Monday, January 31, 2011

Discuss

Much to think about in this piece on H.G. Adler's writing about the Holocaust, the key issue being the ethics of writing about horrible things. I have a hard time even understanding the contrarian perspective, that you can't write about tragedy. How not, why not?

The day in food

The new dietary guidelines are out, and they're about as revolutionary as these activity guidelines (except the former are no joke). You have to take care to tip-toe around the food industry, especially if you're trying to shed your anti-business reputation. Unfortunately, as usually happens when lobbyists win, the rest of us lose.

By the way, here's what other ingredients you can find in Taco Bell products. What's even more disturbing, though, is that Taco Bell is hardly alone in its embrace of maltodextrin--it's in pretty much everything, including many Whole Foods and Trader Joe's products.

Anyway, you can one-up the new food guidelines: don't just eat your vegetables; wear your vegetables (and your chocolate), like these people.

Monday morning roundup

Anne Applebaum on why Egypt's (pre-uprising) status quo in no way constituted stability.

By way of inflation and labor shortages in China, there's hope for the trade deficit.

Can the District keep the control board away?

John Kelly, Panda Father. On a related note: a CEO discourages rock star culture:
Probably the biggest lesson I learned as we started to grow was — and this is a more sanitized version of the expression we use — “Don’t hire jerks, no matter how talented.” I became very attuned to this early on, when we were still a small start-up, and you’re doing everything you can to maintain a positive framework. So I’m looking for people I like, because I’ve seen how, no matter how talented they are, the negative is always going to pull down any positive. The second- or third- or fourth-best candidate who isn’t a jerk is going to ultimately provide way more value. Because we learned that early on, we’ve always guarded against that sort of rock-star culture.
And on a related note to that, see "The Talent Myth", an oldie-but-goodie from the New Yorker.

Toles draws it like it is.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday evening roundup

Definitely do not try these at home. Wow.

Also: Stephen Colbert on what's in your taco:
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Ice on the Potomac, from the Key Bridge on Friday



Sunday morning roundup

What to do with Belarus and Tunisia. Don't ask about Egypt. In their own words: Baby Doc and Yanukovich. Also: An Arab identity develops around the crises of governance, and Tunisia's excesses remain on display.

Turkey's Kurds campaign for language rights.

Progress against the kamlari system--indentured servitude for girls--in Nepal.

You already knew that our sugar policy is f*ed up.

Is Google losing the war on spam and losing business to content farms?

Pearlstein on Davos, globalization, and inequality. See also what Moises Naim has to say.

Chew very gently whenever you're eating something that may, but shouldn't, contain an olive pit.

Virginia students increasingly find themselves shut out of Virginia's top schools.

DC drivers had a very rough week.

A preschooler is shut out of daycare for a month for having had one accident too many.

Americans are increasingly eschewing singular identity labels.

Thin people make more money.

Yes, more doors, more standing room. F* no to "kid-themed seat covers or wall decorations, absence of mid-aisle poles, etc." You do realize that mid-aisle poles are essential on a crowded train so people have something to hold on to??

Someone at the Post is on crack--"Stomp" was amazing, so much better than what's conveyed in this review.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How Friday turned tragicomic

I took yesterday off. The last two weeks of work--including this weeks trip--were very intense, and I had things to do. Like submit my visa application, to an office in Georgetown (not near any metro, because decades ago, area residents opposed having a metro stop, arguing it would bring in the rif raf). So I went first thing in the morning--walked through the snow, stood in line, dropped off the application... walked to the Kennedy Center because a friend had mentioned that we should go see Alvin Ailey. Got the last two tickets under $99 each, walked back to the metro... discovered my SmartTrip card was shot, would have to get another one--although they let me through to get home.

Not half an hour after getting home, got a call from the visa place, saying they needed another document... that I had with me this morning but they didn't ask for. So I had a quick lunch and schlepped back, by way of King Street, because I needed a new SmartTrip. Finally got there, walked back to Rosslyn--which had some beautiful, clean ice sheets that I snapped with my phone--will post the pictures later. On my way down the Rosslyn escalator, which is formidable, felt a pain in my left knee. Continued to wobble down the escalator, waited 12 minutes for a train during rush hour, got home... just in time to briefly do a few things and scan the Express, before I had to leave for girls' night. Decided I would drive, on account of my leg. Scanning the Express, I saw that Dar Williams would be performing on Sunday, so I called Marisa, noted that if she were game, we could repeat the triple-whammy weekend of two Mays ago, when we saw each other three days in a row. She was game, so I stopped at the box office on the way to dinner, got tickets. (Yes, that does make for Stomp today, Dar tomorrow, and Alvin Ailey on Tuesday). Drove a bit down, found parking just as she called. I said go ahead and find a restaurant, then call me and I'll meet you guys. So I approached the Courthouse metro on foot, only to realize I'd left my phone in the car. Schlepped back, got phone, found out where they were having dinner. And here's the best part: walked around for the better part of the next hour trying to find the place. All because I'd driven--because I didn't want to walk--whereas if I'd metro'd, I'd have just met them at the metro. It was awesome.

Anyway, time to get a head start on my crazy day. Have a great Saturday!

Saturday morning roundup

What will Dr. El Baradei's role be in all this? For some excellent context on the issue, see this report from April's New Yorker.

Boris Nemtsov is out of jail and standing up to repression in Russia.

Stronger regulation is in the best interests of the oil industry as well as the public.

Various crises afflict youth in this country, but teen pregnancy is not one of them. On that note, did the President, in his SOTU, snub the poor?

How long can Glenn Beck keep doing what he's doing?

Americans are weary of globalization, the President, and Congress.

Designers who slammed Michelle O for wearing McQueen are missing the point.

The Arena Stage contemplates the future of theater.

I'm a big believer in the power of meditation, but I think two hours a day is overboard. The Vice Abbott who taught our meditation class in Kyoto said there were diminishing returns after 20-30 minutes.

