Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday evening ramble and roundup

There's something about the terrace of the Kennedy Center, especially right before a show. People are sitting, standing, walking there, eating, talking, enjoying the view. I came out during intermission and caught the sliver of the moon that was lit. If you looked closely, you could see the outline of the entire orb, or maybe I imagined it because I knew it was there. But it looked real. Do you think John Glenn, when he catches sight of the moon, thinks, "I know that place; I've been there"?

The audience was well-behaved. I wonder whether symphony audiences are generally better behaved than theater and ballet audiences? They really were there to hear the music, not whisper or sleep. It was impressive.

After the show, I won the metro lottery, no thanks to standing lines of people on both escalators. It was the new escalators. At least all the escalator outages over the years were worth something. Anyway, I just barely caught the train, and found myself angry at myself for being angry at the standers. Really, I blame Metro.

Don't make your kids eat when they're not hungry.

My mom has made several attempts lately to drag me into a conversation about Israel. Normally she rants and I ignore her, because, as with everything else, there's no point in responding. So to my surprise, she actually asked me why I wasn't saying anything. She also asked what I thought, did I agree? Did I agree with what? Did I agree that it was awful that people wanted to destroy the state of Israel. Yes, I agreed it was awful. And since it's mom we're talking about, I wasn't interested in adding a "but." I'm lazy; if I can't have an intelligent, or at least logical, conversation, I won't have a conversation. Like the writer of the above-linked article, I believe our parents had better get with reality.

Thursday morning roundup

The detention industrial complex is tragic.

Two conservative columnists write about fiscal responsibility, and I don't disagree with them, not even Marc Thiessen. But what Mr. Thiessen is not telling you, however, is that a lot of those cuts are already part of the President's budget. No disclaimer's on Kathleen Parker's piece; she's right on.

If your diet isn't optimally healthy, the problem is, emphatically, not that normal broccoli is insufficiently nutritious. But you're aware of the food industry's influence on nutritional conventional wisdom.

I love Joy Behar.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Fewer New Yorkers can afford cocaine additions.

Really, South Africa? I mean, denying entry to the Dalai Lama, whatever his imperfections, would be like Israel's lobbying against calling the Armenian genocide a genocide (let's see how that works out this year, by the way).

Really beautiful profile of a really beautiful small-town pharmacist (in a beautiful person sense, not fashion week sense; it is the fashion issue, so I had to clarify).

Tuesday morning roundup

Frank Bruni competes with Nicholas Kristof for super-inspiring story.

North Dakota is flaring natural gas.

A defense of fiction and praise of the irony it allows us for parsing the the world. You have to love any philosophical essay that uses Colbert to make a point.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Why we need immigration reform now and how some very good people are putting out fires in the meantime.

Families are going hungry and kids aren't immune to the psychological consequences.

Mark Bittman effectively and graphically demonstrates the point I made last week: home cooking costs less than junk food.

Your friends and family definitely influence your eating habits.

Yes, leather is as cruel as fur. But the difference, practically--which translates somewhat, though not entirely, to a difference ethically--is that it's very difficult (and expensive) to find decent synthetic shoes. I have tried. I know I can't rest my case solely with what's on Zappos, but it's a microcosm of what's available elsewhere. And it's (literally) not pretty.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday evening explanation/disclaimer

I know there've been a couple of Sundays where I've marked a Sunday morning roundup "part I" without following up with a part II. This is because I read the Times first thing in the morning, then read the Post later... and lately, the Post hasn't given me a whole lot to round up. So there you have it.

And here you have the only thing from this Sunday's paper I find worth sharing (there was other stuff worth reading, but worth sharing, not so much): people, DC has a vibrant theater scene. Really. Leave it to Peter Marks to support this by talking about the new, expensive spaces, but I'd argue that some of the most amazing stuff goes on in the less flashy buildings. But the point is, there's a lot going on, and most of it's very good.

Sunday morning roundup Part I

K'naan returns to Somalia. That may be the most poetic op-ed column you'll see in a while, but, unfortunately, perhaps not the most heart-wrenching.

Are you f*ing kidding me, Arizona? Accent-policing the teachers?

