Wednesday, September 30, 2009

more roundup

Sadly, church shootings may be becoming the new school shootings.

On a lighter note, Tom Toles faces off against The Family Guy.

Bye, Happy! We'll miss you, but we understand that you need to be where the action is.

Most of us can agree that it seems like more and more people were raised in a barn, but out of a slew of books on the matter, only one is reviewed to be worth the read.

On this topic, I got trapped in a kitchenette this afternoon by a woman who would not stop talking. It was painful. Oh, and I ran into Bobblehead at the metro this morning (thankfully, the train came right away).

Wednesday Evening Roundup

My mom just invited me to Rio for Carnival. I said no. As much as I'd LOVE to go to Carnival, I'd love to go and have fun at Carnival. Fun is a central aspect of Carnival. And I've learned by now that traveling anywhere with my parents is more stress than fun. I've never regretted going, but I've always come back needing another vacation and/or therapy.

***
One of my least favorite parts of returning to the office after a trip is sorting through my e-mail (I brought my laptop to do work, but had trouble with IE, which is the only browser that the portal will go through). So, what's less fun than sorting through your e-mail? Finding this in your e-mail:

"In the kitchen are some chocolate cake bites with chocolate glaze.... please help yourself!!! Very rich and decadent, almost like a truffle :-)"


On the other hand, this was sent on Monday, which was Yom Kippur, so I suppose it was a good thing I was away.

***
I know this isn't supposed to be funny, but it just is:
The bomber carried undetected explosives inside what was described by Stratfor Global Intelligence, which first reported the unprecedented mode of attack, as his "anal cavity." The bomb was believed detonated by a cellphone signal, but the only person killed was the attacker, Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, one of 85 "most-wanted" militants on a Saudi list who had scheduled a meeting to discuss a government amnesty offer.

"This is a device designed to scare us all," Barrett said.


***
This is such a load of crap. There is no way a largely meat-reduced diet, with a basis in whole grains and pulses, is more expensive. Unless you need truffle oil in yours.

I agree with McWilliams' emphasis on what's realistic, but I'm wary; see this very good point about. Honestly, I think we need to stop splitting hairs about where people get their apples from. The issue is not apples flown in from Washington State or even New Zealand; the issue is factory farms, lean cuisine and happy meals. Once we get people to trade in their TV dinners and fast food for fresh produce, we can go back to overtaxing the brains of people like me, who already think and care about what they eat but really can't be bothered to devote any more energy to making decisions about it than we already do.

***
Apparently, DC falls short in the dudeism department.

Wednesday morning roundup

Maureen Dowd remembers William Safire.

Thankfully, my declawed pea-brain is no threat to birds, but yes, bugs are another matter.

This pasta with walnut sauce looks amazing.

Wednesday morning rant

In Geneva, a very persistent guy kept inviting a friend of mine out for coffee; she kept saying no. At one point, he asked, and she said, "You know, I'm very busy; I just can't." To which he replied, "Il y a un adage: vouloir c'est pouvoir."

We spent a lot of time laughing over that brazen cluelessness, as we did over his initial encounter with this friend--he'd followed her across the parking lot--when she saw him, she thought she must have dropped something, hence the urgency of his pursuit, but no--he was just so impressed by her that he had to catch up with her, and followed her a good half mile out of his way from the bus stop. Kate put it brilliantly and Britishly: "You did what? You sad bastard. And you think that's going to make me fancy you?" There's a reason we have missed connections columns: it's just bad form to stalk someone as they go about their business. But I digress.

It is another adage I wanted to expound upon today. When I first heard it, in an otherwise excellent leadership class I took through my previous job, I pretty much rolled my eyes. Then, throughout both days of the critical thinking class I took for my current job, the instructor reiterated it every hour or so: "If you always do what you've always done the way you've always done it, you'll always get what you've always gotten."

Trite but (mostly) true.

I regularly apply that to Gracie, even though she's pea-brained, so I don't actually expect critical thinking on her part. Nonetheless, I have to ask: how have I reacted previously when you've decided to leave me gifts outside the litter box? Have you ever been fed before your breakfast or dinner time by virtue of your persistent whining? Why do you think this time it will be different? Seriously-- even you can handle basic logic, right?

My mother and my roommate are both quite intelligent. They're both engineers, so you'd think logic would be their forte. And yet...

I thought about this with regard to RM and the chocolate (not to mention with regard to RM and trying to be my friend in general). This morning, mom reminded me of this second adage, too.

I didn't go to bed especially early; I probably turned my phone off around 10pm, like I normally do. This morning, I turned it on to a message from my mother (she says she tried to reach me on Skype but couldn't, which would be because my computer, too, was if not off, asleep. She knows that you can't reach someone on Skype when they're not online. She also knows that I turn my phone off around 10pm. And yet!

And so, I reiterate that adage, which was told to me so I could apply it proactively to my career rather than apply it sarcastically to other people, but let's consider the latter as a baby step. Here it is: "If you always do what you've always done the way you've always done it, you'll always get what you've always gotten."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

newsflash: much of DC raised in barns

I don't think I posted this at the time because I'd so often posted like links, but this phenomenon--i.e. that of not offering seats, particularly seats designated for the pregnant, elderly and otherwise more in need of a seat than the average person--came up in conversation last night at dinner. Apparently, one of our coworkers, who is very pregnant, has never been offered a seat on the metro. One of my colleagues talked about how he had stood up to offer his seat to a pregnant woman who'd boarded, only to see a young, able-bodied guy take the seat within seconds (my coworker called him on it and he moved). WTF, people??

***
I caught myself thinking the other day how beautiful the term "clusterf*" sounds. It just has a ring to it. Have you all seen "Away from Her"? It's really good. And there's a scene, in the nursing home, where one of the ladies says something like, "It's...what do the young folks call it? a clusterf*... At this age, it’s a real clusterfuck, all the charmers are taken."

Keeping up appearances

Do you know what I did shortly after getting in this evening?

I emptied out the dishwasher. I'd run it right before leaving, because RM would get back shortly thereafter, and I'm not sure he knows how to run it. I thought it would be more roommately to leave him with a clean, rather than dirty, set of dishes.

It also would have been roommately of him--he who is always trying to pretend to be helpful--to have emptied it out, rather than leaving it for me to do after a three-hour drive. I know he *noticed* the dishwasher, because he'd opened it (but didn't leave it open for the top rack to dry out, which is what I generally do and what he's seen me do).

I mean, if you're going to make a point of pretending to be helpful, emptying out the dishwasher is a no-brainer, right?

***
I told you that on Saturday, I drove up to Baltimore (well, actually past Baltimore) and that on Sunday, I rode (in someone else's car) somewhere three hours away. It was actually VA Beach (where RM has a house and spends most of his weekends). All I could think on the way to Baltimore, passing all those towns where I know people actually live was how glad I was to live closer to the city. Indeed, I couldn't understand the appeal of living so far out. Of course, I knew, in my head, that the issue was affordability, of much nicer houses. I pulled up to my destination-- a gorgeous Tudor with massive lawn and backyard, that had cost my friends about the same as a two-bedroom condo would in DC. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to live in a small semi-detached townhouse in Alexandria. One of their friends asked where in Alexandria I lived, asked whether I could walk to King Street, walk to the nightlife. I could, I told him. "Ah," he said. "I'd love to live somewhere like that, but my wife wanted a big house." Shrug--to each her own.