Those cooking habits are really gross.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday morning roundup

How close was a Middle East peace deal? Can a new deal on the Golan roll back Hezbollah's growing influence? What's going on in the rest of the region? Might public outrage focus on imprisoned dissidents, which are legion, rather than causes celebres?

David Brooks debates the State of the Union with himself.

Petri and Stromberg: "WTF???" Meanwhile, how annoyed do you think Dana Milbank is that he called that moratorium on Palin coverage?

The snowstorm stranded a lot of people.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

The Economist debates natural gas vs. renewables.

Collins on guns.

Rabbis against nazi-related rhetoric.

I will miss The Minimalist, but I'll look forward to Mark Bittman's other columns, especially if he continues to share wisdom like this, which appeared in the above-linked goodbye column:
My growing conviction that the meat-heavy American diet and our increasing dependence on prepared and processed foods is detrimental not only to our personal health but to that of the planet has had an impact on my life and on that of the column... In part, what I see as the continuing attack on good, sound eating and traditional farming in the United States is a political issue.
On that note: support organic farming--contact your elected representatives.

***
I can say with minimal sarcasm that whoever invented noise-canceling headphones should be in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize. On the flight back, they blocked out most of the screaming kids, most of the time. They were not powerful enough, unfortunately, to block out a twenty-minute or so conversation between the guy sitting behind me and another guy who came up to talk to him. In German. It wasn't pretty (but it was loud).

***
I watched "Easy A," and it was actually a lot of fun. It's sort of "Saved" meets "Mean Girls" (and I've heard the second "Mean Girls," which was not written by Tina Fey, is quite bad).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quick light roundup

The Onion on Olberman.

Thanks, Elisabeth, for pointing out this cause to rejoice. Hope it's not disappointing!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Political repression in Russia has not begat security. While we're here, let's take a historical perspective at Eastern European horror stories.

Will the Al Jezeera leaks shock the system into progress or regress?

The transformation of USAID.

Bush administration Hatch Act violations.

The Ryan Roadmap falls short of addressing our massive naitonal debt. Also: Eugene Robinson on the tradeoffs. And how health care reform is already starting to pay for itself.

State of the Union mentions: where are they now?

Sleeping next to your pets can be harmful.

USA Today covers some 2011 marketing trends. Comments later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Knowledge is power

I love California's nutrition information law.

I don't, as a rule, count calories, and I didn't go into Baja Fresh expecting to, but it was really good to have that information. It was perfect for my purposes: getting just enough food to tide me over for dinner, and not so much that I wouldn't need to eat until the middle of the night. Without that information, I wouldn't have been able to tell a 300-calorie grilled mahi taco from an 800-calorie bean burrito, in terms of what I needed. Also, what I do count these days is sodium, because so many macrobiotic staples are quite high in it (miso, ume vinegar/ume plums, sea vegetables, etc.). So it was great to know how much sodium I was (and was not) ordering.

So good for California (or is it just the Bay Area) for requiring the information and for Baja Fresh for having a healthy taco option.

Quick hello and rant

I love hotels with business centers, particularly when I have time to use them, and something to kvetch about.

F*ing Dulles.

In all fairness, I'm really spoiled, living so close to National, and National's being a pretty small airport. I'd anticipated that driving out to Dulles would take time, and I actually allowed more time than I'd needed, which was a good thing, because it took me as long once I got there to actually get to the gate. Never mind that United's check-in counter was the farthest from the garage, and you couldn't just go up to any kiosk, etc. Then you have to navigate the security clusterf*, then take a train that goes all the way around the f*ing airport, and then walk a mile or two to the gate. I got there just in time for boarding, and to sit on the tarmac for an hour while the flight crew realized that the wings hadn't been de-iced, then waiting for a de-icing truck (apparently, they'd been put away for the morning), and then waited for another one because the first one broke. I know--not a huge hassle in the scheme of things, but given how nice it would have been to sleep in for that hour, it was somewhat annoying.

Thanks for listening.

Quick Monday morning roundup

Hey guys! I'm scrambling to get to the airport (business trip) so I'll be away for most of the week. In the meantime, a few links:

Selective historical revisionism through art in Zimbabwe.

Do girls need a princess phase?

American food in India.

That's it. Have a great week!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday evening roundup

Jill Lepore on the Constitution, the intentions of its authors, and the debates among everybody else ever since.

In light of the skills American students increasingly lack, tiger parenting is not what we need more of.

Adam Gopnik on dessert.

Some of these "Dear Blank: Please blank" Style Invitational entries are quite good.

Sunday morning roundup

India's Freedom of Information law only goes so far before activists get killed. The law itself, however, squares pretty well with William J. Dobson's Dictatorship for Dummies advice.

It is horrifying and hard to believe that a rider was attacked at L'Enfant on a Sunday evening. He's right: why didn't anyone do anything?

Also, here's a discussion about yielding seats to those who need them. There was another letter in the print edition--a man who was on crutches wrote that women unfailingly yielded their seats, but men never did.

I'm going to take this opportunity to again complain about metro etiquette. You know that I hate missing my train, especially when there's a long wait for another one, but there are some situations where missing the train is worth it. One of those situations: when the alternative is knocking down a blind or mobility-impaired passenger. Yes, I know it's the same wait, but there is a difference between missing a train because some idiot is standing to the left on an escalator, or stops once he or she gets to the bottom, without getting out of the way, and missing a train because a fellow passenger is inherently slow-moving and needs space to get around. So please, fellow passengers, stop tripping those people.

The Post's departing ombudsman--agreeing that the paper's journalistic quality has gone down hill--writes that it may yet restore its tradition of excellence.

Job interviewees want to be noticed, but not for this kind of thing.

Be wary of farmwashing and humanewashing. On that note, most Americans also fall prey to wholegrainwashing.

What's so modern about Modern Family?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nodding

I called my parents this morning to wish dad a happy birthday. He and I chatted for a while; at one point (or several), he called out to mom and suggested that she pick up the phone, but, from what I gather, the response was something like, "huh? whatever, yeah."

