Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

The title of world's greatest douchebag has a new contender.

Sarah Brady on the day, and the gun, that changed her life.

The abortion "debate" hits a new, absurd low.

Ethanol is not the answer, but be careful speaking truth to power on that one.

I genuinely considered fasting, but I'm fighting off a cold. If it's fought by the end of the week, I'll fast.

Veggie burgers are hot.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Doctrinaire doesn't mean better.

Richard and Roger Cohens make related arguments for intervention in Libya.

The racist legacy of DC's taxation without representation.

Another reason not to by packaged foods: shrinking packages among steady prices. As for other food... many farmers are planting cotton instead.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday morning roundup

With all due respect to Secretary Clinton and the fraught public relations line she is walking, must she have referred to Bashar al-Assad as a reformer? Notice she CYAed by doing it indirectly.

The wife of a Chinese dissident asks after her husband.

The Far-Right's witch hunt on academics is detrimental to society.

See the second letter to Miss Manners. It bothers me, a lot, when people post (and label) pictures of me on Facebook (which I'm not on) without my permission.

Processed food manufacturers fight anti-obesity efforts with sleight of hand, as if adding more white flour, to move sugar down the ingredient list, is going to make a muffin healthy. I was at Trader Joe's the other day--the one in Old Town tries to add balance to the universe by staffing its express checkout lines with the slowest people they have. I had a minute to check out the ginger crisps placed up front to lure impulse buyers. On the back of the package, you could read about the health benefits of ginger, including, apparently, fat-burning. In the ingredients, you would see that sugar is not the first ingredient, but that's only because there are at least three different kinds of sugar in there, so they can get away with listing them separately (as the second, third, and embedded ingredients). And sliced apples--really? Has it come to that? You can't sell people whole apples, that they can just bite into?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

Women come forward to tell their stories in Libya and Egypt. Also: the story of the fruit vendor who triggered it all. Here's an excerpt that certainly does not represent the worst, but perhaps the most absurd:
Ben Ali visited Mohammed Bouazizi in the hospital, along with a camera crew. The president made a show of handing Manoubya a check for 10,000 dinars (about $14,000). But the mother said Ben Ali’s staffers took the check back after the cameramen were escorted from the room.
In Russia, activists are at risk as always. I wish this piece on revolutions in general were more focused, but maybe the point is, there is little that is generalizable about revolutions and their outcomes.

Is it okay that I don't care about the day-by-day details of Al Haig's 'Al Haig moment'?

Have I mentioned that I hate the Post's redesigned website and that it takes forever to find stuff on it?

Books you might like: "Reading Obama", "Day of Honey", and maybe "A Tiger in the Kitchen."

Do you eat dyed food?

Can Arganica stay in business? I'm going to try it in the fall--I bought a membership on a groupon--but I can tell you right now that the products look very pricey as far as I can tell.

I heard David Ives speak yesterday. I new the man was necessarily witty and brilliant, but he blew away the audience with his insights and humor. I'm sharing a clip I found online of "Words, Words, Words," which I first read in college--it'll give you an idea of the man's genius.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

North Sudan continues to brutalize Darfur.

Milbank and Collins on the slate of presidential contenders.

The juice box pundits are all grown up.

Yawn. I'm getting so sick of posting about this, but I can't help myself: organic soil is just as productive.

I find this article on sugar substitutes, as well as the one it's based on, disingenuous or at best incomplete. I can't see how agave nectar is "as processed as high fructose corn syrup"--have you seen King Corn? Do you know what you have to do to make HFCS? But both articles miss the point: it's how, and how often, you use the sugar substitutes. Yes, they're still sugars--that is the bottom line. I still use agave for desserts, but for 'every day' use, I eliminate the middle man and just use fruit. I.e. if I'm making a chocolate soy shake or chocolate pudding, I'll sweeten it with frozen berries or fresh pomegranate. It's like those articles that measure food affordability by dollar per calorie--of course most plant-based foods are going to lose in that game, because it's a stupid, irrelevant game. We, as a country and probably world, consume way too much sugar and should consume less of it for everyone's good. Once you moderate your overall consumption of added sugar, you don't need to split hairs about which substitute is less harmful, because you're not consuming enough of it to make a difference.

Are food dyes dangerous even in moderation?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Friday evening roundup

I'd love to discuss these very interesting and very interconnected articles more but I have to run in a minute.

How does microfinance help if many studies show it doesn't? Is it filling voids that governments should be addressing? What are those voids? Is military intervention and law enforcement inherently more of a job for government than public health? Environmental protection (which, by the way, is not unrelated to public health)? On that note, a couple of Republicans defend the EPA and its successes.

The average bus-rider is lighter than the average boat passenger is lighter than the average flier... but we're all getting heavier.

Friday morning roundup

The battles for the future of Israel and Egypt.

Timothy Egan's defense of 'dithering' and Tom Toles'. See also Toles' take on deficit concern.

The District is getting whiter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Why vegetarianism, not technology, will feed the world.

On that note, Tom Philpott proposes a vegan-conscious omnivore alliance.

Coal is deadly, so WTF, Obama administration?
When's the right time to talk about energy sources?

Thursday morning roundup

Rural America is changing in demographics, expectations, and divorce rates.

Is coexistence a possibility for organic farmers and pushers of genetically engineered foods?

A century of meet: the infographic.