I also thought this was notable because RM, by definition, also lives where he could "walk to the nightlife," but doesn't (he drives). I don't *get* it. But we've been over this.

So, over the last couple of days, we stayed in VA Beach town center. We could walk to a mall, and a few strip malls. There was kind of a fake Main Street. I'm sure there are beautiful parts of the city--closer to the beach--and we just didn't have time to go there, but driving around the area, all I could think was that living there would suck my soul away in a heartbeat. Strip mall, after strip mall, after strip mall. But the roads were in great shape--goes to show where the tax money goes. No love for fake Virginia, I tell you. But I digress.

As always, I'm not slamming other people's lifestyle choices or trying too hard to justify my own-- although it is nice to remind myself, as I prepare to send out another mortgage payment, why I pay so much to live where I do. My issue is bigger than that: it saddens me to drive through this beautiful state and see how much of it has been converted to strip malls... and towns built around strip malls.

***
Doesn't Alyson Hannigan look great now that she's not emaciated? I hope this week's episode of HIMYM is better than the season premiere. In any case, it's good to see NPH alive and well, and sans branding iron.

Tuesday morning roundup

The politics of adaptation:
Europe’s conservatives, says Michel Winock, a historian at the Paris Institut d’√Čtudes Politiques, “have adapted themselves to modernity.” When Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel condemn the excesses of the “Anglo-Saxon model” of capitalism while praising the protective power of the state, they are using Socialist ideas that have become mainstream, he said.
At the same time,
Mr. Judt argues that European Socialists need a new message — how to reform capitalism, “recognizing the centrality of economic interest while displacing it from its throne as the only way of talking about politics.”

European Socialists need “to think a lot harder about what the state can and can’t do in the 21st century,” he said.


You guys know that I'm a big proponent of STFU. Nonetheless, even I think it's good to talk to your kids.

Check out this awesome card that Allen sent me. The others in the series are pretty good, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guilty Yom Kippur roundup

I respect this request for humanity, incidentally from someone whose position I disagree with.

Farmers (sic) markets are doing well.

***
Yes, my friends, I am business traveling... so I'm reading USA Today, the Nation's Newspaper. My coworkers are out to lunch, and I am not with them, since I'm not eating until sunset (even though I'm on the computer, and I spent almost four hours in a car last night after sunset, but you do what you can). I am drinking tea. I'm sorry-- I have to be functional at these site visits.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday roundup

The collective clusterf* that is the Middle East is often so absurd that it's funny. More often, it's just tragic. Closer to home, very few doctors are willing to document asylum seekers' signs of abuse.

Maoism is more appealing in theory than in practice.

No one's saying that it's easy for countries, cities to come to terms with their history.

What's ironic about this:
""I would suggest you convert to Christ!" Benham shouted over a megaphone. Islam "forces its dogma down your throat.""


The challenges for mothers in the military are significant, but on the third page of this article, a silver lining: fathers, when there are fathers, become more active partners in the marriage and more active fathers. This stood out because I was at a party yesterday (a friend's son's first birthday) and the moms were pointing out that the dads would get bored about three seconds when they were supposed to be watching their kids, and the kids would go gravitate toward stairs and other places where they'd be best observed rather than running loose.

Gotta love the transparency:
"Accustomed to the traditional anonymity of hawala networks, Taliban supporters sometimes fill out their customer slips by plainly stating that the payment is for "heroin" or "five vehicles for Taliban commander so-and-so," said a senior U.S. law-enforcement official."


The "Yes Men" Borat Big Business.

I-Hope-There's-Beer debasement isn't limited to young women.

Michelle Singletary is right to extend the onus to both the banks and their customers. I'm the first to say that banks will be predatory, will purposely obfuscate... but as I've been going on about food labeling, people need to maintain responsibility for what they consume, and for becoming informed about their choices.

I think about this every day that I bike, to work or otherwise. Not about the Brooklyn Bridge part, obviously, but as someone who, too, has shown up to work a little late with chain grease on her hands, I've had to negotiate with my fair share of clueless pedestrians. They don't make it easy... they often sprawl over both lanes, and you try to warn them but they're in their own world.

I also thought yesterday, driving home from north of Baltimore, amid torrential rain and poor visibility, how I hadn't seen such aggressive driving in a while. I could also blog about bad signage: there's no reason that even I, as bad as my sense of direction is, should be getting lost trying to get onto 295 from the beltway, or, as the other day, on the way to FedEx on Eisenhower-- I mean, I've been driving past and through those areas for years-- but they keep changing everything on the beltway and if they sign it at all, the signs are tiny and invisible in the dark, or too close to the turnoff point for you to make a decision--but I digress.

I wonder whether the pedestrians--and joggers--realize that how much of the lobbying that has made those trails happen has come from the biking community. They should be thanking us. As Mr. Sullivan said, the revolution has begun.

One suggestion for improving Metro's reliability: its management should listen to bloggers, especially those that also spotlight riders who were raised in a barn, such as those
"...putting their feet or wet umbrellas on seats. One memorable photo showed a man on the Orange Line trimming his arm hair and brushing the clippings on the seat and floor."


Some search engines are becoming increasingly parasitic, when they've thus far been largely symbiotic.

This gets funnier as it goes along:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday morning roundup

See, the decline in discourse just perpetuates itself:
Americans for Limited Government does not specialize in nuance. A recent e-mail message labeled Mr. Obama “the biggest liar of all,” and a piece on Mr. Obama’s enthusiasm for the national volunteer service agency AmeriCorps suggested a parallel with Hitler Youth...

Mr. Wilson seemed a bit abashed about the vitriol, but he said a more restrained voice would be lost in the political cacophony. “If I need to make my point, I’m going to make it in a provocative manner, because that’s how it attracts attention,” he said.
First of all, I love Switzerland. More importantly, Qaddafi continues to amaze me, and my expectations for the behavior of Middle Eastern potentates are hardly naive.

Let's hope Charles Blow has it right: on health care reform, slow and steady will win the race.

Lest you were one of one of those people who recently expressed doubt that religion could be a force for good: it's making a dent in machismo.

Aw, hell no. Getting locked in a metro station would surely find a place in the definition of hell.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday afternoon roundup

More food labeling shenanigans.

IHOP is one of the few chains that I actually like... but I'll only like them again once they start using humane eggs. You can contact them through that link.

Speaking of IHOP, this clip is good as the wordplay in the title:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
International House of Fruitcakes
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests


Here's another fun video:

Friday morning roundup

It's about time Metro took accountability seriously. Kind of. Although I guess it's not fair to necessarily blame him for the summer's debacles?

Really, Christian right? Whom would Jesus keep from praying?

I don't remember posting this when it came out-- perhaps because it continues for almost two pages after making the key point in the first couple of paragraphs-- but I know I've blogged about the concept.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Evening Roundup and RM update

Happy Punctuation Day!

Didn't get that job you'd apply for? It's only natural to blame the Jews. By the way, if you thought for a second that Middle Eastern politics were getting any less intractable, here's a reality check. Of course, perhaps you also saw or read Qaddafi's speech.

The debate over universal health care evokes the struggle for national parks, or "socialized nature," as some might call them.

The Georgetown Waterfront scene-in is disappointing, lacks the personality of the previous ones. And I disagree with the teacher-- attention to detail can exist and evade expression through clothing.