Dad: What are you up to today?
A.: I'm going to see "Cymbeline" in the afternoon...
Dad: What's that?
A.: Shakespeare...
Dad: What is it in Russian?
A.: It's not. It's a name.
Dad: Any other plans?
A.: Well, Mirella invited me to go see a Peruvian dance concert, but I don't think I'll be up for it.
Dad: That actually sounds really good. It's at the same time as the play?
A.: No, but there's only so much artistic stimulus I can take in in a day. That and it's a trek out to George Mason.
Dad: That's too bad--it sound interesting.
A.: I'm sure it is. I'll try to catch them another time.

A bit later--just as I was getting out of the shower--mom called me.

Mom: I guess you were on the phone earlier? Dad said he told me, but I didn't hear him. He said [ya tye' kivnul]--you know that joke?
A.: Uh-huh.
Mom: Anyway, he said you were going to see a Shakespearean play instead of a Peruvian dance concert? I think you should go to the concert instead.
A.: It's not an either-or thing; I've had the Cymbeline ticket for weeks, and Mirella just called about Peru Negro yesterday. I could go to both but I'm just not up for it.
Mom: Huh? What's the name of the play in Russian?
A.: There isn't one--it's a name. Of a king.
Mom: Oh. Anyway, I'd better get going on dinner.

***
I know that joke--the "ya tye' kivnul'", i.e., "I nodded" joke--because it comes up all the time in my family. You'll likely be underwhelmed, but it's very Russian. It goes something like: a woman opens her front door one morning to find her husband asleep on the other side.

Woman: Kolya! What are you doing there?
Husband: Well, you could have let me in last night when I banged on the door!
Woman: You didn't answer when I asked, "Kolya? Is that you?"
Husband: I did answer--I nodded!

My dad invokes that punchline--"I nodded"--often, because mom often makes similar statements. Sometimes it's directly analogous--she'll say something when we're out of the room or otherwise out of earshot, and then express amazement if we didn't hear her (sometimes, there's also amazement that we haven't fetched whatever "that thing" she asked us to fetch, while we were out of earshot). Sometimes it's less direct--like this morning, for example, when mom didn't listen when dad told her that I was on the phone, and later asked why he hadn't told her that I was on the phone--but they're in that genre. Remember, also, when I was up there for Labor Day weekend, and I was slicing some vegetable or another? I asked mom how thickly to slice, she said, "whatever," and later said, "those should be sliced much more finely!" It's all a variation of nodding when you're not visible to the person you're talking to (or when you leave the room, leaving them nodding at you).

Year Eleven?

I intended to stop hosting anti-Valentine's Day parties many years ago, but I succumbed to friends' encouragement, one year at a time, to keep going. I'll spare regular readers (both of you?) by not rehashing the history, but you can read my past musings here, here, and here, and MP Dunleavey's take here. I always ended up having the party--even last year, when I'd returned from Hawaii the day before, and it was the last thing I felt like doing--and it was always worth it afterward. But I started to resent being expected to have it, especially since some people can't even be bothered to RSVP, because it's not like that makes a difference in one's planning. People started to offer to help--the party meant that much to them--but then always backed out at the last minute, so it always came down to just me and a gazillion appetizers to make. But I digress.

So I said I'd go to ten, and then stop, and this year would be eleven. In past years, I'd start thinking about the party in December, start sending save-the-dates about now, which means I guess I'd better make a decision. As usual, I've been leaning toward not hosting, but then I was drawing up an invite list, and it occurred to me that I would never see some people, including close friends (or maybe not see them for another six months), if I didn't have this party.

Then again, there's a lot of good stuff going on on the 12th, which is when it would be. Do I want to commit myself out of an Alexandria Symphony Orchestra concert and/or a Howard Fishman CD release party to put together a party when all the guests might not only prefer to go to one of those two events, or similar--which is fine--but not even bother to tell me? The only reason I'm even considering it is that Alvin Ailey is the week before. Which reminds me, I'd better get tickets next week.

It--if it happens--is going to be a very different party, food-wise. Say what you will about dairy in terms of cruelty and health, but it does wonders for appetizers. So no rocquefort grapes this year, or hazelnut/blue-cheese endives. Or tiramisu, or fondue. I figure I can make the ever-popular pea dumplings with silken tofu and nutritional yeast, and no one will know the difference (or see if I have frozen marscapone left, which I may as well use if it's there). I guess maybe I can take a crack at vegan tiramisu, but I probably won't. Maybe I'll do black bean brownies with green tea pudding (or ice cream, if I get an ice cream maker by then) for dessert. But if I make black bean brownies, would that be too much black bean, considering I'd also make sliders? No one has to know what's in the brownies. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking for the menu:

Ready-made appetizers: olives, grape leaves, edemame, mini heirloom tomatoes, other raw veg

Other appetizers: black bean sliders (with mango salsa?), falafel with tahini sauce, marinated tofu/vegetable skewers, spring rolls with hoisin sauce, eggplant rolls (stuffed with roasted pecans and sun-dried tomatoes), azuki-kabocha dumplings, pea dumplings, and maybe nori rolls. I'd make mochi in nori, because it's amazing, but it has to be consumed almost immediately, which doesn't make it a great party food.

Desserts: green tea ice cream (or pudding), black bean brownies.

Thoughts? Ideas?

A very good Saturday morning roundup if I do say so myself

Poverty and inflation in India have come to this: onions are now increasingly out of reach for the poor.

Poland sees reflections of its own history and steps up as best it can. Interesting claim, that even a sham election is good for something:
Despite the crackdown that followed, Polish officials don't think that was a naive or wasted exercise on their part. It gave politicians outside the regime a chance to make their cases to the public. It gave Belarusans a taste of what a democracy could be like.

It's not easy being the relative of a mass murderer.

The Root takes on the tiger mom.

Hertzberg's contribution to the debate on political rhetoric is well worth a read. Kathleen Parker's is as well, if only for the second half. Dana Milbank calls for a moratorium on Palin coverage so that we may, among other things, free up rhetorical space to debate actual issues on their actual merits. Charles Lane suggests that David Remnick rein in Sy Hersch. Meanwhile, Allison Silverman parses past speeches for rhetorical statements you didn't know were actually about The Jews.