What would normally be a lighter note: a slideshow of DC's cherry blossoms over the years. It's bittersweet to see the sakura in bloom. If you look at my travel notes from Japan, I wrote a lot about the trees (why did I take so many pictures of trees? how can trees possibly be that exciting?). I look up, as I write this, to see one of my favorite sakura pictures, propped up in my living room: Sakura is so symbolic: fleeting beauty, the coming of spring. Perhaps for that reason, the cover of this week's New Yorker viscerally upset me. I flipped it over and turned my attention to this sakura picture, taken in front of the A-Dome in Hiroshima. At the time, it struck me as a representation of life and renewal in the aftermath of disaster. That's the framework through which I'm determined to process the images of the sakura all around.

Speaking of life and renewal, it's time to start planting. I'm on it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

Really, Southwest? Aren't there rowdy kids you could boot off your flights for the safety and comfort of the rest of your passengers?

Speaking of unconventional terrorism accusations, next target: cyclists. In case you were wondering, here's why the accusation's unfounded. And here's how cute cyclists can be. Meanwhile, see how much water it takes to make a car (yes, I do have one)--it looks like the only thing on the list that takes more water than producing a pound of beef.

I started going gray in my early twenties. It's not bad.

Is the bigger issue how unflattering H&M's collection is? I'm not a style expert, but I'd stay away from anything that makes Gisele look even slightly fat.

Have you thanked your journalist today?

Another reminder of what journalists go through to bring us the news.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Here's some happy environmental news.

Some of Tom Philpott's choice nuggets are really interesting (hint: food stamps vs. farm subsidies).

Bolivia's poor are feeling the pinch of quinoa's growing appeal.

Monday morning roundup

International news is back.

This generation apparently feels entitled to their dream job upon graduating from college. Might someone point out that our economy is a different from those of Egypt and Tunisia, which were bogged down by pervasive, institutionalized cronyism, corruption, and red tape? The people rioting there would have been thrilled to get a job right out of college as a lifeguard and personal trainer.

Metro decides to try being less hostile to cyclists.

I don't know why I continue to read Jennifer LaRue Huget's column after her whole grain misinformation that I furiously blogged about a couple of weeks ago, and which should cost her any credibility as a nutrition writer. This column is inoffensive, but I find the letter silly. If you really want to, you can learn to love vegetables. I haven't had to by force of will, because I learned to from an early age, but I wish these people knew what they were missing--vegetables, prepared correctly (or in some cases not prepared at all) are the tastiest things in the world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nowruz roundup and blogger's note

Note: As a result of recent changes in the media world--the Times is about to start charging for access to its articles, and the Post has redone its website to make it virtually impossible to find anything--my roundups are going to change, too. On a personal note, I'm taking it as a sign to spend less time reading the news and more time reading books. I'll continue to share the worthwhile things I come across--New Yorker articles, Grist pieces, things that come across my desk at work, and the odd Times and Post articles... but you might start seeing sparser roundups.

Another note: I've always found the Post's opinion pages more partisan than necessary, and now they've actually come to sort them under 'left-leaning' and 'right-leaning.' I think (most of) its columnists deserve better.

***
David Remnick on Israel.

The lives of Warren Christopher and John Hoke.

Davids Ignatius and Rothkopf diverge in their takes on the President's leadership on Libya. The latter column isn't worth the ten minutes I ended up spending in search of its link (no, the Post does not opt to link to it under the Outlook section of its Opinion page, even though it is on the first page of the Outlook section in print).

Save the US Institute of Peace by de-funding it.

I love Rep. Weiner (when he's not threatening bike lanes).

A cretin Cretan court denies a vegetarian couple the right to adopt out of child welfare concerns. Another way to harm children while purporting to help them: silly lawsuits on their behalf.

A Czech village in Iowa doesn't care anymore.

A writer's remembrance of Nowruzes past with hope for the present.

Concise, articulate writing is priceless.

Talk about the weather with someone else

I think I've established on these pages that when I'm really, really busy and really, really tired, I don't want to talk to anyone, so I don't. The lack of communication doesn't go unnoticed by either my mother or my cat. Mom leaves nasty messages on my voice mail and Gracie leaves poop on the carpet. Neither behavior endears me to either party.

Mom: Why didn't you call??
A.: I got home late on Friday and left early on Saturday.
Mom: So?
A.: So I didn't have time.
Mom: I was worried!
A.: Well, your sense of worry, especially within a 24-hour period, is within your control.
Mom: You could have called.
A.: [Sigh]. I got in late on Friday and went straight to bed.
Mom: What about the morning?
A.: My friend picked me up at 7am.
Mom: So? You could have called later.
A.: I didn't get a chance. I mean, I might have been able to in the car, and then I forgot.
Mom: Well, next time don't forget!

I wanted to say, 'next time, use your head.'

I'd called mom as soon as I got home yesterday. As soon as I put down the phone, Mirella called. I didn't bring up the conversation with mom, but it came up anyway.