It's been a while, but Maureen Dowd had written a good column.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Think about it

Why bang your head against your desk, waiting for the Post to load, when there's so much porn you can download in the same amount of time.

Saturday morning roundup

Parsing Santorum's, and his audience's, interesting response to a (gay) deployed soldier's question.

Perhaps in honor of singles'/unmarrieds' week, Modern Love brings us an awesome column.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunset over San Juan Island

Picture In Portrait 5x7 folded card
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Sol Duc Falls

Picture In Landscape 5x7 folded card
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Thursday evening roundup

Everyone talks about the dangers of low math and science scores, but a former CEO reminds us that, even for technical professions, knowledge of history matters. (Please hold your Che Guevara jokes.)

The pork industry thinks you're stupid.
A Memphis judge hates kids and nature. Go here to support gardens and education.

The first thing I did when I saw this carb-slamming study was the same thing I always do whenever once is summarized: I checked the study itself to gauge the level of distortion. Often, a study pits healthy sources of protein and fat against refined carbs. Well, this study adjusted for that by *not using real food.* They didn't want the distortion of, say, the antioxidants that come with vegetables (which are, by the way, carbs). Doesn't that make perfect sense? Studying the value of foods by macronutrient, by controlling for things like antioxidants (and other vitamins)? Is everyone on--no pun intended--crazy pills??

Big Thursday morning roundup

Del Monte thinks it can bully food safety regulators. I can't resist positing that decades of giving corporations the impression that the government is there to do their bidding, without regard to the public interest, will inflate their balls so that they try to pull this $hit. I mean, when you help overthrow a government because Del Monte, then known as the United Fruit Company, asks you to, why is Del Monte now going to think it has to care about people's lives? Here's a choice excerpt from the article:
The audit, done by a company hired by Del Monte Fresh Produce, found that a pipe containing raw sewage and wastewater emptied into an open ditch about 110 yards from the farm’s packing house. The ditch led into a lagoon containing additional sewage, more than 220 yards from the packing house. The audit recommended that the ditch be eliminated.

Mr. Christou said the ditch was protected by barbed wire to keep large animals from tracking the waste into fields. He said the lagoon contained chemicals to speed decomposition of the waste and was away from fields and wells. After the audit, he said, the company extended the pipe all the way to the lagoon and discontinued use of the open ditch.

Asked if having raw sewage in an open ditch near its packing house was consistent with high food safety standards, Mr. Christou said that tests on melons had found no pathogens.
Former Prime Minister Olmert speaks (well, writes).

I'm a big believer in this fail-to-succeed stuff:
...and he identified a set of strengths that were, according to his research, especially likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement. After a few small adjustments (Levin and Randolph opted to drop love in favor of curiosity), they settled on a final list: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.
I also love this excerpt:
“Sure, a trait can backfire,” Witter said. “Too much grit, like Okonkwo, you start to lose your ability to have empathy for other people. If you’re so gritty that you don’t understand why everyone’s complaining about how hard things are, because nothing’s hard for you, because you’re Mr. Grit, then you’re going to have a hard time being kind. Even love — being too loving might make you the kind of person who can get played.” There was a ripple of knowing laughter from the students. “So, yes, character is something you have to be careful about. Character strengths can become character weaknesses.”
This, too, is interesting:
One central figure in the movie is Madeline Levine, a psychologist in Marin County who is the author of a best-selling book, “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.” In her book, Levine cites studies and surveys to back up her contention that children of affluent parents now exhibit “unexpectedly high rates of emotional problems beginning in junior high school.” This is no accident of demographics, Levine says, but instead is a direct result of the child-raising practices that prevail in well-off American homes; wealthy parents today, she argues, are more likely to be emotionally distant from their children, and at the same time to insist on high levels of achievement, a potentially toxic blend of influences that can create “intense feelings of shame and hopelessness” in affluent children.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

Pressuring the Fed may not be unethical, but it could be counterproductive.

Mark Bittman brings us the latest on tuna. He makes a very interesting point, almost matter-of-factly and at the end, about videos of cruelty at sea have more impact than those revealing cruelty on land. Why doesn't factory farm footage horrify people into action?