Let's try the Colbert video again:
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday morning roundup and response to comment

A generalized assault on human dignity continues to literally inflame the Middle East.

Shockingly, Hu's remarks will be censored in China.

A political murder in Russia may actually be investigated.

How many shoot-outs is it going to take to stand up to the gun lobby and its captives?

Don't fret about the future of health care reform.

DC drivers are fed up over the time they waste in traffic.

***
Ernessa, thank you for seeing the same infuriating hypocrisy in that column. I wanted to comment on the page, but the article wasn't taking comments, and I can't be bothered to write an actual letter. It really does make my blood boil (and make me wish I could afford household help).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Excuse me Mr. Schumacher-Matos? Why do women owe their success to the maid/nanny but not men? Is child-care and housekeeping their responsibility and not yours? Has it occurred to you that some women owe their success to men who actually take part in child-rearing and housekeeping? And that you also benefit from the maid/nanny?

Yes, this angle on increased pedestrian fatalities really is pathetic in numerous ways, and I'm not sure whether Blame-Michelle-Obama or Loosely Define "Activity" is worse.

As you know, beware of health claims on food labels. No, I don't expect you to read that whole thing, but there's a reason I didn't just link to the summary: some of the tables and specifics are really interesting and revealing.

Here's a superbowl ad you won't be seeing.

Here's another shot at the videos--looks line one will work:
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Thursday morning roundup

The clear take-away here is that women would do best to avoid Catholic hospitals.

A whistleblower prevails.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Well said

Stewart and Colbert. I'll embed the videos when they fix the codes.

Wednesday evening roundup

WTF, Piers Morgan? Are you hitting on Sec. Rice or trying to embarrass her, or both?

The Wall Street Journal reminds us to get our B12.

This is so obvious and intuitive, and yet so troublesome. I was just quoting the related Sleepless-in-Seattle line to Jay over the weekend: "Verbal ability is a highly overrated thing in a guy and our pathetic need for it is what gets us into so much trouble." But it's true: language style matters.

Wednesday morning roundup

U.S.-China relations: change or continuity?

Meet DC's homicide blogger.

On a lighter local note, have you been following Express' metro blog?

The most common myths about health care reform.

Speaking of death panels, SP has forfeited her lay-off-the-criticism grace period.

Ruth Marcus strives for a tiger mom vs. slacker mom middle ground.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

Stephen M. Walt on political rhetoric in context.

This is so why I don't call myself a vegan (well, that and I wear animal products). I realize it's tongue-in-cheek, but I'm just not into making a hipster identity--or any identity--out of the way I eat.

Speaking of the way I eat, just say no to the recovery industry and eat. real. food.

Tuesday morning roundup

North Africa is on fire. Meanwhile, Ggabo is staying put through continued access to the banks.

The core of Chris Rock's joke is all too true.

I really like David Brooks' critique of 'Tiger Mother.' Redeems his pretty annoying 'Social Animal' piece in the New Yorker. Back to the Tiger Mom issue, though--Petula Dvorak's take away is, it's quite helpful in moderation. By the way and for what it's worth, Jay and I were horrified by an (Asian) child at the Sackler yesterday--he was completely out of control and his parents were completely ignoring him. The security guard actually asked them to leave (so he went on to wreak havoc in the gift shop, from which we could still hear him). Jay and I couldn't believe that the parents thought that the kid's behavior was in any way appropriate. Later on, another group of hyperactive kids came in, but the father was doing everything in his power to keep down the noise level and running through the galleries.

In celebration of kooky algorithms.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday morning roundup

Melting glaciers have devastating consequences for Peru.

All Haiti needs is a visit from Baby Doc, unless he's going to pay back what he once pilfered. While we're on the topic of nasty dictators and tragic clusterf*s, consider why contributing to Patrice Lumumba's assassination was a really bad idea. In light of those two cases, please read what Anne Applebaum has to say about Tunisia.

Who, exactly, has been pointing fingers? Apparently not the 'mainstream' media. Meanwhile, Sally Quinn is very unimpressed with Sarah Palin's statement, and Ross Douthat plays self-proclaimed marriage counselor between the two (i.e., SP and the media).

Laughing with the Supreme Court.

This is where Jay was for the better part of the weekend.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The era of civility

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Sit down before you read what I am about to write. Are you sitting down? Charles Krauthammer is brilliantly spot-on.

Sunday morning roundup

That is a beautiful photo and I know I will one day visit La Paz, but based on the content of the article, I'll stay close to 'city' level.

Frank Rich warns us not to let rhetoric off the hook. Karen Hughes sort of seconds that. See what the On Leadership panel has to say on the matter.

Daniel Byman on what is and isn't terrorism.

Matt Bai on transformational moments in history and whether they might be behind us.

Here's a no-brainer for making a dent in the budget deficit.

Is DC losing its Southern side?

Some great advice for appreciating sometimes difficult mothers.

For a healthy tan, eat your fruits and vegetables!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday evening ramble (with response to comment)

I was so upset about the fence quote that I needed to do something therapeutic, like go shopping. What? I didn't have time for a bike ride and I needed to get food anyway, so why not get some clothes on the way?

It was a beautiful day, and for the first weekend day in ages I was neither exhausted, sick, or both. It was a lovely day for a walk. I walked and fumed.

I should clarify--I've fixed it in the original post--it's actually thirty, not twenty, feet of fencing. It's also more expensive because it's metal picket (aluminum), and that quote includes labor. Still, it's a lot. So I got myself a dress at Ann Taylor. And then a shirt at Banana (almost got a dress, too--one that I would actually wear to work--but it didn't fit perfectly). What I really needed was a suit or two, but I didn't find one I liked. Anyway, then I went to the thrift store and went to town (two sweaters, one (new) pair of pants, and one fierce (in Jay's words, when I walked into the bar in it) cherry-red coat).