Mirella: I talked to Alexa. I love it when she calls and tells me about everything she's been doing. She's trained me to not expect regular phone calls, but when she does call, it's very substantive and wonderful.
A.: I wish my mom would get on board with that. She's driving me up the wall.
Mom: Well, it's largely a control thing for your mom.
A.: I know. And it's beyond control in terms of knowing where I am: it feels like she wants to control how I am. She didn't bring this up explicitly this time, but when she used to hound me about not calling more regularly, and I'd respond that I didn't have anything to say but that she was welcome to call me if she had anything to say, she'd say that I could tell her about the simple things, like what flowers I may have seen that day. I'm sorry, but I'm just not a talk-about-the-weather person. I don't want to report on 'the simple things' to anyone. I'd much rather talk when there are things to say and not feel like I have to make small talk with my own parents.
Mirella: You need to train her... [Mirella talks in depth about going through this process with her own daughter and coming to appreciate more rare and more substantive conversations].
A.: I try.

I mean, wouldn't you rather have a natural conversation with someone than try to force a routine or pattern? And why would you want someone to talk about something they don't care to talk about--unless you're RM or another aggressive talker? I always thought RM's asking me what I did that day was a sign of poor conversational skills. Can't you just naturally bring out what people find interesting to talk about?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday morning roundup: energy edition

Someone's in denial.

I'm actually with Gov. Palin on taxing oil companies, in proportion to (1) their profits and (2) the environmental risks of exploration.

Nuclear plant work is risky.

Plastic isn't evil; it's just that it needn't be so disposable.

I sense a theme emerging throughout these articles, especially in conjunction with the Gulf oil spill response piece in the New Yorker last week: our sources of energy are costing us lives, health, safety, policy choices. We're not even talking about coal or fracking here.

In other news: a soldier feels undeserving of his combat pay.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday morning roundup

In my humble opinion, what the Red Cross is doing is unacceptable and also potentially counterproductive--there will be backlash once people realize what's going on. I urge you not to donate money for earthquake relief for Japan, at least not until it's clear where that money will go. If you want to help people in need, donate to the slew of organizations saving lives in the world and not exploiting a high-profile tragedy to fund-raise for everything else they do. I'd recommend International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, or Women for Women International. I repeat what I said when the earthquake hit Haiti--except this is even more true for Japan, where money is not of the essence right now: people are still dying needlessly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the best thing you can do is to make up for the donations they're not getting, because everyone else is donating to earthquake relief (or think they are). This suggestion is not borne of a lack of compassion for earthquake victims; it's based on pragmatism.

On a related note: how to improve foreign aid (continuous aid, not disaster assistance).

When society accepts animal cruelty.

You know, I've complained about Virginia's attorney general (assault on gay rights, climate change denial, etc.), but Dana Milbank's column on some of the antics going on in other states makes us look pretty good.

Check out the Times' cooking handbook.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A sign from God

Alternate titles for this post might be "Gracie is good for something" and "Grateful the events in my life constitute farce rather than tragedy."

The roommate moved in last night and moved out tonight. We both learned something: he discovered that he's quite allergic to cats, and I discovered that I really, really didn't want a roommate.

There was nothing at all wrong with this guy, but I just wasn't up for having another person in the house. The financial gain would be minimal, given that I'd have to pay income taxes on the rent and wouldn't be able to deduct the portion of the house I was renting out to him. And I just didn't want to deal with another person in the house. Even one who wasn't around weekends and didn't drive me nuts in any way.

Sigh of relief.

Tuesday morning roundup

The NRA refuses to meet with the president.

Don't cut your budgetary nose to spite your face.

Wusses. Where were these naked protesters when it was colder?

Is it bad form to complain about the Mexican eggplant freeze and resulting shortage, in light of events in Japan, which, by the way, make me sick on an almost visceral level?

Yes, plants want to live, too. By definition, a living thing wants to live. And I appreciate the acknowledgment that we have to kill (plants or animals) to survive. But this argument is a cop-out for not being able to stick to a plant-based diet.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Last week I touched briefly on the Klein/Vilsack discussion about agricultural subsidies. SecAg's statements were so nonsensical that his interlocuteur got by with little scrutiny in the blogosphere, except at Grist, where Tom Philpott calls them both out and Steph Larsen points out that agricultural subsidies are not rural living subsidies.

Monday morning roundup

Anne-Marie Slaughter comes out for a no-fly zone; Ross Douthat invokes Iraq.

There may be no revolution in China, but there are trends.

The earth has shifted.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

Preparedness matters, but nature will do its damage anyway.

Associating terrorism with a single religion isn't only unfair; it's also stupid and counterproductive.

The conditions of migrant worker life don't make school easy for the kids.

According to Lester Brown, America will become China's breadbasket.

Pentagon boondoggles illustrated.

I really wish Virginia's tax breaks would favor clean, rather than very dirty, energy. Calling coal 'green' is just insult to injury.

How nice would it be to file directly, without having to go through TurboTax?

Even for engineers, people skills are management skills.

Are you a data hoarder? (I know I am--at this moment, 2664 messages in my inbox).

What happens when you and the internet disagree on the matter of your own existence?

Are the 80s here to stay, or at least, make their presence perpetually known? I recently watched 'Hot Tub Time Machine,' in which the best part was John Cusack's saying, "I hate the 80s." I wonder how many millennials actually appreciate that.

Tina Fey on lessons from managing comedy (and gender differences).

