert was amazing. It was just amazing. It makes me wish I'd bought a subscription, especially since it's a good lineup this season. Oh, well-- they'll simulcast at the Nationals' Stadium. I wish they'd simulcast at the Mall, like they did a few years ago.

The simulcasts are good because they're free, but actually I love the Kennedy Center. I love going outside during the intermission and looking at the water. I remember when, many years ago Alex and I went to opening night of Samson and Delila, and there was this fierce thunderstorm that had kind-of calmed, and the air was perfect, and you could still see lightning over the water, at a distance.

The Kennedy Center was awash in cute shoes. I recalled the shoe lesson we'd provided for Jayson at Tasha's party-- he'd asked what were pumps, and we had to explain that not all heels were pumps. Tasha, for example, was wearing open-toed pumps, which were not the same as peep-toed pumps. We debated the term "toe cleavage" (I, myself, love it; Afiya does not). Since one of the guests was wearing gladiator sandals, we had to explain those, too. This evening, I wore peep-toed slingbacks.

On a quasi-related note, Tasha told me that when she first moved in with Marcela and their two other roommates (I moved in a year later to replace one of them, who was completely insane, and proceeded to appear on America's Next Top Model), one of them said since she didn't really cook, she'd like to use the kitchen cabinets as a repository for her running shoes and other athletic gear. Tasha balked and the cabinets were saved.

I know I've gone on about this before--and it wasn't that bad this time--but I can't help but wonder about people who go to the Opera thinking that people are there to hear them. I wonder whether it's getting worse in light of the "meformer" Twitter culture, or whether they're just contemporaneous. Either way, it's annoying. STFU, people. I want to concentrate fully on the people with the beautiful voices. Also, you're going to be in close quarters--go easy on the fragrance.

I once again got to the metro just in time. It was glorious.

It's the food system, stupid

I'm getting really, really sick of this BS. I'm not saying that farmers' markets are the panacea. I'm not even pretending that I, in light of a government salary and a mortgage, shop them. But all this farmers market-bashing is missing the point, as many of the comments on that piece have stated better than I could. But if you're content taking on the role of anti-agri-intellectual in favor the food system that, among other things, paralyzes young dancers with impunity, keep oversimplifying and missing the point.

Also: When you have to go out of your way and really stretch the truth, it means you have little to offer.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Here we go again

I've put off dealing with this gate, at first because I didn't want to spend the money, and then because I didn't have time to find a contractor, but over the last couple of weeks, I realized that it was time. But realizing isn't doing, and I sat on the realization. But last night I dreamt that I'd actually contacted and hired a contractor, so when I woke up, I realized it was time (I also dreamt that I was balancing on a yoga ball with my eyes closed, probably because we'd done that in class).

So I started looking for contractors. Surprisingly, Google's not useful in that regard, because you get a lot of non-local companies, as well as instructions on how to do-it-yourself, and I'm not interested in doing it myself. I just want it done. I turned to Craigslist, which has been good to me in the past (car, a few roommates/houses, electrician, plumber). They didn't make it easy, because fencing doesn't really fall into any of their categories (it's not lawn and garden, but it's not household services... yet it's kind of both). Eventually, I found a few--and I mean, exactly three, ads by people who do fencing. All provided e-mail addresses, so I contacted them and asked how I could go about getting an estimate. I provided my approximate location, as well as how much and what kind of fencing I would need, in case they might be able to provide a ballpark estimate without having to see it, but I didn't expect that to be the case. Nonetheless, I expected some semblance of customer service, because it had been a few months since I had to hire people for house stuff, and I just forgot what it was like out there.

The first reply--I've now gotten two--was not encouraging:
"Thank you for contacting us for your home improvement project.
Please give me a call to set up a time for an estimate."

Um, if I wanted to call you, I would have called you. Your number was on the ad.

The second one also requires a phone call, but at least they offered to call me (and used my name--which is not a bad business idea--if not perfect punctuation): "First off thank you for your interest A. We can definitely provide you with an estimate. If you can reply to this email with your contact information I will contact you today and we can set up a time to meet. Thank you again and I look forward to hearing back from you."

Missing commas aside--I'm not looking for an editor, after all--MUCH BETTER.

Saturday morning roundup and ramble

Judith Warner, too, thinks little of Michael Moore's latest endeavor, for different reasons:
" reach people you had to meet them where they were. Respect them. Acknowledge their social norms, beliefs and practices. Find common ground. Build on shared human aspirations — for safety, for dignity, for a better life for one’s children — then discover how those shared aspirations might reasonably translate into ending practices that cause suffering.