By the way, I love gay bars--why do they not have show tunes and Wonder Woman clips in straight bars? I'd come straight from Magic, which was good--I'd passed, on the way, a building with flowers and pictures arranged outside the grounds, with a few people gathered, and saw that it was the Embassy of Tunisia. It was still a nice night, but there weren't a lot of people around, especially for Dupont on a Saturday. The bar wasn't crowded, at least not yet, and I was ever so grateful for DC's smoking ban. I could have stayed a few more hours, except there was the matter of the hungry cat waiting for me, and I was, by then, exhausted, and also buzzed from two sips of Jay's drink. I'd joke about being 33 going on 70, but I've always been this way--early to bed, early to rise--but also wife, not hag: it was time to leave the gay bar to the gays.

Chocolate protein shake

On a lighter note, I wanted to tell you about the amazing, impromptu anti-oxidant/protein shake I made this morning.

I worked out and had some millet, but needed a little more to get me through to lunch. The pomegranate that I'd bought and prepared (i.e. removed the fruit from the peel and pulp) a couple of weeks ago had kept well--I'd put a couple of tablespoons in my salad every day--but it was time to use it up. I put it in the blender with some water, cacao powder, and hemp powder. The resulting shake was AMAZING. You could really taste the chocolate, and it was the perfect amount (maybe a tablespoon or two). It was the dark chocolate fix I hadn't realized I was craving. Equally important: you could also not-taste the hemp (four tablespoons or so)--I'd bought it to try and found it unpalatable, but it works well in shakes, where other ingredients cover up the flavor (it does *not* work in oatmeal). The pomegranate added just the right amount of sweetness and fruit-flavor--you could sub in frozen raspberries. It was like eating a chocolate-raspberry parfait, except healthier.

By the way, Brendan Brazier is really into hemp protein. I learned that after I'd had my less positive experiences with it, but I'm more willing now to make use of it (as long as I can hide the flavor).

How much is my sanity worth?

Let's talk about gates and fences.

Perhaps you remember the saga of the fence in my backyard: the house did not come with one, so you could basically see into my house from the road. The first thing I did (well, Allen did) was install a pre-fab fence, which worked as a stop-gap solution, but quickly warped, and then fell apart, prompting a warning from the City. When my parents visited, my dad basically spent an entire weekend fixing that fence, which also worked in a stop-gap way, but it wasn't long before it fell apart again. Toward the end of RM's stay, I had enough rental income to get a professionally installed fence (three months of roommate income, before taxes, to be exact, but much less than Home Depot would have charged). Except the gate kept sinking, and the dude who installed it fixed it a few times for free. Then it blew off in a windstorm, and dude who installed it went AWOL. My dad, again, spent the entire weekend dealing with it. Then, the handyman who installed my shed also fixed the gate. It's been behaving well ever since.

After that saga was resolved, I turned my attention to the front yard. You've heard me complain about the trash, and sometimes about the people, who feel free to come into the yard, because there is no barrier. I bought some pre-fab posts and panels for about $200, but they didn't work with my asymmetrical yard (the house is semi-detached), so I returned them and planted rose glow barberry shrubs instead. Which I love, and while they offer some sort of barrier in the summer, they're bare in the winter, and I just really need a fence.

Someone came by with an estimate this morning, for $1,600. Which is apparently *on sale,* because it's winter. You understand that I have all of *thirty feet* of yard perimeter? And that estimate is for aluminum, which is a third less than iron (and also doesn't rust). Does that strike anyone else as an insane amount of money for thirty feet of fence (and labor)?

So there's that: that is an insane amount of money. But here's the other thing, I've not only had it, but I've learned well the lessons of dragging something--especially a fence--out in avoidance of the pain of just paying for it.

I've submitted an inquiry to Lowe's as well, if only to convince myself that this company's estimate is not outlandish. If Lowe's' estimate comes in for less, all the better, but one way or another, I'll know.

What do you think?

Saturday morning roundup

Muhammad Yunus on what went wrong with microcredit and why it doesn't have to be that way. This is not a good week for him.

Triage and quick thinking at the trauma center last week.

Congress in your Corner endures.

I told Jay that from now on I'd like him to refer to me as his “red-hot smokin’ wife” or something similar. I may meet his boyfriend's wife this afternoon.

Have you met Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday evening roundup and ramble

The Economist compiles a very creative map of global economies by comparison to U.S. states.

I'm not sure how to process some of this very gracious op-ed from Senator McCain. I'm not going to feel bad for Sarah Palin (although I agree it's time to give her a break). What's effective in his op-ed is exactly what was absent from her video: humility and outreach. The idea that "we all can do better, including me" (as opposed to, 'if you disagree with me or blame me, you're the one at fault'). Besides, it's kind of hard to feel bad for someone who so thoughtlessly helped deprive Medicare clients of coverage for end-of-life counseling. But I digress. This isn't about health care reform or any other policy issues where her contribution has been or has the potential to be disastrous; this is about holding her responsible only for those issues where her contribution has been or might be a disaster, rather than missing no opportunity to slam her for everything. It's not fair, it's counterproductive, and honestly, it's getting old.

Friday morning roundup and ramble

Are things about to change in Tunisia? Elsewhere--not too far--Secretary Clinton doesn't mince words.

The French-German marriage of convenience, or, more accurately, necessity.

It remains a very difficult employment situation out there. This being a separate issue within the article--and I recall getting lots of comments when I last made a point about this, but I can't help it--I do not understand these high four-figure utility bills.

Two takes on business and health care reform: Pearlstein and Wessel.

Let's do without energy subsidies.

Sounding off on extreme parenting.

Don't buy into the anti-soy misinformation campaign. Soy is pretty good for you.

I love hazelnuts.