Frank Rich says goodbye to the Times in a beautiful column.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Memories

When mom and dad came down last spring, they brought a whole bunch of my stuff with them. Mom had long wanted to get rid of it, and I would have just as soon gone through it up in Boston and thrown out at least half, which I did at some point a few months ago A lot of it I hadn't touched since it somehow ended up at my parents' house--class notes from college, postcards, some old photos, rail passes, old library cards (mostly from Geneva--the city library and various university libraries). When it got to the more nostalgic stuff, I couldn't bring myself to deal with it, so I just left it in what was the room I'd rented out. Well, since another renter's about to move in, I decided to tackle the rest. I still couldn't bring myself to toss the rail or bus passes or even the library cards. Among all that stuff, I found a note from Gina:

"A., Mme. ____ n'était pas là when I got there at 1150. Could you please arrosser ma plante?"

I don't remember the circumstances that connected those two sentences. In any case, the note made me smile--that really was how we communicated those days. Not just in paper/in person--the idea of e-mailing was absurd because you had to go to a university building across town to do it, and the computers were brutally slow (and most people you knew lived in the same building). It was the language--half English, half French was just the straightforward, intuitive way to talk. It was what came out. Anyway, I didn't throw out the note. Who knows what I'll think of it when I come across it again, maybe in another ten years?

Saturday morning roundup

General Clark on military intervention. Note: In my humble opinion, he oversimplifies some of the success stories.

A whopping 49 percent of white people believe the nanny state is trying to control our kitchen (although if you ask me, I might say Big Ag is doing its darndest to control what makes it into your kitchen, so I'm not sure it's right for me to roll my eyes at the nanny state people).

Being productive is good for you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday evening roundup

I'm not going to direct you to devastating images from Japan, but, as you imagine, it could have been a lot worse. Here's the case for preparedness and strict building codes.

There's been a breakthrough in solar power, and it's expanding nationwide, but it'll be a while before it becomes more affordable.

A New Yorker economist disses bike lanes, thus inviting mockery from other journalists. As you may have heard, the otherwise admirable Rep. Weiner also slammed bike NYC's bike lanes.

While we're admiring our elective representatives...

Friday morning roundup

A book club in Jiddah discusses Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", of all things.

VP Biden lets loose on Russia's legal system.

I think David Brooks is missing a lot--the huge rise in volunteerism, for example. Perhaps we can be worried about the national decline in humility, but he takes some liberties in projecting an associated rise in national selfishness.

DC is definitely partaking in the ethnoburb phenomenon. You've heard me rant about how I work in Chinatown but have to drive to suburban Alexandria (as opposed to Alexandria city, where I live, and have to drive nowhere) for Asian ingredients? And for injera. I couldn't actually tell you where I'd need to go for decent Russian ingredients (perhaps the nearest place is Philadelphia).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why do I ever call mom before bed?

Mom: What's new?
A.: Well, I think I have a roommate.
Mom: I felt so bad for that other guy, when you told him off. He was so lively and spirited.
A.: I didn't feel bad for him. He brought it on himself by not listening.
Mom: This guy is different?
A.: Well, I established expectations up-front. And it's a month-to-month lease. And he's really hardly going to be here.
Mom: If you need money...
A.: I don't need money. I mean, I need spending money, but I'd rather get it by renting.
Mom: Spending money for what?
A.: Solar panels, among other things.
Mom: You don't need solar panels: you have a gas stove, gas dryer, and gas water heater. What do you even power with electricity?
A.: The AC, in the summer... the fridge.
Mom: You don't need solar panels.
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: How much do they cost?
A.: I'm trying to figure that out.
Mom: I know there's a federal tax credit.
A.: Yeah, it's 30 percent.
Mom: What did I read? Oh, yeah... [mom goes on for five minutes on what she's heard recently about duplication and waste in government; the rant gets progressively doomsdayish].
Mom: I heard there's flooding where you are.
A.: There was a lot of heavy rain on Sunday and again today.
Mom: God is sending us a message. The earth is over-populated and is punishing us. [Pause] You don't believe in this, but I believe in it. I know what's going on. Anyway, I think it's getting to be your bedtime.
A.: It is. Goodnight.

Thursday evening roundup

Great Practical Traveler piece on intelligently supporting the local economy when you travel.

The first opinion--on pollution and heart attacks--is awesome.

Industrial agriculture is not the answer, but the Secretary of Agriculture is drunk on Big Ag's Kool Aid. Sustainable agriculture can feed the world.

Dogs thrive on a plant-based diet (too bad can't don't). Veganism is the new feminism (kind of): lots of people embrace it but eschew the label.

Thursday morning roundup

A view from the ground, and the view from a small town in Jordan. And why non-violent resistance has a stronger track record for affecting change.

Ice sheets are melting faster than previously thought. Yet, according to Stromberg, the Washington Times is trying to corner NPR over climate change certainty, too.

Oh, and some people think we need guns, everywhere, especially in light of health care reform.

The battle over federal pay rages on.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

Tom Vilsack perpetuates the Real America horse$hit in a logic-challenged defense of agricultural subsidies.

Martha Rose Shulman highlights vegan recipes in honor of Lent. They all look good, but this wheatberries with winter squash sounds amazing. I'm glad she featured the carrots and lentils in olive oil--I was a bit worried after this post, which I actually find incomplete in a lot of ways, although the Grist piece that brought it to my attention is worse. There are a lot of ways to consider the nutritional value of oils, besides the mono/poly unsaturated factor. There's the issue of antioxidants, and there's the issue of flavor. On that last one, there's nothing like a good olive oil. I'm still savoring my Olave--in fact, I just bought another bottle. That stuff is so good I could practically drink it.