I found this article very interesting, especially in light of that MSN article I posted a few days ago. With that article, I talked about the elusive middle ground in the realm of body image: you can be conscious without being obsessive. I understand the spectrum, having gone from being oblivious (the first thirty years of my life) to suddenly obsessive and recently reverting to healthily conscious. The issue is in the discourse: there's no socially acknowledged middle ground-- you're either weight-conscious or carefree, and the latter is now cool. For me, it's been almost liberating to have to think about what I eat. I grew up learning to eat fast so I could manage to put away the amount of food that my parents through at me; I had to make excuses for not eating more at any point. I never needed that much food. It was actually pretty unhealthy to eat the way I did, even though I ate primarily healthy food. I still ate too much. It's liberating to eat just enough, to think, "do I need this or even want it?" I recall a video clip--perhaps I saw it on a flight--of Paris Hilton shopping. She was binge-shopping: indiscriminately pulling things off the rack. Makes sense, I guess-- binge now, have your stylist sort later. Most of us don't have that luxury, and in a way, that's a good thing: you have to think, do I need this in my closet? Do I want it? I'd love the luxury of being able to afford the really good stuff, and that holds in my analogy, but I think there's something to be said for eating mindfully. And having to think about how overeating will have an immediate impact on how I fit into my clothes alters the cost-benefit analysis of addressing emotions with food--it adds a clear cost. It's a good thing to think twice before turning to food out of boredom, frustration, or the slew of emotions that being around my mother brings out in me.

Anyway, I thought it was telling that the writer in the Times piece talked about how until you start keeping a food diary, you have no idea how much you're eating and it's easy to think that you don't eat a lot. Couple that with this study, which found that the vast majority of obese people don't realize they're obese.

Speaking of food, RM had brought back a box of chocolates from his last trip. Rather than handing it to me, he put it on the dining room table. I felt no social obligation to acknowledge it as a gift or even recognize it as such, because I've made it clear to him--after being gracious the first time and less so thereafter--that I'm cutting back on chocolate. Yesterday, he said, "I'm trying to tempt you subtly this time." I replied that I wasn't tempted at all, and it's true: I couldn't care less about the chocolate. I just don't want it. I still *like* chocolate--I have chocolate almost every day--but I don't want over-processed, high fructose corn syruped chocolate. It's just not appetizing.

Of course, the bigger issue is whatever the hell RM was thinking: why would you do that? Why would you give someone chocolate when they've made it clear they don't appreciate gifts of chocolate? Isn't that just disrespectful and manipulative, especially if it were tempting? I mean, if I were deliberately keeping something out of my house, why would you bring it in? Look, dude: you're not going to win me over. You're not going to win me over to the cause of extroversion; you're not going to persuade me, with your bubbly personality, that I was wrong all along and I really want to be your friend. And there are people from whom I do appreciate all gifts, including boxes of chocolate, and you're not one of them, so back off.

On a happier dessert-related note, these are so much more exciting than cupcakes:

Coupons are the new cupcakes

Okay but coupons only save you money if you're using them on stuff that you'd buy anyway or if they're really, really good. I'm not a compulsive clipper, because, as I've said, I tend to buy unprocessed foods, for which there are few coupons, and for cleaning products, I've taken to using vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice whenever possible (they do wonders, I tell you). I do buy toilet paper, coffee filters (mostly to drain eggplant), laundry detergent, and the occasional processed or packaged food product (veggie burgers, soy milk, nuts), but not frequently enough to plan my shopping around the coupons that come around (I guess it's different if you're shopping for a family of four). I did get a carton of organic, unsweetened Silk practically free (Harris Teeter was tripling coupons) the other day. Also, I tend to google for a coupon whenever I'm about to buy online. I found one for $100 off the laptop I ended up ordering.

Mom and RM update

My mother's spamming habit has gotten out of control, not by quantity or even wackiness (what she just forwarded is perhaps the least incendiary thing she's ever forwarded), but by standards for forwarding. Do I, and a dozen other people, really need the latest Geico newsletter in my inbox, even if it offers tips for avoiding a collision? Has it gotten to the point where I should actually call my mother and give her some of her own, i.e. ask her why she's sent this to me?

***
Meanwhile, true or false: I have, in the past, more than once, made it clear that my ideal evening at home does not involve conversing with him. I was already annoyed with him because he'd rebagged the compost pile-- he does that from time to time, which is unnecessary because I take it out every night or every other night, and he just dirties more bags and makes it harder to deal with without touching more of the decaying food scraps. But that's not the point.

So, as usual, by the time he decides he wants to have a conversation, I'm really tired. I've already done a lot of things, and I've just settled down to do what I want to do (blog, watch the Daily Show, read the paper). In last night's case, I'd already picked up and sorted the CSA veggies (by bike, and that Rte 1 overpass is steep) and then spent much of the evening managing a plumbing issue (i.e. manually clearing a lot of water out of the kitchen sink). I was blogging and watching TDS when he came in to say hello. Afterward, I had to go deal with the sink. So I went downstairs and scooped more water out. Hardly to the tune of sandbagging in Georgia, but I would have liked to go play with my new toy (laptop-- this one is on the fritz) instead. Still, I didn't mind that much. Until RM came down and took advantage of the fact that was stuck there, and talked to me.

He asked me if I'd tried Drano.

What a genius.

(And by the way, no, I hadn't tried Drano, because it's toxic. I tried vinegar and baking soda, which works just as well (unfortunately, I think my sink is past that and I'm going to have to take apart the garbage disposal or call a plumber, but if it's past vinegar and baking soda, it's also past Drano).

So he would talk. And then there would be a pause that was perhaps awkward to him, because I wasn't fully engaging in the conversation. So he started tinkering with the juggling balls in the dining room, on top of the board games. I asked him if he knew how to juggle. He didn't realize those were juggling balls. He was impressed that I could juggle, asked me to teach him. I shrugged.

He talked. And seemed hurt that I wasn't holding up my part of the conversation, and perhaps perplexed that I wasn't succumbing to any manipulation on his part about holding up the conversation. Because I didn't want to be conversing.

***
The sink was taken care of for the night, which was a good thing because I was on the verge of collapse. Realizing that I wouldn't fall asleep anyway until RM had also turned in--one of the things that works about our living arrangement is that we go to sleep and wake up around the same time, I decided to start that day's crossword. So what does he do, in the process of going to bed? Sits by Gracie, on the steps in the hallway, and asks her how her day was and whether she missed him. Proceeds to do this for a while. I finish the crossword before he's done. Then he makes his way to bed, making plenty of noise.

***
I could be forgiving, because he offered to go to the hardware store and get a plunger. I pointed out that the issue is past plungers (and even snakes), but he insisted. Which is nice, and a plunger's not a bad thing to have. And it's practically on his way, since he commutes by car, so it'll be nice. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to rant about him for trying to force conversation on me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday evening roundup and response to comment

Okay, this is coming from someone with a gazillion muffin tins: STOP THE MADNESS. Enough is enough. Besides, I'll take the baklavah any day. Here's more madness that needs stopping.

Any surprise that the dude in question is gross? It always amazes me when men think women dress the way they do--whatever way that may be--on their account. We all know that most straight men aren't discerning enough for it to matter.

Did whoever invited her to speak expect trenchant analysis?

I just saw this, and it is very sad. The town hall crazies are officially dangerous and they've taken their first victim. Just tragic.