***
On the topic of spending habits: my dad and I talked about this over the holidays--he was unemployed for a couple of years, and at one point, both my parents were unemployed at the same time. It was not an easy time, but they had savings to fall back on, largely because--and I am not judging or criticizing--they never engaged in some of the "before" habits described in the article above. Nobody in my family would ever 'think nothing of spending $250 on a pair of shoes,' etc. What dad brought up specifically was that he couldn't believe how regularly his coworkers bought prepared food or went out to eat--in my family, restaurants were a rare treat. I look around at my coworkers now and think about the same thing: how do you do it? [Note: I am not saying that all that unemployed or low income people need to do is eat in more often--the tie-in is only to the pre-unemployment spending habits. I fully acknowledge that their situation is difficult even with careful budgeting]. I'm speaking now to people who are not really hurting, for lack of a better term. I guess I'm speaking to the people who say, "travel is expensive!" Really? Because my two-week trip to Japan probably cost less than many people spend on coffee and lunch in the course of a year.

Jay is here, and we debated going out for sushi last night but opted to stay in--the cold, rather than any expenses, being the dominant variable in our decision. I made tacos, and they came out really well--Jay was impressed with how good they were, and with how quick and easy they were to make, and said he was now inspired to try it at home. All I did was thaw some pinto beans--of which I'd soaked and cooked a pound ($1) and frozen half not long ago--sauteed them in some rice bran oil, cumin, powdered chipotle, and paprika, added a can of (organic) tomatoes ($1.50), added a couple of drops of Braggs, and heated up some corn tortillas ($2.50 for 80) which we then shaped around the filling. Jay even grated some vegan (rice-based) cheeze ($2.50 on sale). Probably won't buy it again but I thought it'd be worth a try, and it did go well with the tacos. We also stuck in a couple of leaves of red-leaf lettuce. Oh, and we made miso soup to go with our tacos; I pulled out the seaweed.

Jay: Got seaweed?? (or something like that)
A.: You have no idea. I have so much seaweed--various kinds, too.

Anyway, the point-I-won't-stop-making is, I don't want to hear about how healthy food requires work and a lot of money. I'm not against going out to eat--we'll be going out for lunch today, since we'll be in town museum-hopping and meeting my former assistant director, who has heard a lot about the man he calls my 'GH' and is quite taken with the concept, but I've always seen restaurants as a special occasion thing, not a default. We'll also go to lunch on Monday--who can resist restaurant week lunch?? (Dinner, not as good a deal). The rest of the weekend, Jay will be with his paramour (tho I'll meet them and friends for drinks tomorrow, after my play).

I won't have dessert on Monday, even though it'll come with the meal. I may order it and have it wrapped up to give to Jason, but it doesn't tempt me. Last night I gave Jay the green tea KitKat that my former Director brought back from Japan--she went on business, so I loaned her my Tokyo guidebook and told her, when she asked what she had to try, that green tea KitKats were awesome. When she brought some back for people, I didn't want to not take one, but I didn't want to have it--not because I thought one small KitKat would be the end of me, but I just didn't want it--I was so happy with how I was (am) eating. When Jay took his first bite, I registered the sensation of joy and nostalgia--I know how much those things taste like Japan (when I've made green tea pudding, it's tasted like Japan--it really brings you back). He said I should just have a bite, but I really just didn't want any. I can't explain it, but it just felt better not to.

Jay had commented earlier that he didn't understand what my mother was seeing--where was all the fat? And as I was leaving work, earlier in the evening, a friend/colleague said I was looking amazingly slim. Which is very nice, and I love hearing it. I'm telling you about it to put mom's comments in context, not to gloat about being 'thin.' I mean, I'm far from swimsuit condition, and I don't weigh myself or do anything, other than generally take care of my body anyway, to bring about any weight loss. But since you may have wondered, based on the holiday blogging, whether I managed to make it into my house without having the door removed, I wanted to share some objective opinions on the matter.

Oh, and here's us with the KitKat. After many tries, we still couldn't get all of Jay's head in :).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday evening roundup and ramble

Don't get fear-mongered into worrying China's stealth jet.

I'm relieved that the image the Times chose for this post on the perils of sitting makes Gracie looks svelte.

***
This is a ramble about why I agree with Al Sharpton and the other public figures who are urging us to quit trying to get the last word. It is *not* because I equate the rhetoric of Arianna Huffington with that of Glenn Beck; it's because the difference isn't important.

I've had the occasion to study, in varying levels of detail (and enthusiasm), almost every major region in the world. I never particularly wanted to learn about the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it's so central to so many things that you have to. Very few people want to learn about it, because it's intractable, not to mention insanely complex and very depressing. I'm by no means an expert, but I've heard a lot about it from some of the foremost experts in the world and the people on both sides who come to heckle them. And the latter people bicker at each other like rabid squirrels. Actually, they make rabid squirrels look like elder statesmen.

The issue is not that they disagree; it's that when the adults offer something like,

-"I don't care who started it; let's figure out what we can do to end it so you can both have better lives."

-"We all have a lot to answer for. We can all do better."

-"Yes, your grievance is legitimate; yes, your situation sucks. Yes, you have a right to water, you have a right to security, and it's your holy city too. Let's look past that..."

--these concepts that have served well (or at least served) in the Balkans, in South Africa, etc.--the hecklers will have none of it. They say,

"But they started it! It does matter who started it!"

"You can't compare the two situations! They have more to answer for! We're not equally to blame."

"You can't say we both have grievances! Our grievances our worse!"

Rinse. Repeat. For decades.

Not that it matters for the point I'm making here--but I understand it's easier for someone without a direct stake in the outcome to tell people to get over it, but (1) many people who do have a direct stake are the most vocal about their respective fringes getting over it; and (2) those without a stake--the diaspora, for example, that have a symbolic attachment but rarely have to live with the consequences--are often the guiltiest in terms of fanning the flames of a conflict. But I digress.

The point is, I don't want to see the same pattern here. It's disheartening to see pundits on either side continue to insist, upon being asked to tone it down, that their argument is exceptional and different. If it's sensationalist, bitter, and divisive, drop it. Go ahead: report on the facts. Report on your editorial angle. Just lose the acrimony, because, like lots of people have been saying, "we're better than this."

Thursday evening roundup

Edwidge Danticat's hopeful words for Haiti.

Do read this excellent reporting on the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue, how the media handled it, and how that influenced the war.