I'm going to hold my nose and endorse a dairy product: fight bigotry, buy Shweddy Balls. Now I'm going to make up for it by endorsing PETA "pornography".

It won't surprise you that this BS experiment just pisses me off. I'm not questioning the challenges of subsisting on food stamps, particularly if one has a family to feed, but I think it's kind of hilarious that the writer/blogger has to put herself through an experiment to determine whether it's possible to subsist on $30 a week. Now, I, myself, don't quite come in at that, and it would be hard to determine based on my grocery bills, because a given trip to the store might include, say, garbage bags, and usually includes multiple weeks' worth of food (I usually swing by Whole Foods every other week and get at least two packages, i.e., over two weeks' worth, of linguine.) I won't break down for you what I eat by day, because I know you don't care (which hasn't always stopped me, but let's just say I figure I've done it, albeit under provocation, enough). However, to show how easy it is to get groceries on $30, I'll delineate a basic sample menu with prices per ingredient per week:

breakfast: oatmeal ($1) with cinnamon and flax seed ($.50);
snack: sunflower seeds ($.75) and sweet potato ($2)
lunch: beans (.75) and brown/black/red rice ($2)
snack: fruit ($3-$5)
dinner: pasta ($1) with tofu ($3)

I believe that comes to $16. That leaves $14 for all kinds of vegetables and other stuff. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday morning roundup and response to comment

Energy takes a lot of water.

Marine recruiters venture to a gay community center in Oklahoma.

Dana Milbank creates no jobs.

Squid appear to be among the most indiscriminately pansexual of animals. But ewwww, that's a gross way of reproducing. For you scuba divers out there, stay away from the squid, or you might get sprayed--and that $hit stains.

These guys may make the cutest couple ever.

I see where you're coming from, and I think that, ultimately, if asked nicely, I would switch seats. If confronted with an entitled, tantrum-throwing child (or parent), I would not switch seats. But I'm sorry for your recent travel clusterf*.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

This week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each side's respective leadership strives to out-stupid the other.

There's a huge public health cost to overusing antibiotics in farm animals, and it's not reflected in the price of the product. Which means that the cost is borne by society at large.

There's also a cost to underfunding food safety.

Do y'all remember when I felt kinda bad, on my way back from the Canadian Rockies, when I wouldn't switch seats with a small child, partly because he was being obnoxious about it? Well, I still don't think I owed him anything, and I generally resent it when people ask me to cede to them the seat that I've chosen. But apparently, families have few qualms about asking.

I very much respect David Mendelsohn, but there's a lot to hate in his scathing review of Mad Men. I'll start with a spoiler alert for the review, and a disclaimer for myself: I love the show. I am not a TV critic, so I've considered the show as a consumer, not an analyst. That said, I've (1) consciously noted the amazing acting; and (2) never thought to notice the writing, which indicates that the writing is pretty good. In other words, when I watch the show, I focus on what's happening, not on what's been written; it doesn't come across as something that's been written. I also take issue with Mr. Mendelsohn's critiques of the characters; I'm not sure why they're so unbelievable to him, as people. They--the imperfect beings--make perfect sense to me. I'm also not sure why he thinks that the stuff of life that is spun into the stuff of the show--divorce, adultery, abortion--is exclusively or particularly the stuff of soap operas. It's his call to dislike the show, and I suppose it's his job as a critic to root that dislike in theory, but I'm just not seeing it.

Tuesday morning roundup

It's death-panel redux: one political statement sets back the cause of public health.

Many people don't realize how much they benefit from government services.

Happy National Singles and Unmarrieds Week.

Town gossip goes online but stays nasty.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday morning roundup Part I: no surprises here

No one is shocked-shocked!-that there is corruption in Uttar-Pradesh, so it's taken a string of assassinations--of doctors--to raise eyebrows.

Nor should it surprise anyone that writing well about India is a challenge. Here's an insightful excerpt about a book that stands out:
In isolating these strains of misery, Deb is not unique; several journalists and commentators have previously dismissed the bluff cheer about India’s growth that has been peddled by authors like Thomas L. Friedman. The transformation of India has wrecked the lives of her farmers, has stoked people’s appetites for money and power and has ripped open fresh gulfs of inequity between her rich and her poor. But there is a nuance to even the direst of Deb’s pessimisms — an acknowledgment that India’s lives are newly precarious precisely because they could swing either the way of opportunity or the way of ruin.
Speaking of books, what's a good production rate for a novelist?