No. I draw the line. Flexibility can be good. Mil-mil relations with Burma would be BAD. You don't do mil-mil engagement with militaries that, for example, kidnap children to use as child soldiers.

***
One thing for which no one should ever apologize on these pages is ranting about the food system. Bring it on.

Sigh. RM just knocked on my door--and proceeded to walk in--to "say hello." Like I said, I give up.

In good news, the cafeteria at work is switching over to local and sustainable/organic food when possible! Cage-free eggs, too.

I went to hear a guest lecturer at work today. A couple of rows behind me in the auditorium, which was sparsely populated, two guys sitting across a pretty wide aisle from each other consistently whispered to each other. It was about what the guy was saying, but still. I consistently shot them dirty looks; that didn't help. Some people.

Wednesday morning roundup

Let's play compare and contrast: bipartisanship-in-health-care-reform edition.

This is fascinating to me because a couple of people, over the last few months, have alleged, directly and indirectly, that I have eating issues (I don't). My roommate was one of those people-- remember, when I said I wouldn't have dinner with him because I'd just bought a bunch of fresh food, he suggested and then repeated that going out to eat would get in the way of my "eating plan"? I can see how if you don't cook, any planning of food can appear to be some sort of strict eating schedule.

Not much later, someone other than roommate--someone who I would have hoped would know better, suggested that I seem to give too much thought to what I eat, for reasons of dieting. Now, I do give a lot of thought to what I eat, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think we, as a society, should give more thought to what we eat. You can't win with these people. There was a New Yorker cartoon a month or so ago that showed a guy saying something like, "I want a woman who's not afraid to gain a few pounds, but doesn't." As often with New Yorker cartoons, that one reflected a very real social phenomenon.

My eating habits/beliefs, for what it's worth, follow exactly what the Times article cites as healthy: think, don't obsess. When I overthink my food, it's usually from the perspective of sustainability. I would be lying if I said I give no thought whatsoever to weight gain, but it doesn't drive my eating-- I actually like natural, healthy food--but I do ask myself, before eating disproportionately energy-dense foods, whether they're worth it (for example, avocado-yes; really good chocolate cake-yes; store-bought cocktail sauce with 16g of sugar per tablespoon, as found in my mom's house-no). And it's really unfortunate that some people (usually men) would choose to interpret that level of mindfulness as an eating issue. That's how we've gotten into the "I'm not dieting, I'm cleansing" bullshit: we've made mindful eating uncool.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RM update

My cuberhood abuts a small conference room. In my two months in the cuberhood, I have, several times gotten up and politely asked meeting attendees in the conference room whether I could close the door. At least twice, one of the guys who sits next to me has thanked me, told me I'm awesome, etc. Today, one said, "I've been struggling with that for years and never know how to do anything about it without sounding like a jerk. And you didn't sound like a jerk." Sometimes I give it a second thought but today I didn't: they were being loud, I couldn't concentrate, and the meetingers were happy to oblige.

One reason I'm telling you this is so that you'll know that I don't have issues with politely asking people to change their behavior. It's not something I'm generally uncomfortable with. As I've told you, I've talked to roommate many times.

But, as I've also told you, I've given up. There's a certain point where it's easier to just give up. Use earplugs. Because there's no use.

I was thinking about this over the weekend-- about how he seems to disregard everything we've talked about and act surprised about the reality that we've discussed--and then a friend of mine relayed the same phenomenon about someone in her life: "He can be sensitive and seem to be a good listener in the moment, but he doesn't seem to catalog the conversation away and remember to follow through."

That's so my roommate: he nods, acknowledges what you've said... and then fails to imprint it into his understanding of reality.

And since there's no point in communicating with him about living-together issues, I've stopped.

Tuesday evening roundup

Why the military never really wanted that missile defense system, and how Secretary Gates turned against it.

As I've been trying to tell you for ages, the government gets plenty of things right.

I really should get tested for ADHD.

ARGH! NO! NO! NO! NO! The primary enabler of hunger is not complacency. Plenty of people care; plenty of people are willing to donate money for food. What we need is systemic change, and talking about "complacency" isn't going to get you that, unless you're talking about complacency with our food system. Hunger is very much a demand-side issue: adequate food supply has little impact on distribution. For example, India, under British rule, exported food while its people were starving, because of a lack of demand (well, economic demand: the people who needed the food couldn't afford to buy it).

I knew I liked Dave Matthews but now I think I love him:
Matthews: I think a lot of it has to be on the press. We give the podium to a lot of people who shouldn't have the podium. The message that's delivered the loudest and in the most entertaining way is the one that we're going to put on because that's what we want. We want ratings more than we want to deliver information. That's just where the culture's gotten.

There's no way that Walter Cronkite, as a young journalist, no way Ed Murrow would be hired to do news today. Not a chance.

CNN: Because they're too low-key? Because they're not bombastic?

Matthews: Because they're thoughtful, and they're patient, and they're tying to tell you a truly balanced story. They're trying to impart information. I don't think that's the goal [now] because it's not a good business plan. ...

Everyone's outraged all the time. Why are you outraged? There's war -- there's always been war, as long as most of us have been alive. There have always been people being abused, there's always been horrible things in the world. Why are we outraged? We should just be quiet and figure it out, and work it out together. ... There's no solution in Washington as long as people are shouting like that.
And I know I love Mark Bittman. I can't believe the doctor in the video (and in this article): he's just enabling people to make bad choices. I'm going to tell you what I had for breakfast (and note that I am not one of those bloggers who tells you what I had for breakfast just so that you know, because I think you care; this is topical). Anyway, my breakfast of slow-cooking oatmeal with cinnamon and a pear had over 16g of sugar, or more than that serving of froot loops that would have won the "Smart Choice" label between the two). Incidentally, my oatmeal tasted better than froot loops and took hardly any more time to prepare. Would you say it was less healthy? And did you know that it's established that enriching or adding vitamins and fiber into foods artificially does not provide the same nutritional value that you get when those vitamins and fiber occur naturally?

There's also the issue of serving size manipulation: if Kelloggs designates a small enough serving size, it can easily manipulate the nutritional data to meet the Smart Choices criteria.

Tuesday morning roundup

Counterinsurgency 101: Treat your interpreters well.

The Chinese government learned little about shoddy business practices from the earthquake last year (or at least it's willing to export those practices). At least Namibia's anticorruption law is working. Oh, and I love--love--the name of this agency: China’s "Supreme People’s Procuratorate." That makes my morning.

Miss Virginia is bald and beautiful.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Delusions

I unwrapped the paper this morning to find a picture of one of my grad school professors on the front page-- in a story, excerpted from a new book, that I'd heard before straight from the source. From the same book, another interesting piece, particularly in connection to a conference I attended this morning at a certain libertarian think tank. The president of the institution was the first to speak. He talked about how you could just tell from walking down the streets of the then Soviet Union how communism sucked people's souls-- people averted their gaze, were flat-out unfriendly. I hate to break it to him, but that's not communism: that's the way Eastern Europeans are. Amazing how ideology can blind you to the point where you take everything as evidence. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying communism fed the soul, but I find the guy's statement laughable.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday evening roundup

I know I should be happy that I can't go two days without seeing a Che reference; it should vindicate me, prove my point (i.e. if you are from this planet and have not heard of Che, such that you have to ask who he is, your head has spent too much time under a rock or in an even less desirable place). But with three mentions in three different parts of today's paper--four if you count the crossword--it's getting old. Having said that, this review is worth a read (and apparently, "Flat Broke" is not. Mr. Atwood, the reviewer, cites a number of holes in Mr. Jeter's, i.e. the writer's, anti-globalization rant, and mentions the Chilean salmon industry. Which, by the way, has been an ecological disaster. Speaking of disastrous aquaculture, watch out.