Poignant eye-opening details. (No, I'm not missing a comma; yes it is a bad pun--you try writing these things).

Does anyone else find Jennifer Rubin, the Post's newest token conservative, amateurish, snide, and appalling? But pundits will be pundits. You know when Marc Thiessen is gracious, it might be time to be less critical. Gail Collins steps up, as always, and at least our elected officials get it.

Energy efficiency equals security.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

I so wanted to turn the other cheek,especially after the President's speech, but that's not to say I can't direct you to all the blood libel stuff. There's no shortage of commentary and analysis and some cheap shots and some good points. Alexandra Petri's all over the place but has a point or two. And then there's this, which is not, thankfully, a blame game thing, but it just goes to show how short-sighted some people are. What? Energy independence? A defense issue? Who'd have ever thought.

While we're on defense issues: every time a stupid law is repealed, birds fall out of the sky. Apparently.

Big Ag appropriates our natural resources as its toxic dumps, but you knew that.

Shopping sustainably doesn't mean buying "green versions of bad ideas."

Who's buying luxury goods?

Who's thinking up clever acronyms for the nation's potential laws?

Wednesday morning roundup

I have to wonder, with all this talk of crazy people who kill, why Laurent Ggabo and, maybe to a lesser extent, Mexico's drug warriors, don't get lumped in the same category.

Sudanese refugees vote in Alexandria.

And here's a recipe for quinoa pilaf.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup and response to comments

All fair and interesting reflections on the Arizona shootings from Richard Cohen, Dana Milbank, and a bunch of editorial cartoonists, but I'd say the most meaningful is Al Sharpton's. Here's one that's not helpful.

On a lighter note, who thought a Kardashian Card was a good idea? And particularly given the contents of that article, why do they or anyone else think they have anything to teach anyone?

***
I'm thinking of getting a Topsy Turvy or two or five to hang off the shed. The shed will withstand that, right?

Tuesday morning roundup

The kids are not all right, but they will be.

Archeologists found a 6,000-year old wine-making operation in Armenia.

Here's a visual aid to demonstrate that healthy food is not more expensive than fast food.

This so perfectly captures my recent shopping spree:
Every year brings the same hopes and the same mistakes. Seeds seem so inexpensive — only $3.95 a packet — and soon your subtotal is as much as a round trip to Reykjavik. Somehow you forget how much arable land you have and the length of your growing season and — most critical of all — the labor you will actually expend in the garden.


I saw "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet" on Friday and really enjoyed it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday evening roundup and heartfelt ramble

I'll admit right now that I'm not above wishing at least negligible bodily harm against some people.

Oh, Scottish politicians: making light of the Balkan wars is in really poor taste.

DC is the most literate city in the country, but the country as a whole is less literate than we were in past years.

Karen Armstrong's new book is about leading a compassionate life. Which brings me to my ramble.

Monday morning roundup

Belarus goes the extra Stalinist mile.

Southern Sudan's referendum is a huge deal.

Facebook is slow to gain traction in Japan.

Ross Douthat lets the far right off the hook for Saturday's tragedy, with a fairly compelling argument, actually. See Courtland Milloy for the opposite view, and E.J. Dionne for a compromise position. On another angle, Gail Collins asks whether we've a right to bear glocks. Chris Cillizza doubts anything will come of that question.

So, what is it about Arizona??

Someone at the Post came to work drunk this morning. In case they fix it by the time you follow the link, the headline (and link) says, "gasgdasdgasdgsg adgsag asgsa gasdg sa gdg." The Post also decided to print some dairy industry propaganda.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Response to comment/Sunday evening ramble

I love quinoa, have a few great recipes for it. I think it goes really well with stir-fries, generally. I actually made some this weekend to go with a curry, and it absorbs the sauce really well. NYT's Well blog had a handful of recipes a while back, and also see this quinoa with Thai flavors, which doesn't even have peanuts!

Since it cooks so quickly, don't bother with a rice cooker. Just combine 1 part quinoa to two parts water, with whatever seasonings, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer 15 minutes. I'm not an expert on rice cookers but I've never really gotten the point--rice doesn't require that much attention--you just set it and leave it for the right amount of time.

I don't have any quinoa pictures, but check out the salad and also the wild rice with kinpira and baby bok choy. I love, love, love wild rice. It's not an ideal vehicle for foods with sauces (like curries and stir fries), but it works beautifully with more distinct ingredients.




***
This Is-It-Real-Food flowchart is awesome-in-theory, but it's not right (in various senses of the word) that dairy gets an automatic 'okay' whereas grains, nuts, and legumes are left off (i.e., they require special scrutiny). Dairy products are more likely to have additives (you'd be amazed), although watch out--I've seen roasted peanuts with added maltodextrin.

***
Not that you care--but you may, if you're in the market for a steam mop--I ended up going with the Bissell Steam Mop Deluxe. I was originally thinking of the vacuum/mop combination, but the number-one complaint for that one--that the vacuum keeps the mop from reaching the wall by a few inches--was a deal-breaker. Euro-Pro was more expensive, with more complaints. I just steam-mopped, and none of the big complaints materialized--my floors were not soaking wet, not did they take ages to dry. And holding down the trigger for steam was not an issue. There is some streaking on the hardwood downstairs, but that's happened every time I've mopped, and it's actually less noticeable this time around. Anyway, I'm just saying, it's worked well so far.

National tragedy

Christina-Taylor Green and John M. Roll.

Sunday morning roundup

Shehrbano Taseer writes that we haven't seen the last of his father's legacy.

Djenné residents, who haven't shared in the benefits of their town's World Heritage Site designation but find their living conditions mired in the 16th century because of it, are fed up. Meanwhile, Nepal rolls out the welcome mat for high-spending gay tourists. And in Dallas, strip clubs are a thriving industry.

Don't you love people who are anti-government, yet pro-farm subsidy?

Why the South tried to secede.

David Cole takes a crack at a Constitution for our time.

What stood out for me in the rauncy video controversy, especially throughout the discussions of morale, was the "f* you if you're offended by this." How is that good for morale, cohesion, etc.?