But back to news-that-shocks-no-one: fast food playspaces are nasty. That said, if you're regularly buying your kids fast food, you have bigger health implications to consider.

Maureen Dowd is concerned about the anti-knowledge ardor of the candidate pool.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Phone call

On Thursday evening, I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone with my parents trying to tell them how to reset their Skype language to English. They had somehow managed to change it to Greek, and couldn't get it back. Eventually, we found success. That was on one computer; on the other, Skype's not working at all. My mom tried to convince me that this was some Microsoft conspiracy to phase out Vista--she was convinced that incompatibility with Vista was the issue. Eventually, she believed me when I told her it wasn't, and told her to uninstall and reinstall the program. This is where we left things. I had a message from her earlier today--early afternoon--asking to call when I had a chance, so we could compare Skype properties. So I called.

Mom: Hello?
A.: Hi.
Mom: Oh, hi! Where are you?
A.: Home.
Mom: Oh. You didn't hear my call?
A.: What call? You mean from this afternoon?
Mom: Yeah.
A.: Yeah, I wasn't home then.
Mom: Oh?
A.: No.
Mom: Well, I played with it but gave up, and now we're having dinner.
A.: Okay, you can call me whenever.
Mom: Okay.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday evening roundup: foreign policy edition

An update on some of the sources burned by Wikileaks.

Is the two-state solution a pipe dream? New natural gas discoveries may only complicate matters.

I thought this would have me up in arms, but I found myself overwhelmingly in agreement (well, except for the title; if you're going to buy milk, buy happy milk). But I find most of his points unobjectionable--as I've admitted many times on these pages, I've never been much of a locavore, and I can rarely bring myself to pay farmer's market prices. I was going to balk at what I thought would be his dismissal of organics, but he wasn't dogmatic on the matter. Still, do know that organics have their benefits.

Quick Friday morning roundup

Human rights prosecutions work.

I'm of multiple minds about arts centers like this new one in Kansas City. It's awesome that the demand for arts endures, economic factors aside, and that donors continue to donate. But I question the value of these grand, showy performance centers. As well proved in the DC area, you can make amazing things happen in small spaces. Whenever I step into the new Arena Stage building, I just roll my eyes. I know how it works; I know you need glitz to attract big donors. But you don't need it to produce phenomenal shows.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Yes, do gasp: I think Jennifer Rubin has a point.

Are y'all familiar with Sayre's Law? It applies perfectly to the Miss Universe contest.

Moving on to a Miss with a more constructive role in the world: Miss Manners provides an awesome, to-the-point response to the third question here.

How cute is this?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday morning roundup

There's a lot of seriously disturbing bull$hit coming out of Afghanistan, but this takes the cake for inhuman greed and cruelty.

How different countries' textbooks take on 9/11.

Really, fast food industry? As a taxpayer, I object.

Speaking of taxpayer money, wanna save some of it, help the environment, and contact your elected representative at the same time? Tell him or her to get rid of the bottled water.

The Onion on immigration and hypocrisy.

Here's why you should go for a walk in the woods, or at least check out the travel notes I posted earlier.

I experienced a brief jolt of relief on the metro ride home when the pungently stinking man standing mere feet away from me moved farther into the train. A woman moved in shortly thereafter, but she didn't stink. She did, at one point, lurch and barely miss my face as the train moved, but that wasn't her fault. When it happened, I saw that she was, as I was, reading the New Yorker. I thought about asking her whether she, too, had for the nth month running found Adam Gopnik insufferable and full of shit. You guys know that I'm an avid New Yorker reader, and perhaps you figure that I bristle at the idea that the magazine is elitist in a pejorative sense. Of course it's elitist, in the sense that the best writers write for it; that's not a bad thing. But it's also accessible; I think anyone can learn a lot from the New Yorker. That is, unless AG is writing. In that case, I find that I neither follow what he's writing--he takes logical leaps that don't sit well with me--or he's over my head. And once again, I wonder what the f* his editor is doing. I mean, I know it's called "The New Yorker," but it's a national f*ing publication. Do you think it's wise to base an analogy--with regard to international commercial competition--on obscure New York grocery stores (whose apparent lack of competition points to the divergent needs of the city's West and East sides)?? I'm just sayin'.