Wednesday morning roundup

In Cairo, some turn to sexual assault to intimidate women marching to claim their rights.

In Texas, in case this entire story isn't shocking enough, two things stand out: people blame the victim's mother, and worry about the perpetrators' future rather than the victim's.

Russia's brain drain goes on.

Alberto Granada, Che Guevara's co-motorcyclist, has passed away.

Just say no to genetically engineered salmon.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday evening ramble

I feel a little better--the guy who came all the way down here in the pouring-down rain on Sunday found another place to live. For those of you not in the area, it rained insanely hard on Sunday. It was ridiculous. It made for some of the scariest road conditions I'd encountered in a while--particularly because it's not like the motorists on 95 can be bothered to turn their lights on or drive carefully--and also some pretty ill-timed walking. The stylist did wonders with my hair, but it was all for naught after a few minutes outside (even in a hooded jacket). But I digress.

I talked to my parents on Sunday evening (hence the 'bitch' conversation). I kept hoping my parents would provide some sort of guidance about the water heater, their being electric engineers and all, but no. I think I've told you before that my dad is simultaneously very smart and very slow on the uptake. Perfect example:

A.: So, did you look at any of the stuff I sent you?
Dad: Yeah--I definitely think you should replace your water heater.
A.: I am definitely replacing my water heater. Do you think it's worth it to get the condensing model?
Mom: The what? What's the difference?
A.: I'm asking you. You're the engineers.
Dad: That's the kind of heater, like we talked about. Like the ones in Russia. Yeah, get one of those.
A.: [Sigh] The type of heater is tankless. I am definitely getting a tankless heater. Within the category of tankless heaters, there is an uber-efficient category called condensing heaters. They're also said to be safer. I sent you a brochure on them.
Dad: Yeah, I looked at it, but there wasn't a lot of engineering explained.
A.: The guy kind of explained it to me. There are two things, and the exhaust from one heats the other, so it's more efficient.
Mom: Two things? What things?
A.: Whatever heats the water. Those things.
Mom: ??
A.: You're the engineers!!
Mom: I don't know.
A.: Never mind. I think I'm going to get a condensing model.

***
I'm also thinking very seriously about solar. I figured out how many watts I use in a year, and it's not that much. I guess the question is, do I cover the entire roof with panels, because it's there, flat and unobstructed, at a higher up-front cost? It's difficult to figure out what that cost might be--I've read everything from $8,000 (manageable with all the credits, rebates, etc.) to $30,000 (f* that). From what I understand, the City of Alexandria actually lets you deduct materials and installation from your property taxes if you install solar, which is pretty f*ing amazing.

***
I have a new identity, and I love it: I am a fruit fly.

Jason "learndeded it" from "1 girl, 5 gays" on Logo channel. Apparenlty, it's not pejorative like 'hag'--doesn't have that connotation of lacking confidence and seeking it from gays--but it's more "a lady who will defend the gays..." Do you hear that? That makes me a lady.

Tuesday evening roundup

The Japanese-American community comes out against witch hunts and Richard Cohen also makes a passionate plea against them.

Could anyone explain why it takes Starbucks over six-dozen ingredients to make an omelet wrap? Also--and I say this as someone who doesn't eat eggs--if you're going to eat eggs, just eat the whole f*ing egg.

Jon Stewart on the instant banana
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Tuesday morning roundup

Okay, two paragraphs into this, I'm horrified by "American intervention in Libya." If anything, we should be talking multilateral intervention. Which I see they get to in the middle of the first page (although Arab League? Really?). As for Senator Kerry, all his analogies are wrong: Libya is not Iraq (91'), the Balkans, or Rwanda. Anne Applebaum pretty much covers it.

Meanwhile, migrants stuck in the middle are in danger from both sides.

A Mexican documentary makes a difference and raises awareness of a broken justice system, which then tries to shut down the film. Which history tells us only serves to promote the film.

This is disappointing.

A new hate-monger unleashes her bull$hit across the country.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Phone call

Mom, unbeknownst to herself, contributed a key data point to my exploration of how some of her antics are painful and others, just annoying. She flat-out called me a bitch.

Very matter-of-factly, too. And the Russian word, 'styerva,' is much ruder.

It didn't bother me that much.

She asked about the roommate search. I told her where I stood. I told her I was taking precautions so as not to repeat the last roommate debacle.

Mom: That poor guy. He was so friendly. And you're just a bitch.
A.: If having boundaries and making a point to enforce them is 'being a bitch,' I whole-heartedly embrace that label.
Mom: Well, to tell you the truth, that kind of thing would have bothered me, too.
A.: It would have bothered a saint (not that I am one).

We let it go at that.

Monday evening roundup

Pork has a new catchphrase. It will surprise you and perhaps confound you.

What's wrong with philanthropy-oriented reality TV.

What scares me is how literate I am in the DC's arcane subway ad terminology.

Monday morning roundup

Japan braces itself for rising food prices.

Fareed Zakaria's lesson from the Middle East, which is not at all about the Middle East. And he's not the only columnist concerned about budgeting at the expense of America's children.