I'm so happy to post this interview about the China study. Of course, I'm especially partial to this part:
I was raised on a dairy farm. I milked cows. I went away to graduate school at Cornell University, and I thought the good old American diet is the best there is. The more dairy, meat and eggs we consumed, the better. The early part of my career was focused on protein, protein, protein. It was supposed to solve the world’s ills. But when we started doing our research, we found that when we start consuming protein in excess of the amount we need, it elevates blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis and creates other problems.
But equally important is the emphasis on whole foods:
The problem is that we study one nutrient out of context. That’s the way we did research — one vitamin at a time, one mineral, one fat. It was always in a reductionist, narrowly focused way... We should not be relying on the idea that nutrient supplementation is the way to get nutrition, because it’s not. I’m talking about whole, plant-based foods. The effect it produces is broad for treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

There may be a Part II roundup--haven't read the Travel or Arts sections yet, and this roundup is already late. I got distracted by researching steam mops, and I'm still kind of confused. So let me know if you have any personal steam mop experiences to share.

***
Update--I've almost never found anything worthwhile in the Post's mysteriously award winning Travel section (or am I mixing the award-winning part up with its equally useless Food section?), but I was hopeful this morning when I saw a series of articles about traveling alone. The one about street harassment is quite good, but the others are blah.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Read more about the amazing Dr. Abdi. Good for Glamour for designating her a Woman of the Year (but I have yet to understand why anybody should care about the Kardashians).

Egyptian political humor, anyone?

New Mexico's experiment in idiocracy.

How bad eggs might end up in your fast-food breakfast.

Charles Blow on "faith": unresolved and religious non-affiliation.

I get that financial literacy is essential and too rarely taught, but, hold up: there is something very wrong with writing, "Then again, students spend their lives in Spanish and United States history classes. Practical skills are rarely part of anyone’s core curriculum." Let's leave aside U.S. history, even though one might argue that in this day and age of insisting on fealty to the Constitution, understanding U.S. history might be practical. But Spanish? Another non-practical skill? Really?

On that note, Gail Collins amuses as always.

Very insightful post from Alexandra Petri on women in politics. Though I disagree with her assessment of the SNL sketch--maybe that assessment in and of itself says something about the issue.

A particularly poignant Modern Love column.

One thing I will say about my mother and her obsession with my weight is, at least she's not passive-aggressive. That's quite a note.

Some of these Style Invitational prophetic headlines are quite worthwhile.

Oh, speaking of the Kardashians, here's their video holiday greeting, in case you missed it:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday morning roiundup

Egypt at a crossroads.

Why let data get in the way of ideology or rhetoric?

Northern Virginia, home to some of the most affluent counties in the nation, is nonetheless hurting for social services.

Reading the Constitution means reading the whole Constitution, warts and all.

Sigh; it's not about 'sacred rituals.' But I've said enough on these pages about gifts.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am a wonk, not a geek

(1) My mother, much unlike her daughter, actually doesn't dislike talking to people on the phone. By people, I mean customer service people (provided they are actually competent).

(2) My mother must be aware that I am not a computer or software professional. Although her not understanding that would explain her insistence that I apply for a job at Google.

So why did mom just call me and tell me that she got a certain error message from her virus protection? Mind you, I installed it, but this entailed inserting the CD and following the instructions. That doesn't mean I know what to do when an error message comes up. That's when you call. tech. support.

Thursday evening roundup

Zakaria remembers Huntington.

This is a silly article about federal salaries, as discussed in many of the very good comments, which follow many absurd ones. Robert Gibbs' position and salary shouldn't be compared to those of an 'average PR executive' (nor to those of the average career federal employee, for that matter).

If you buy only one product organic, make it strawberries.

Consumer Reports finds that people think they eat more healthily than they actually do. I did a quick count and figured that I eat about 14 different vegetables and fruits a day, mostly in less than a serving each, so it probably comes down to 6-7.

Oh, Post: could you possibly more miss the point than by citing the modest increase in Boca burger sales as an indicator of slow growing veganism? Check your own paper: How many of these resolutions entail something vegetarian or vegan?

Thursday morning roundup

In Russia, a handful of people still bother to protest

Alan Riding's new book on occupied Paris.

Scientists are outraged over the publication of an ESP study. Speaking of questionable studies, the doctor who linked autism to vaccines faked his work. Still, if parents are stupid enough to listen to Jennie McCarthy over most doctors, their kids have bigger problems.

Bethany McClean on the unnatural thing that is the 30-year mortgage. I have mixed feelings--I would have been shut out of the local housing market without that option (although arguably, the housing market wouldn't have gone bananas without 30-year mortgages), but I'm so, so glad I no longer have one.

On the topic of mortgages, I didn't know recasting was an option.

You're likely aware of most of these ways to save on travel costs, but there are some in there that aren't obvious. While we're at it, here are ten ways to get the most out of technology. And here are 17 days to visit the National Parks for free.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

Microfinance isn't consistently achieving its promise.

On birth control and why we may lead the developed world in unwanted pregnancies.

On what the Constitution actually says and what that means for governance.

Here's a healthy alternative to some of the presidential candidate names bandied about of late.

Eat this, not that.

Wednesday morning roundup

Turkey builds influence in Iraq. Does anyone else find the last sentence of the article offensive?

Even more essential that more women are serving on the Supreme Court, what with Justice Scalia believing that women don't have rights.

Senator Mikulsky, who is awesome, has set a record. Meanwhile, federal workers are losing an advocate.

Sigh. I see Miss Manners' point, but I don't understand people who don't recycle in this day and age. What planet do they live on? Maybe I'm still bitter from having taken out RM's recycling out of the trash for half a year--and I'm definitely annoyed to find trash in my recycling bin from time to time. Which, by the way, is a sign that the shrubs I planted are insufficient to keep out the trash, literal and figurative, from my yard. Don't take that as a class-related slur; I'm sorry, but if you don't know the difference between recycling and trash, I'm going to classify you as trash.

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