Oh, here's your other gratuitous Che reference (see second photo in the slideshow).

There's so much that unnerves me about this phenomenon. I can only hope the writer thinks it's worse than it is. On a similar note, the Post should tally how many guys in Date Lab will only date thin women.

I've only been to Tosca once and found it mediocre. Mind you, that was many years ago (and before I worked a few blocks away). And if I crossed paths with any powerful people, there or in any other Penn Quarter establishment, I'd be the last to know.

I don't get this; I've never had blonde envy issues, nor do I have the faintest idea what the Betty/Veronica fuss is about.

I love SNL:

Sunday morning roundup

When going too far in demonizing your target means missing an opportunity.

The Egyptian government is impressively pathetic.

South Africa's black schools have a very, very long way to go, but some are ahead, in some ways, of where Kansas would have been had its citizens not fired its school board:
Even when they realized the science teacher was absent, the student body president and his sidekick, a radiantly optimistic AIDS orphan, rose to lead a review session on evolution. And when the second-period English teacher was late, they just kept on talking about Darwin’s finches and genetic mutations.

“Quiet!” exclaimed Olwethu Thwalintini, 18, the student leader. “Can I have your attention, please. Exercise 2.1.”

Murmuring voices and shuffling papers fell silent.

“List two environmental factors which make it possible for the vertebrates to move onto land,” said Blondie Mangco, 17, the sidekick, whose mother died during final exams last year.
I'll get a TV when they're more energy efficient; for now, my laptop will do. Ooh, new season of "How I Met Your Mother" starts tomorrow!

I guess this kind of makes me feel better, except that I do eat a lot of vegetables and I prefer them organic... so I should still figure out how to garden.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

L'Shanah Tovah

Happy New Year! Beautiful weekend for it, except part of me was hoping for worse weather so I wouldn't be tempted to spend time outside when I should be getting organized. It's gotten to the point where it's no longer okay. Judith Warner's post spoke to me:
Every photo would be printed... every bush in the garden pruned, every flower watered, every lost button found and sewn, every closet ordered, every piece of too-tight clothing culled; in short, everything would be brought under control.
I'm slightly less ambitious, though I do plan to organize the potted plants outside and hopefully find and sew on a few buttons. And find my Banana Republic credit card so I can buy some clothes. I'm in a frumpiness funk and I must get out.

This debate is getting tiresome, and I'd like to stop posting about it, but something here makes me wonder:
"A friend who used to work in the Bush White House tells me that some Republican voters are already flooding the Congressional switchboard and pushing the idea of Joe Wilson running for president in 2012. No lie!"
Bring it on. If that's the best you can do... I'm speechless.

For sure, this is not the first time Dana Milbank comes off as a complete prick (see Mad Bitch video, for example), but this is the first time I've felt the need to call him out on it. Yes, farmers' markets are expensive--hell, I don't shop at them for that very reason. But it's not fair to compare their prices to supermarket prices for a number of reasons-- one being that organics are more expensive and another being that supermarket wares are often federally subsidized. The issue isn't the First Lady's appearance at a farmers' market or her purchases of fingerling potatoes; the issue is our food system, which is broken. Run mostly by a handful of corporations. I'm the first to wish that "certified humane" eggs didn't cost three times those of their caged or cooped counterparts, but they do, and they're worth it.

On that note, here's why you shouldn't buy conventional peaches, ever. But keep in mind, also, that sustainability scores are never straightforward.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday morning roundup

Yeah, maybe. But--and this is just one, anecdotal example--I can tell you that when I was in Australia, where tipping is unusual, the service was consistently horrendous. I mean abysmal. In theory, though, I agree with what she's saying. By the way, I saw "Waitress" and it was quite good. Also by the way, Ceiba has amazing service (and food).

Oh, come on, David Brooks. You're selectively ignoring a lot of the signs, which were flat-out racist. Sure, that may not have been the primary motivating factor, but it's been a key underlying element that allows the detractors to spread their BS. And they're deluded if they think they'll get their way--whatever that is--through angry protests. Look at them-- does their demographic homogeneity strike you at all? Many may be the same people that protested in Little Rock over fifty years ago. Those people were angry, indignant, self-righteous and determined as well, and their were masses of them. But schools were integrated, even in Arkansas, and we'll have health care reform, even amid the protests.

Yeah, sustainable agriculture just some useless concept thought up by elitists. It's not like industrial farms hurt real people, or anything like that.

I like my tea low-brow and affordable, thank you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Evening Roundup

Timothy Egan on misplaced populist outrage.

Ironically, the comments on this pretty insightful column on the crisis of incivility plaguing the country confirm the columnist's message.

Check out, on page three, Stephen King's description of Glenn Beck.

Ooooh, mandated composting and recycling. There's an idea.

This is the kind of fake umbrage that infuriates me.

Thursday morning roundup

I may have some ideological silliness that has recently abounded here, but I'm sure glad we don't have to deal with this:
The Shabab and their insurgent brethren now control most of Mogadishu and much of the country. They are often referred to as the Somali Taliban, sawing off thieves’ hands and recently yanking out people’s teeth, saying gold fillings were un-Islamic.
Still, the article suggests things have gotten, are getting better.

All the more reason to clean as much as possible with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice.

This is a poor use of immigration policy. This is worse.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday evening roundup

Did it really take the past week's events to wake people up to the sad state of public discourse?

Why the censure matters.


Gag me (and I’m not even talking about the disgraceful pun at the end). Although that’s preferable to the sad cliche at the end of this article.

Yesterday I blogged about cliche metaChe t-shirts. Today I have for you a bad communist pun t-shirt.

Staying with the theme of bad puns, RM has made Gracie his pet cause. Yesterday he came in, asked where she was, and went straight out back to greet her. He asked her, several times, how her day was.

He’s apparently convinced that she’s neglected (as an attention whore himself, he apparently identifies with whatever perceived neglect I subject her to). I can assure you that she’s not neglected (verbally abused, absolutely, but not neglected).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday evening roundup

Here's a reason to fear for the future of newspapers. I understand human-interest-story overload, but still. Meanwhile, Anne Applebaum, writing for the Post, criticizes criticizes corporate censorship.

Punditry gone very wrong.

Scholars opine on what, exactly, constitutes socialism these days. Meanwhile, mock Che t-shirts are becoming as much a cliche as the real thing. Even I have to say, "enough already."

In case any doubts remained about the inanity of incentives in our current health care system.

Nor is airport security without inanity:
"Lots of people have complaints about airport security, but when I hear them from pilots, as I frequently do, I really have to wonder what goes through the heads of some screeners. A few years ago, I spoke with an airline pilot who was dumbfounded when a screener pawed over every object in his carry-on bag. The pilot asked the screener why. “We can’t let you have something that would let you take over the plane,” he said he was told."


Tom Philpott on why Borlaug left a mixed legacy:
For him, the complexities of poverty and hunger could be reduced to a single problem: not enough food. From there, the answer was simple: grow as much as possible, using whatever technology available...