Monday morning roundup

Activists succeeded in getting Alexandria's coal-fired plant to close. Now the city has more pressing business: choosing a town crier.

Reality is more ironic than fiction. This is one of those events that makes me side with a fast food company.

Okay, I have something to say and I don't know where to start, so I'll start with a question: am I an idiot? Am I incapable of appreciating musical theater? Hardly. I loved 'Stomp'; I loved 'Title of Show'; I even loved 'Hairspray'. And maybe I would have loved 'Oklahoma!' had it been less hyped, but given Hilton Als', among others', drooling over it, I sucked it up and bought a ticket, fully expecting it to blow my mind. Instead, I was just entertained. Which isn't a bad thing, but I can be equally or more entertained for much less money, and usually with more insight and social commentary, at just about every other theatrical event in DC. So why won't everyone stop talking about Arena's 'Oklahoma!' as if it were as revolutionary as the original 'Oklahoma!' performance itself?

I had let this go when I first saw the musical over a month ago, but they won't let it go. Peter Marks just brought it up again in his otherwise informative article for the Post's Fall Arts Preview. So tell me: what is so f*ing great about 'Oklahoma!'? What? I. don't. understand. it. In fact, I was ten times more impressed with Source's production of 'Ramayana', which was all the more amazing given the spacial and budgetary constraints.

But let me digress, on purpose. In searching for the online version of Mr. Marks' article, which I read in the print edition last night, I came across this gem, which takes on Mr. Marks' alleged habit of focusing on what's going on in New York. For the record, he did have a job in New York, which he left for a job in DC, but apart that, the open letter makes an excellent point, and makes it colorfully:
Now you'll probably say, "This guy's just got a beef because he's jealous of the attention NYC is getting." Well, I'm sorry, but what on Earth does any fan of DC theatre have to be jealous of? If I wanted to see corporate chorus boys lip-synch their way through a mass-market piece of shit musical that is just going to close in two weeks and tour the red state boonies, or freeze to death in some Lower East Side dive watching yet another emaciated one-act that basically regurgitates the playwright's last ten therapy sessions into an unrecognizable tumor of soon-to-be-forgotten theatrical trends, well, I'd either shoot myself in the head, or, grudgingly, move to New York, and, once again, avail myself of someone who doesn't write for the Washington Post. Here in Washington, I get to see plays by actual masters, with world-class directors and actors who aren't aging themselves into an early retirement and who probably won't light out for fucking Weehauken the minute Van Helsing on Broadway! closes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday morning roundup Part I

The view from AfPak. What's wrong with middlebrow? I asked a few weeks ago, and I have my answer: impeccable is in again.

Anti-ode to my tabby

When Gracie first came to me,
I thought her previous family's decision
to de-claw her was a cruel travesty.

Years later,
I find myself pondering the ethics
of having her vocal chords surgically removed.

When I left for vacation,
the house was spotless.
It's now quite the mess,
and I've hardly been here.

How can one small fur-ball
be the root
of such disorder?

Good thing she's cute.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Notes from Washington State

The thing with domestic vacations is that mom feels the need to call me all the time to make sure I'm alive. She feels the need to do that when I'm out of the country, as well, but she doesn't have a reasonable expectation that I'll get back to her. But when I'm in the country, I have to fight her on this issue.

Vacation, for me, is a chance to get away from everything. It's a vacation from my routine, from my whiny cat (who's been driving me up the wall since the minute I got back), from being connected. To the extent that I'll check e-mail when I get the chance, it's to clear my inbox and maybe touch base with a few people. I don't want to keep checking in regularly with anyone.

That said, I do normally call my parents before I leave, but that pre-trip morning was bananas. So I called from the Milwaukee airport, after we stopped at a bakery/deli. That served vegan black-bean chili. Did you catch that? An airport restaurant in the Cheese-head state serves vegan chili. But I digress.