“If you come in and say, ‘You are awful people,’ people tune out and say, ‘Who do you think you are?’” she told me, speaking first from Senegal, where she has lived for the past 35 years. “Making people feel bad about what they’re doing doesn’t work; they only get defensive. What does work is getting people to discuss together what are their rights and what they mean. It’s not just a question of blaming and shaming people but educating and empowering them.”"
So, so true.

This guy's awesome. This guy is not. Governance takes competence. Gail Collins comments:
As a nation we seem to be overstocked on dreams involving fame and fortune, particularly the ones that come untethered to any plans for actual achievement. Every time a TV show holds auditions for a new singing or dancing or top-modeling competition, the streets are stacked with people who appear to have no particular talent or training but are confident that they can make it to the top, thanks to the critical dream factor.

And maybe they have a point. When President Obama told the nation’s schoolchildren that success requires hard work, a reality TV star named Spencer Pratt retorted that it was actually quite easy. He makes millions of dollars every year playing himself on “The Hills” and attending a large number of nightclub openings. This was not something Pratt had to study for.

I'm sorry, but if you're looking to soft drinks for your dose of antioxidant--yes, that singular is intentional--you're beyond help.

The $23,000 Ghandi pen is much, much more ironic than the Che shirt, no matter where the proceeds are destined.

Some people are only funny when they're not trying to be, i.e. by virtue of their very existence as a public persona.

These jokes are horrendous, but I'm more horrified by some of the comments/lack of sense of humor of some of the commentators. Not because they don't like the jokes, but because they think that some things, in this case health care, are beyond humor. You have to lighten up. You just do.

I laughed last night at something not funny: I was at a party, and someone asked about (M), who had RSVPed but hadn't arrived. I said she worked unpredictable hours; was she still at the same job where she was when this person last spoke to her? I said, no, she's elsewhere, doing human trafficking. The person gave me a horrified look. I said, "I mean, she's not doing human trafficking..." The person said she knew--the horrified look was about the unpredictable hours that would keep someone in the office until 9pm on a Friday. I thought the whole exchange was pretty funny, even though trafficking is no joke. But sometimes you have to laugh.

The party was a blast. Just like old times--when Tasha, the hostess, was one of my roommates. See, I'm friends--good friends--with many of the people I once lived with. These friends didn't spend as much time trying to be my friend as my roommate does.

Languages came up, as they do when you've a roomful of Peace Corps volunteers. I realized, as I had earlier in the week for an unrelated reason, that I missed class so much it hurt. But I'd have to do some self-study before I went back.

Af. [who is Jamaican]: Jamaican rum is the best.
A.: I don't know-- I really like Central American rum. I still have some Flor de Cana, as does Marisa, from even longer ago. And that rum that Tasha brought back from Honduras was good, too.
T.: I did gifts then? I've stopped doing gifts.
Af.: You did, because I remember trying that rum, and it was good.
A.: I still have the alpaca scarf you brought me back all those years ago-- I love it because it's warm and doesn't itch.
T.: I stopped doing gifts shortly after that because it's hard to get good stuff, and I was determined not to buy people crap. And then, of course, what do they have me doing for Peace Corps? Helping people sell crap. I tried steering them toward making quality things, but they wanted none of it; they wanted to make cheap trinkets for tourists who didn't care enough to consider quality. I tried. Now I'm back to buying crap, because I know it's someone's livelihood.

It was a beautiful night--it had rained while I was a the party, but I missed it. It was beautiful beforehand, too. I walked down to Tasha's from the office. I was so excited about the fierceness of my handbag: large enough to hold the big tupperware container of quesadillas that I'd made upon special request, plus the tupperware from my lunch, plus the gym clothes I was taking home to wash, plus the bottle of wine in the bottom. I was so caught up in the fierceness that I didn't consider what a pain it would be, literally, to carry all that for half an hour. I was already in pain-- Sam had us do calf raises, which definitely mean pain. He always ends class asking for questions, comments, concerns and advice with women. I'd be happy to share from negative example, but I'd imagine he's already beyond anything I'd advise him not to do based on the barnlike behavior I've encountered in my dating adventures. But I digress.

After the party, I walked to the metro. Some days, seeing that your train is coming in a minute--when it's late enough that it could be 19 minutes--is manna from heaven. This wasn't one of those nights--I probably could have stood to wait a few minutes--but it was, nonetheless, heavenly not to.

I boarded. The conductor, upon reminding everyone to use all available doors, asked, "what's going on with the last two cars??" He continued: "Multiplication lesson coming up: there are six cars, with three doors on each. That makes 18 doors. No matter which door you use when you enter, you'll still exit on the same platform." Shrug. If they're going to be giving metro etiquette lessons, I'd suggest starting with higher priorities, like ceding seats to the expecting and elderly.