But it may be that Borlaug’s blindness to politics—his refusal to consider the power relations at work in the countries whose hungry he set out to save—undermined his legacy. His tireless effort to boost grain yields, while no doubt resulting in a flood of cheap grain, created all manner of problems that won’t be easily solved...

In Borlaug’s Green Revolution paradigm, farmers are urged to specialize in one or two commodity crops—say, corn or wheat. To grow them, they were to buy hybridized seeds and ample doses of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. (Borlaug’s celebrated “dwarf” varieties can thrive only with plenty of water and lots of synthetic nitrogen, and face serious pest pressure, requiring heavy pesticide doses.) The award for buying into the “Green Revolution package” was a bumper crop. The problem was that when everyone did the same thing and yields spiked, the price farmers received for their crops plunged...

The result is a kind of vicious cycle: farmers scramble to produce more to offset losses, leading to yet more downward pressure on prices. Of course, there’s the temptation to boost yields with yet more inputs like fertilizer—meaning that farmers’ costs could continue creeping up even as the prices they received in the marketplace fell steadily. The result is a kind of structural economic crisis in farming...

For me, the point isn’t that Borlaug is a villain and that crop yields don’t matter; rather, it’s that boosting yield alone can’t solve hunger problems in any but the most fleeting way. Farmers’ economic well-being; biodiversity; ecology; local knowledge, buy-in, and food traditions—all of these things matter, too.


Perhaps the Times' best op-art ever.

Tuesday morning roundup

All valid points: it is a distraction/gift to those who'd use it to deflect from substance, but it's also more than just collecting military artifacts. I mean, come on--the Nazis were the Nazis. A "fascination with military history" doesn't work here.

A call for humility.

RM update

I decided on Sunday night that I'd be nice about RM, since he tidied up. He didn't need to-- I specifically told him I would when I got back. I'd cleaned much of the house, but when he got back early Sunday evening, and I'd just cooked up a storm, for myself for the week as well as a couple of dishes to take over to a friend's house, so I'd delayed cleaning the kitchen until afterward. I managed to clean it somewhat--food mess is what I have very little tolerance for--but the dining room table was still covered in paper mess. I'd specifically waited until my laundry was clean and moved it into the dryer, because I didn't want him touching it. Nonetheless, when I got home, my laundry was neatly folded in my hamper, and the dining room table was visible, with various papers arranged in discrete piles. I made a decision to be thankful rather than annoyed. The table did look good, and I didn't have to fold my own laundry.

My netflix is back on--don't ask me why, I barely get a chance to watch anything, even with the Daily Show on hiatus (it's back this week)-- and last week he asked me if he could watch one of the dvds, I said of course. He didn't end up watching it. He asked the same this week, and looked through what I had. And opted for "Harold and Kumar Escape from Gitmo." He said, "ooh, this is military! I think I'll like this!" I said, "um, maybe you won't. Have you seen the first one? See "...Whitecastle" first." So he opted for "Sylvia." It was pretty funny.

However, as usual, he has to go and piss me off. Last night, he was sitting on the step, petting Gracie. "She misses me because I pet her," he said, sanctimoniously. I rolled my eyes. I do pet my cat--but it's never enough. She needs attention 24/7, and I'm certainly not going to provide it. I'm sure it's easy for him to characterize me as the ice queen who chooses my reading materials and laptop over my cat (and him), and I'll leave him to that. I also think it's funny that he's letting her affections go to his head. She's a cat; her loyalties are fleeting. "Does she rub up against you and walk over, you, too?" Yeah, asshole. First of all, she's an attention whore: she does that to almost everyone. Second, she knows who her mommy is. Don't think that just because she did you the honor of pooping on your bed because you went away for the weekend that she's chosen you as her primary caregiver. I should be so lucky.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday evening roundup

Oh, no! We lost a lot of people over the summer, and now Patrick Swayze?? So sad.

***
E.J. Dionne with a very good point about what the nature of the health care debate says about us. And this is what happens when our health care system embraces false economies.

The Kristof/WuDunn book is reviewed as very good and very important.

Civics in the internet age: the road to stonerocracy?

How I'd love to see stimulus funds that stock food pantries go toward buying fresh food.

This just came up on Saturday--a friend and I were talking about how, even with reasonable incomes, we can't bring ourselves to buy organic when it means shelling out two to three times as much money. We both try, but when the price differential is especially egregious, it just doesn't happen (which brings us to the issue of perverse incentives--what's subsidized, what isn't, etc.). Speaking of which, check out the graph in that article.

Incidentally, that friend asked me not to hate her for suggesting we make apple pie with store-bought crusts. I suggested that we make apple crisp instead. With Bisquick. The apples couldn't have been more local (i.e., from her backyard).

This is frightening for many reasons, but lets focus on the prosperity gospel:
"A 2000 DVD from the black evangelist Creflo Dollar featured African-American parishioners shouting, “I want my stuff — right now!”

Joel Osteen, the white megachurch pastor who draws 40,000 worshippers each Sunday, about two-thirds of them black and Latino, likes to relate how he himself succumbed to God’s urgings — conveyed by his wife — to upgrade to a larger house. According to Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, pastors like Mr. Osteen reassured people about subprime mortgages by getting them to believe that “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and bless me with my first house.”"


This, also, was the subject of a recent conversation I had, with another friend, whose father was a Lutheran minister. This friend is reading Christopher Hitchens' book and quite agrees. I don't know that I agree--I believe religion can and often is a force for good. I think it can serve as people's spiritual Suze Orman, in the way that Liz Pulliam Weston described Suze Orman's purpose: she's great for one-size-fits-all advice, for people who don't want to or can't make their own financial decisions. You can draw up a budget, and also think hard about the opportunity cost of your next purchase, or you can ask Suze whether or not you can afford it. She doesn't know you, your dreams, your priorities--but if you give her some financial data, which is one half of the equation, she'll give you an answer. Jennifer LaRue Huget also discussed this kind of advice--I can't find it, but she wrote in the Post, probably in her blog (The Checkup) last year that some people prefer to be told exactly what to eat (rather than follow general rules about nutrition and make the more specific decisions on their own). So faith is a bad analogy, because I think it's so much more than that--but I think "that," i.e. when it's used for one-size-fits-all morality, is really, really dangerous.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I kind of like having the house to myself when RM takes off for the weekend. Apparently, not all of us feel that way. Gracie misses her friend.

I smelled something on Friday night, but I couldn't find it, so I thought it must have been just me. But RM found it--on his bed--when he got home earlier today. I was livid. He was gracious-- especially when I told him it meant that she missed him.

Phone call

A.: Hello?
Mom: Hello!
A.: How's the Cape?
Mom: It's amazing here. The rental is perfect, the beach is perfect, the weather is perfect. The juicer arrived just before we left-- isn't that perfect timing? How's the weather where you are?
A.: Beautiful.
Mom: So, this juicer is amazing. Oh, and Natasha and Misha love it here, too.
A.: Say hello for me...
Mom: Where are you?
A.: Home.
Mom: What are you doing at home?? You said it was nice out!
A.: Well, it's a bit hot now, but mostly, I have things to do. I was out most of the rest of the weekend and headed out for at least a little while tonight, so I need to be home.
Mom: Fair enough...
A.: Oh, Mirella says hello.
Mom: How is she?
A.: She's good-- she was quite happy. She's loving being a grandmother.
Mom: Grandmother? That's through her son, right?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: Oh, so this juicer is amazing. You know how much time I used to spend...
[Dad]: Ask how Alexa is.
Mom: Wait a minute. Let me finish telling her about the juicer, then I'll ask. Anyway, it's amazing...