Mom: What? Huh. I thought you weren't leaving until later in the week.
A.: I did send you my itinerary.
Mom: Well, I didn't realize you were leaving today.
A.: Well, I've left.
Mom: Call me when you get there.
A.: It's going to be late when I get there.
Mom: Call me anyway.
A.: No.
Mom: What's wrong with you? Why can't you just call me?
A.: Because I need to focus on getting the car and getting to our hotel. I can call you in the morning if you insist.
Mom: Better call tonight.
A.: I won't.
Mom: Fine.

I called the next morning.

Mom: Where are you?
A.: Still in the hotel...
Mom: What hotel?
A.: The hotel we're staying in.
Mom: Oh. Okay. Well, be safe. And call me from time to time so I don't worry.
A.: How about you just don't worry?

That was that, for the time being. We drove around the Olympic Peninsula, saw, as Jason would say, "some cool $hit," including the world's largest sitka spruce.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky. We hiked by Lake Quinault, by Kalaloch Beach,
and in the mossy Hoh Rainforest. We stewed in the Sol Duc hot springs and hiked out to the nearby waterfall.

My phone rang as we approached Hurricane Ridge, but I was driving, and by the time I parked, back in the National Park, I had no signal. I was paradoxically annoyed at my mother; paradoxically, because she was making me worry, and yet I knew that there was no reason to worry. See, I thought, "why is she calling me? I'd only call her on vacation in an emergency? Is there an emergency? No, of course not! It's mom, she wouldn't only call in an emergency." But I was annoyed that she made me wonder whether there was an emergency.

We hiked along Hurricane Ridge,

with flowers all around us on the trail,
and wasps--more than I'd ever seen in my life--at our feet the whole time. They were, mercifully, not aggressive. There was still some snow on the trail, which brought home how high up we were, in case it wasn't clear from looking around. From one spot, we could see Vancouver Island.

Hours later, down from the trail and out of the park, I called mom back. She just wanted to check in, and asked me to call again soon. We drove on to Port Townsend, a very cute town with lots of historic houses. We stayed at a bed and breakfast, where my option (in addition to fruit) was a massive plate of vegan, whole-wheat pancakes. They were amazing--the non-vegans liked them, too. Did I tell you that I'd made some really good waffles (using Bob's Red Mill buckwheat mix, soy milk, and some flax eggs)? It really does work.

After breakfast, we went over to the farmer's market, which was amazing--beautiful vegetables (sorry DC farmers' markets--your stuff just doesn't look that good). I would have actually gotten some of it, had I thought it would keep. Then, we were off to Fort Warden, where we took in a great view from the tower in the lighthouse and had come to appreciate the apparent complexity of the Fresnel lens, since the waiting room for going up to the tower was showing a very scientific documentary about it. The volunteer guides said that it used to be much more general interest, but now they've replaced it with something you need at PhD to understand. On the way up, one of the guides asked whether Margo and I were sisters, because, she said, we looked so much alike. Margo figured that might have been her polite way of asking whether we were a lesbian couple.

From Port Townsend, we drove down to Gig Harbor, by way of some antique shops in Port Orchard. Margo's really into antiques, me, not so much... and yet, once there, I ended up buying more stuff than she did. I got this fierce pair of practically new, bright red Aldo boots.
I had to do it, in spite of the ladies in the shop, who weren't doing a very good job selling them.

Margo: They fit?? You have to get them.
A.: Where would I wear them?
Shop lady #1: Maybe Halloween?

Then, at the checkout:

A.: They're so soft inside.
Shop lady #2: That's good. Because outside, they're practically plastic.

Boots in hand, we left for Gig Harbor, where we dined on the water at this place recommended to us by some people we talked to at the Port Townsend Farmer's Market. The food was pretty good, but the view was phenomenal.
As in Port Townsend, the yards all over town were beautifully landscaped. Much of the residential areas were on a hill leading away from the water, so you could see the harbor and the mountains in the distance.
There were blackberry shrubs everywhere. I couldn't believe there were so many blackberries that no one was picking (I would pick a bag-full before we left).
We learned on San Juan Island that they were invasive to the area, but I wasn't sure if that was just on the island. In the farm store on the hill, there were chicks for sale, BOGO. The Rhode Island Reds were especially adorable.