The connections this writer is making between fashion and fascism are a huge stretch--seereming Jon Stewart's piece about how silly it is to invoke Hitler comparisons based on non-genocidal characteristics. The history of fashion during the occupation is interesting; everything else is 'huh'?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday evening ramble

I hardly expected any responses to my roommate ad, based on the terms (i.e., must be out of the house a lot), but that's what some people are looking for. The demand is actually kind of heart-breaking, especially among the contingent who doesn't actually have a job that takes them out of town a lot, but insist that they're quiet. That's another thing I don't want: a roommate who doesn't feel comfortable, feels like they have to be invisible (I prefer the kind that are invisible by nature).

But here's the other thing: the more the idea of a roommate becomes more concrete, the more I realize I don't want a roommate. Ugh--what have I done? Then again, it would be nice to have solar panels.

Contrast this sea of people looking for an inexpensive place to crash with the sign I saw up in the salon for trial-size Aveda products: "Thank your yoga teacher, your dog walker, your barista." As eye-rolling as that is, I realize it's not out of touch with Alexandria. Alexandria's crazy that way--highest poverty rate in NOVA, I think, and also high yoga/dog/coffee shop identity.

Sunday morning roundup

Karim Sadjadpour on many amateur analysts are misreading the Middle East.

Egyptian women insist on building on their recent gains. Also, what the Post's photographer went through to cover the revolution.

As for Afghan women, well... baby steps.

David Remnick on future of Haaretz.

Psychiatrists, increasingly, are medicators, not therapists.

George Will on Mike Huckabee and the Mau Maus.

How to fight hate speech without censorship.

In addition to the usual ideological and trade-association divides, San Francisco's battle over the future of shark fin soup exposes a generational shift. Which is sort-of an ideological divide in and of itself: younger generations are more conscious about the effects of their food choices on eco-systems, and more willing to adjust those food choices accordingly. Older generations are more willing to dismiss them as hippies.

And not too far north of there, a young farmer's grandfather tells him that his generation has to fix what Earl Butz messed up.

What a fascinating life.

A new book about a woman who loved food and one on your brain.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When it rains it really f*ing pours

My mother was really sweet when I told her about the vortex of endless home repairs that I've found myself in. She offered me money (I said 'no, thank you'). I mean, it would be one thing if I didn't actually have the money to pay for the home repairs; it's more that paying for the home repairs really puts a damper on my hobbies.

It was like this about two years ago, when I marveled at the highest credit card bill I'd ever managed to run up. I'd bought the house a few months before, and in addition to the astronomical hardware store bills, I'd just paid for a new washer and dryer and the associated plumbing, and a bunch of other work around the house. And the trip to Galapagos.

And that last one is not the only reason I'm not all 'woe-is-me' (or woe-is-I, apologies to Patricia T. O'Conner) about this. I knew what I was getting into when I bought the house, and it's all manageable--just annoying. I just paid for my trip and for a fence, and I'm about to pay for a tankless water heater. And then for some other work.

So, in lieu of cutting down on travel and theater, and of taking money from my parents, I'm *considering* taking in another renter.

I know what you're thinking: you said you'd never take in another roommate! Did I? I must have qualified it to say that you never know.

I'm just putting out feelers. I'm going to be a lot more careful this time (although I thought I was careful last time)--I'm actually advertising specifically for an airline employee or someone else who doesn't really live here, i.e. isn't going to be bringing friends to the house or otherwise partying. If nobody responds to that, so be it, but people put out those kinds of ads all the time, and there are people who respond to them, because there are people who need a place to crash a few times a week.

And I'll be fine if no one does respond (to be honest, part of me is hoping for it). When I mentioned this to mom, she asked whether I was considering a roommate because of the money. I asked her what she meant. She said--wait for it--"as opposed to companionship." Definitely money, definitely not companionship. She offered me money again (I told her that that was very sweet but that I was okay).

Do you know what it really is? Once you start getting things done around the house, you start to say, 'f* it, I want this and this done, too.' Now, I need to be realistic and remind myself that it's going to take a lot of roommate rent checks before I'll be able to put solar panels on the roof... but it would take a lot longer without those checks. It's just something to throw out there, in case there is someone out there looking for the room and the roommate situation I have to offer. If not, I'm more than happy to have the house to myself.

Saturday morning roundup

Losing your Middle Eastern markets for arms? "There's always Latin America."

Italy has a lot to lose from chaos in Libya, but it did that to itself.

David Ignatius on how the Administration is working this.

Rural India is an emerging market for market research.

I started thinking of 'glass houses'-type clichesfor this one but decided not to bother.

It's official: test scores are not good indicators of learning.

Murphy Brown redux.

Gail Collins on political crimes against writing; Robert Lane Greene on how Sarah Palin uses language more effectively than we think.

I kind-of appreciate culinary purism, especially at quality establishments (although who doesn't love a toasted bagel). You're only going to ruin a very good burger (of whatever sort) with ketchup, and I appreciate April Bloom's unique place for rocquefort--I'm looking into ways of simulating it without dairy. In a way, I can even appreciate refusing to serve vegetarian food--if you accept that that's going to turn away a large number of customers and their friends, that's your call as a restaurateur.

But if you're not going to allow substitutions or special requests, your food better be amazing. For example, if you don't allow dressing on the side, (1) that dressing better be perfect; and (2) that dressing better not be drowning the salad to the point it's inedible (I'm talking to you, Founding Farmers, although you're not alone). [Founding Farmers does, in theory, allow dressing on the side; it's just that in practice they didn't honor my request for it, which irks me as much.]