I didn't time her, but if I had to guess, I'd say she talked about the juicer for going on three minutes.

Mom: Anyway, how's Alexa?
A.: She's good. She's in Hong Kong.
Mom: Really? Doing what?
A.: Teaching English.
Mom: She already graduated?
A.: Yeah, this summer.

Mom: Anyway, we're about to go to a different beach.
A.: Okay. Have fun and say hello to everyone.

Sunday morning roundup

What happens when you let (in this case, coal) take care of their own environmental regulation? Kids with missing teeth and scabs on their arms, for example.

When things go wrong, though, you can blame the regulators, as do some former Lehman employees.

Sigh. Icing on the protest cake: "A young girl held a sign saying, “Don’t redistribute the wealth of my Barbies.”" Math is hard, little one; why don't you go shopping? It's not like we desperately need health care reform.

Maureen Dowd wasn't sure before, but she has no doubts remaining: racism is a major driving factor for the haters. Again, I think the silver lining is that, most people--especially younger generations, but also sane conservatives--are profoundly repulsed by it, and there will be backlash.

Part of me wishes that Stephen Colbert would run for office in South Carolina to shake things up, but we need him more as a satirist.

Frank Rich faults the president on leadership.

I don't always love Doonesbury, but this sums things up perfectly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saturday roundup

Anne Applebaum on the art of insult.

Gail Collins asks WTF??

All joking aside, these people are scary. Really scary.

Thank you, Max Stier. At least someone's got our back.

Some of the entries for this week's Style Invitational are pretty funny.

Ah, adventures in house hunting; brings back memories. And goes to show that if this area did have a semblance of a buyer's market, it was pretty subtle.

This week's Where We Live section of the Post featured Old Town, and did not neglect to point out, several times, how dog-friendly it is... although the proliferation of doggy bakeries, in particular, was not mentioned.

***
What's odder:

(1) A friend told me that she was furious to learn that her (22 year-old) daughter had started a blog (and it's not even a mom blog);

(2) she showed me a blog, and there, in the middle of a page, a Che quote nonchalantly sat;

(3) Che popped up, a couple of times, elsewhere in the course of our (non-political) conversation, and I'm not the one who brought it up.

Friday morning roundup

Are we getting so dumb, as a country, that we're willing to waste money out of spite?

I love hippos, but I understand the invasive species issue.

Oh, I understand why beautiful clothes cost so much. I even understand why ugly clothes sometimes cost so much. I think what the fashion industry doesn't understand is why most people can't afford them. I don't "see longevity" in the clothes I buy because I'm a klutz, and so are other people, so I'm not going to invest in things that I'm going to spill food on or tear when I trip or snag when someone pushes me on the metro. I don't doubt the value of many of these clothes; I just don't think they're a good way for me to spend my money.

What's really sad, though, is this:
"This week the situation reached a nadir of sorts when the Paris house Emanuel Ungaro — once the pride and joy of the Upper East Side — announced that it had hired Lindsay Lohan as its artistic adviser."
I do have an Ungaro suit. Not sure it still fits me, though.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday evening roundup

Okay, Virginia government, this is a no-brainer: don't take away prisoners' access to books.

DC truly does have bad roads, but what resonated was the statement that you never know whether a drive that could take five minutes will actually take 35 minutes. I was thinking about this the other day when I figured that it may be time to start making my own hummus. Trader Joe's is good enough--their three-layer is pretty good--but more than once, it's gone off within a day (my former roommate also had this problem with their hummus). You know I love the Mediterranean Bakery's hummus, but that's a 10-15 minute drive in no traffic (and there is only no traffic very early on weekend mornings, or in the late evenings). So it might be time to get over myself and make hummus from scratch.

I repeat, it's unfortunate that some people have a deep-seated resentment against federal employees.

Okay, guys-- I'm going to group the next few articles into a theme or two. Actually, I'm going to group this article about how the working class faces challenges in eating healthily with a handful that I've posted recently, including the one from this morning about sustainability certification; the one from last week about giving Fruit Loops a "healthy" designation; and the Grist's slideshow on local-washing.

Let me start with this: I think the Time piece is a load of hippie crap. I think it's insulting to working class people and it also provides excuses for unhealthy lifestyles. I think they should do a comparative study on working class Eastern European and Asian immigrants and see how they somehow manage to eat healthily on a budget. Or maybe grad students. Honestly, how hard is it to, say, buy a big container of peanuts and put some in a ziploc or small tupperware container to snack on during the day? Carrot and celery sticks, hard-boiled eggs, a basic sandwich. Buy some dried beans, soak overnight, stick in a slowcooker, freeze what you won't use that week? Dried milk? Okay, so people are afraid to take lunch breaks because they don't want to lose the wages-- that is a valid issue that needs to be addressed in and of itself. But as far as time and money for food preparation, I'm not buying the argument that it's too expensive and time consuming for the working class.

Anyway, moving on to the three previously posted articles: what is the most appropriate role of the government in getting people to eat healthily and sustainably? Note that I'm not invoking Michael Pollan's column from this morning, which kind of touches on that. I'm also not touching agricultural subsidies, because it's a different discussion in and of itself.

Where does the government cross the line from oversight to paternalism? And obviously, some believe there shouldn't even be oversight. I think it's great that the government mandates nutritional labels and ingredient lists, as well as warnings on cigarettes. There was a time when neither was required.

I think the government's role is to ensure that information is available and that it is accurate. It is not to spoonfeed that information. The "better for you" designation, or whatever it is, is pointless; people should just read labels. The information is available. If they can't be bothered to check it, then who can blame the food industry for trying to deceive them with a catch-all label?

The certification process is more appropriate in cases where the information isn't available (organic, sustainable, etc.). And in those cases, there has to be integrity in the certification process; it can't be watered down or misleading. Organic and/or sustainable has to mean that.

Thursday morning roundup

In memory.

One reason it is truly challenging to eat sustainably is that even foods certified "sustainable" sometimes aren't.

Rarely, but sometimes, Michael Pollan just pisses me off. The health care system is the problem, and prevention isn't going to fix everything. I agree with his points, especially about the importance of taking on the food industry, but it's silly to suggest that addressing "our being fatter"--which would help control costs, among other things--will make a dent in the current system. I guess I'm just irked by the way he started the article; we can only hope that real health care reform will turn the health care industry into a formidable lobbying opponent to Big Food.

Speaking of the food industry, this does not bode well for reform.

Gail Collins says,
"Let me go out on a limb and say that it is not a good plan to heckle the president of the United States when he’s making a speech about replacing acrimony with civility."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quick Wednesday evening roundup

Man, it's nice to be able to listen to a presidential speech without cringing the whole time. I wonder when that will seem normal again.

Also, good news regarding Chipotle.

Some people are really f*ing dumb.

My bad

First of all, I hate CNN. I feel dumber by the minute as I listening to their pre-speech chatter Let me see if anyone less annoying is streaming the speech.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I snapped at my mother, and it was unjustified and not worth it. See, I admit when I'm wrong... which is not to say that I won't also take the opportunity to question some of mom's behavior). Here's the context:

Mom left me a message some time after 9am to let me know that she'd sent me, by e-mail, another complaint letter she had written over the gym membership issue. Apparently, a different gym pulled the same thing on a friend of hers, whose doctor also told him to stop going to the gym.