On our second day in town, I drove Margo to the wedding she was going to and came back to walk the trails and pick blackberries. Afterward, I sat by the pool and read. Mom called.

Mom: What are you up to?
A.: Not much. Just picked some blackberries--they're all over the place here.
Mom: Ooooh. I wonder why that is.
Dad: Maybe it needs to be cold for blackberries.
A.: You'd really like it here--lots of beautiful forest.

We chatted for a bit.

Mom: Okay, call again soon.
A.: Mom, I'm not going to call you every day.
Mom: Why not?
A.: Because?
Mom: I want to hear about your trip.
A.: You can hear about it when I get back.
Mom: You'll forget the details. You'll have forgotten about the blackberries, and I'm really glad you told us about the blackberries.

And so on.

The next morning, we set out for San Juan Island, not bothering to check the ferry schedule. With timing we couldn't have managed if we'd done more planning, we caught the late 11:55 just in time.
We had lunch at this awesome Mediterranean place, checked in to our B&B on a houseboat, and drove around the island. We chatted with the local camel, fed her airline pretzels from our hands. It tickled.

We walked around Roche Harbor, past cool sculptures and perfectly clear water. We drove on to Lime Kiln State Park, where I saw that I had a message, and checked it before I saw that my phone thought I was in Canada. It was my mom. She was just saying hi, and let me know that I could call back, if I wanted to. I didn't, partly out of principle, partly because I had nothing to say.

We walked down to the water, where people were sitting and looking out at the sea. We walked on toward the light house, where a woman and her daughter were walking.

Woman: They were seen not far from here; they're coming this way.
A.: They...
A.: The whales??
Woman: The whales. They should be here soon.

Inside the information center in the then-closed lighthouse, we saw on a chalkboard when and where the whales were last sighted, and which direction they were going. We waiting around for a bit, but the whales stood us up, so we headed on to a different beach, and then back to Friday Harbor.

The whales stood us up the next day, too, on our kayaking trip, and the next day, on the ferry to Orcas Island. Apparently, they're a common sight in the summer, but by September, it's more 50-50. We didn't see whales, but we did see some neat marine life on the pier--starfish, shrimp, anemones, jellyfish.
We also saw some neat land life: before departing for Orcas Island, we made some stops on San Juan to see the alpacas and the lavender farm.

Orcas was amazing. Had we known, we would have planned for more time there. The views from Mt. Constitution were stunning-- You can actually see Vancouver city from the top--and there are lakes below you can swim in. I actually took a quick dip in the sea off of San Juan Island right after our kayaking trip, but for less than a minute--the water was very cold. I knew it would be--whenever we stopped along the way and grabbed onto bull kelp to keep still, it was so cold I had to keep switching hands.

I would have liked to hike more in Moran State Park, but we were already cutting it close with the ferry and had to head back. We got there just in time, and headed for the mainland, taking in the sea and surrounding mountains before our landscape became highway. After a nice dinner in sunny Seattle--with no idea how un-sunny the mid-Atlantic was at the time--and checked in to our hotel and sorted our stuff into a form that we could carry back home. I was glad I had lots of crosswords, because I'd managed to end up with a not-very-good book for the return trip. I finished "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" within a few days of the trip, and then the New Yorker. I remember thinking I more enjoyed--and learned more about European philosophy from--this short article than from this excuse for a novel, which some people apparently loved. I don't even know if I'll finish it. After all, "Bossypants" beckons.

Saturday morning roundup

Why are we letting the polluters win the rhetorical war on environmental regulation as it effects employment? Meanwhile, here's a cautionary tale about disregarding safeguards.

Also on environmental matters: this argument infuriates me because it's fodder for people who don't want to do anything. Yes, collective action is important, but individual action adds up.

Check out these exceptionally spoiled now-adults.

Beware of manipulated numbers and fallacies.

Sarah Palin has a point (or three).

I'm so glad Gail Collins is back. I knew it was her when I saw the headline.

Being ugly is disadvantageous.

"Authenticity" has lost all meaning.

DC VegFest is in two weeks!