Friday, March 4, 2011

Widdershins

I wasn't sure to expect from Widdershins, to which I'd bought a ticket because I still feel a connection to many things Welsh. The play was excellent. You may think I say that all the time, but there's often 'good' and 'very good;' this one was excellent.

Actually, the acting was uneven, which I've experienced at some of the smaller, less formal venues (particularly Undercroft). The story, though, is what really made it, and enough of the acting was excellent and enough was good enough to really channel the story. I can't tell you a thing without giving it away, but if you're in the area, I highly recommend it. It's also very inexpensive, and, if you're in Old Town, walking distance (if you're in Old Town, also go see "His Eye Was on the Sparrow"). I will qualify my fascination with the story--the plot, I should say--by saying that there was something slightly sloppy and not quite right in the end. At first, I didn't believe it--not in a supernatural way, but in a human way, i.e., I wasn't comfortable with the sides being taken--but after thinking on it more, it hit me just how realistic it was. But I also felt that the performance would have done well to explore why it came down the way it did. I have my own interpretation, and I'd find the face-value one controversial.

I'll tell you what was lacking for sure: the behavior of the audience (and the alertness of the ushers). The Little Theater actually prints in its program a list of what not to do: unwrap candy, talk, etc. Because it's not obvious to some people. But people did it anyway. One person even blew his or her nose loudly, in the middle of the play! As for the usher, your job is not to read me my seat number from my ticket; I can do that myself. It's to hand me a program (which he did not do until I asked for it) and direct me to the best way to my seat, i.e. that which entails stepping over the fewest number of people (only after I'd stepped over eight did I see how few seats there were to the other side of mine).

The play was a little bit creepy in more than one way, which made the walk home through Old Town a little bit creepy. Some of the eeriness came from the sense of deja-vu from the night I got hit by a car--also a Friday, a relatively nice night. I crossed the streets very carefully (and flipped off any driver who didn't yield when it was my right of way). Actually, I need to stop doing that, if only because if I continue at this rate, I'm bound to flip someone off in front of a coworker. Crossing Cameron Street was especially odd, but there was something funny about the creepiness: it subsided as I left the older part of Old Town, even though Washington Street wasn't any less empty or quiet there. It wasn't a general creepiness I'd felt; it was the kind that's with you after you've just heard or seen a ghost story.

Friday evening roundup

A no-fly zone is not something to be taken lightly.

While some look to Turkey for a democratic model for the Middle East, Turkey is backpedaling on its own democracy.

I don't think all the non-fashion fashion world offenses here are equally egregious, hypocritical, or tasteless, but I love the name of the article.

While we're on article names, I don't think having kids is foolish, but I think a lot of this has to do with why some parents are so sanctimonious.

I have to run in a second, but allow me a quick food-related ramble. A few years ago, I came upon the term 'poor people food,' which I'd never heard of previously, even though I certainly consumed a lot of it in ignorance of its socio-economic associations. I always thought, and still think, that food is food (corollary: crap is not food). I've devoted space on this blog to the message that you can eat well for as little as it costs to eat poorly, if not less. Conversely, I think the concept of 'poor people food' is silly.

Jamie Oliver was rightly excoriated for serving beans on toast at one of his London restaurants, but not because beans on toast can't be amazing: it's because (1) Heinz paid him to do it and he neglected to disclose that; and (2) you don't go to a posh restaurant to have a celebrity chef make beans on toast. If you fell for it, sponsorship or not, well, I don't know what to say.

Anyway, I'm running out the door and I needed to make a quick dinner to get me through the evening. So I toasted a couple of slices of (whole, sprouted grain) bread and defrosted half a cup or so of pinto beans and topped the toast with them, and topped the beans with some (store-bought) salsa--what can I say--Costco has yummy, organic, no-sugar-added salsa, but you can make some yourself if you're hard-core or have more time. Anyway, it was really, really good. And yet so simple, and inexpensive. All I'm saying is, my 'poor people food' is better than some of the stuff I've had in pretentious restaurants.

Friday morning roundup

Among the side effects of the chaos in Libya: a newly accessible supply of small (and not so small) arms.

No matter where you come down on the 'right' thing to do, this is just a really sad story. And a poster case for end-of-life care discussions (oh, I'm sorry, "death panels").

Dave Brooks finds fundamental attribution era in Huntington's Clash.

Yes, for most mothers, working is really about being able to move into a mansion. Especially those mothers whose kids would be eligible for Head Start.

Why is the media circus around Charlie Sheen condoning his history of violence against women?

Senator Warner acknowledges the contributions of federal workers.

Oooh, I totally want a sakura tree. And a sakura-flavored snack would be really nice right now. Maybe sakura ice cream can be our next goal now that we've conquered green tea and azuki.

Speaking of oooh, I never would have thought of coconut oil-roasted sweet potatoes, but they look and sound amazing (although I'd skip the sugar--I don't know why anyone in their right mind, health conscious or not, would add sugar to sweet potatoes). I'd even make that pound cake (replace the eggs with ground flax, the milk with soy/almond/coconut) if I could figure out a way to replace or reduce the sugar and at least some of the refined flour and still make it work. Also: vegetable soup recipes from Mark Bittman. If you want to make one of the creamy soups vegan, replace the dairy with coconut milk (just beware that the flavor will be prominent), soy or almond milk, and/or granulated or instant oatmeal.