I'm not sure why mom called me on my cell during the workday--if I happen to be at my desk, maybe I'll hear my phone, which is in my purse, which is locked in a cabinet. She has my work number, or, rather, I gave it to her once, that time that she was driving down here. At that time, I also told her that that was the better way to reach me during the work day, because I don't always hear my cell. Of course, mom's not great at holding on to my contact info (see New Yorker Siberia article saga, over which she did not speak to me for a month; see also that time the morning before she drove down here, when she called to ask me my address--and asked me whether I was sure I didn't live in West Virginia). But I digress; I'm actually glad that mom did not keep my work number; I really can't have her calling my office phone to have me spell things for her, or to have me read her complaint letters then and there. Nonetheless, she should know--because I've told her--not to call my cell if she has something time-sensitive to convey.

Anyway, I got the message later and called her on my way home from the metro to let her know that I never received the e-mail she said she would send. She told me she decided not to send it after all. We talked for a bit about the gym membership saga, and then, she asked me about the plant she'd given me for my birthday a couple of years ago.

A.: It died after I put it outside (at your suggestion). So did the cactus.
Mom: What? I've put plenty of plants outside. I do it all the time.
A.: Well, different environment, mom. The sun is stronger here, and some plants need less of it.
Mom: Well, I just don't know. I put plants outside and they thrive.
A., with an attitude: I'm not going to argue with you. I just know that I put them outside, and they died. And that they were fine inside.
Mom: You know, you're very unpleasant to talk to! You should watch your tone!

She was actually right. I was tired and not in the mood for superfluous back-and-forth, but that wasn't her problem. I shouldn't have called her if I was too tired to be civil. I couldn't even take the opportunity to say, "you should watch yourself, too," because she wasn't snippy. It was just me.

Okay, the speech has started, so I'm off to listen.
I don't get it: pressure to be socially connected-- so that's not really for me; but some people are drawn to multitasking and constantly seeking new info--that is me, and I still don't feel the need to do so behind the wheel.

Some interesting perspectives here; "Healthcare... is socialism" is not one of them. Meanwhile, future doctors opine.

While we're on quotes, of the ones that emerged from the school speech controversy, the best I've heard follows:
About 25 miles to the southwest at Booker T. Washington High School in downtown Dallas, Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, watched the speech with students. Interviewed by reporters there, Mr. Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, said of the controversy over the speech, “There are few moments in my life when I’m embarrassed to say I’m from Texas.”

“This is one of them,” he added.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kneehigh Park

It wasn't quite fair of me to link to the Kneehigh Park episodes but not embed them... so here they are, in all their glory:
Chappelle's Show
Kneehigh Park
www.comedycentral.com
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story



Chappelle's Show
Kneehigh Park, Pt 2
www.comedycentral.com
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story


Here's Black Bush for good measure:
Chappelle's Show
Black Bush
www.comedycentral.com
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story


And let me take this opportunity to point out that the caption for the Wayne Brady episode is the line I just used on Gracie: "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?" Let me also point out that the other sidebar, the following are listed as the most frequent searches on Comedy Central's website: "katt williams," "flight of the conchords," "boobs," "movies," and "godfrey."

Speaking of waking up in a cold sweat...

Back when I worked far away, friends who lived closer to where I worked graciously allowed me to crash at their home on occasion (i.e., those occasions where I worked long enough that, if I commuted to my house, I'd get home just in time to crash, only to leave for work at the crack of dawn). And occasionally on those occasions, I would wake up in the middle of the night. To a full-sized cardboard cut-out of Derek Zoolander staring at me.

Zoolander has become quite the leitmotif for me. You know how often I quote the film on these pages; I quote it more elsewhere. At this point, my primary motivation for buying a TV is so that I'll be able to host Zoolander drinking game parties (in case you're already afraid, rest assured that, motivating as that is, it's not at the top of my list of priorities).

At a party yesterday, I was just telling people--who had called me on my Zoolander obsession (when I noted that high-minded ideas often led me to lower-brow cultural references, and, in actuality, I was about to bring up Dave Chappelle's kneehigh park episodes)-- that when Jay was here, and we were walking back to the house from dinner out, he stopped me mid-step to say--wait for it..."Wetness... is the essence... of moisture."

Well, lo and behold, what did Jay e-mail me about just today? Scarier than Zoolander quotes trying to take over my life, is my brain trust with Jay:
Ok, so I broke down and bought a used copy of Zoolander today. I'll go
watch for the goat cheese reference... I also accidentally put face
cleanser in my hair in the shower this morning and all I could think
was "wetness is the essence of moisture" or whatever...
You won't believe this (except you will), but I'd been conditioning with lotion for several months. Not all the time, but whenever I washed my hair at the gym, so maybe every other week. You know how those little hotel shampoo bottles all look the same? I'd grabbed the lotion instead of the conditioner, and only noticed a week or so ago. Maybe that explains the Hagrid hair? Except that's not limited to when I actually wash my hair at the gym.

What enables me is that so many of my friends have a similar affinity for Zoolander references. I remember over a year ago, Annie and I were at happy hour at Flying Fish, and "Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)" came on, and we both thought, "Zoolander"!

I think I'm okay, but I trust that you'll launch an intervention if things intensify.

Tuesday evening roundup

Everyone's talking about Afghanistan: Richard Cohen; Anne Applebaum; and Ahmed Rashid.

How unf*ingbelievably evil some insurance companies have been.

Thank you, Grist, for taking on localwashing. I was amazed, this weekend, at how stupid Whole Foods thinks its customers are: locally grown in New Jersey? Are you serious? Yes, I suppose it's less of a trek than California, but really? I've also seen them use slippery language, with intent to deceive, on whether products are artificially sweetened.

Grist thinks Van Jones' resignation is a victory in the long run. So does Arianna Huffington.

Easyjet's treatment of a pregnant passenger was so wrong, but the third or so comment on the page is so misogynistic--a man has the lack of brains to blame feminism:
Well, lots of career women feel threatened by expectant mothers. They value their careers before sex and pregnancy. Judging by the gender-neutral language, it was women employees who were rude to her. Only a feminist could come out with a line like: 'Pregnancy is not a woman's problem'!
Now, he actually misquotes the writer, and another commenter calls him on it, but WTF? How deluded do you have to be to suggest such a thing? I should know better than to throw logic at him, but has it occurred to him that the pregnant woman in question--a correspondent for the Economist--is a "career woman"?

Speaking of f*ed up comments, check out some of the ones here. They're so bad that the flat-out degrading and rude ones scare me less than the misguided ones begrudging the Obamas' having been able to afford a personal trainer. Strikes me as racist, actually--would anyone ever have given a second thought to Laura Bush's having had a personal trainer? Yet, for Michelle Obama, some have the nerve to imply that it's uppity. Yes, I know, they're just looking for reasons to hate--but like I said, it's not the equal opportunity haters on the page that most boggle my mind.

Speaking of the absurd, I'm glad people are calling bull$hit on the idea of telling kids to stay in school as socialist indoctrination.

On a lighter note, here's a classic example of inviting exactly the kind of juvenile innuendo one meant to avoid. Sigh-- I kind of miss Wales (not because of that).

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