Crap, is it almost 8am? How am I not at work??

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

For such an indignant bunch, people have no f*ing idea how the government spends money.

Why you really needn't worry about soy, unless you eat a ton of meat.

Check out the Onion.

Thursday morning roundup

Really? The State Department's housing allowance for families passing through DC is $5,400 for a two-bedroom? No wonder they're out of money for actual priorities. On another issue from that article: if your 13-year old's friends are asking people whether they "speak Egyptian," it's time to switch schools.

Speaking of interesting spending priorities, Milbank reports on funding what the military actually needs. He also comments on his Palin-free month.

Teachers are feeling the pain of the national verbal assault. Gail Collins offers another angle for looking at teachers' pay and childcare benefits.

Jennifer Rubin uses federal employees' comparatively inferior benefits against state employees (by way of Gov. Walker's words):
...most federal employees do not have collective bargaining for wages and benefits while our plan allows it for base pay. And I'm sure the President knows that the average federal worker pays twice as much for health insurance as what we are asking for in Wisconsin.
I wonder whether she'll remember that when another round of fed bashing comes around. Scrolling through her posts, I had to move fast to not throw up in my mouth. Her writing is so sickeningly partisan and full of cheap shots, but that's how the Post likes its conservatives.

Even when I was a kid with an insatiable sweet tooth--which is when I spent a lot of time in Maine--I thought whoopie pies were nasty. If I were Maine and Pennsylvania, I'd be fighting to disown rather than claim them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In which this good Jewish girl uses a bug analogy in a mom story

My mom issues are flaring.

I made the mistake of calling mom last night just before bed--never a good idea--and she got me more riled up than I've been in a while. I’m trying to understand why. Why over this? Why not over her other, more persistent antics, or those actually directed at me? When I think about it, I see just how much mom doesn't upset me when she harps on my weight, personality, or décor. I mean, she doesn't exactly create a pleasant environment, but there's a fine line between annoying and upsetting. Consider the difference between an insect buzzing around your head and one delivering a painful sting.

Mom’s harping on my weight has always been annoying but doesn't hurt, maybe because I have sufficient confidence in myself to not value myself based on my body shape. To the extent that I find myself thinking about it, it’s more ‘I would love to fit into that dress and it’s too bad I don’t, but whatever” not “I hate myself because I can’t fit into that dress.” When mom brings up my weight and won't let go, it’s buzz, not sting.

It’s also buzz-not-sting when mom tells me I’m cold, harsh, shrewish, selfish, socially overbearing, financially irresponsible, lacking in initiative, incompetent, or too much of a busybody to get along with coworkers. I have enough confidence in who I am, not to mention enough evidence in my defense, to understand that mom’s perception of me is more a reflection on her than on me. In some cases, she's projecting things she sees in herself; in others, they stem from narrow mindset about how things manifest themselves. For example, I'm introverted, so I don't feel like talking to people when I'm tired. For her, that's a sign that I'm cold. And in some cases, the accusations or judgments seem to come out of nowhere. As I read over that not exhaustive list of faults, all of which mom has assigned to me, all I can do is laugh.

So if none of that bothers me, why am I feeling the sting now? Could it be that I'm "comfortable" or at least unfazed by verbal assaults on my own character (and shape), but I'm more sensitive to her attacks on others? I’ve had knee-jerk reactions in the past when she’s gone after people dear to me (Nina), and now it’s Alexa, whom she barely knows. [I’m not comfortable sharing the details of the situation on this blog].

Could it be that I’ve developed a mechanism for managing mom’s statements, and in the process lulled myself into false complacency, fooled myself into believing that I’ve learned to manage mom in general? Is it, by extension, that I’ve learned to manage the symptoms of the less kind part of mom’s personality, but the underlying elements still irk the hell out of me?

In this case, it's her willingness to demonize someone (a 23-year-old girl) based on partial, second-hand knowledge of a situation, further filtered by her selective listening. And it's also the sheer inconsistency of her logic: just that, in and of itself, often makes it impossible to reason with her, so the only thing to do is ask her to let it go (but she won’t). She does that on political issues, too--you can't talk to her, because she doesn't fight fair, but she won't stop talking about it, so you're stuck fuming. Even my dad, who more often than not agrees with her on substance, tries to tell her that she's not getting through to anyone else with her tactics. So that's part of it: she can't make me listen to Glenn Beck, so she channels Glenn Beck for me, and brings Glenn Beck logic into an interpersonal situation. I don't need to explain further about why that's annoying.

So what do I do with mom? She's not going to change, and I can only change or at least manage how I interact with her. Which I've learned to do when it's something frivolous like weight or something ridiculous like shrewishness. My strategy with politics, thus far, has been avoidance whenever possible and rolled eyes otherwise. And now, this new category of thing. I guess the only thing to do is take a deep breath and let it go.

Wednesday morning roundup and response to comment

Hey guys, I'm scrambling because I woke up late/didn't sleep well because I made the mistake of calling mom before going to bed, and got riled up by a conversation to personal on someone else's behalf to relay here. So this is going to be quick.

On corn, is sweet corn as prone to being genetically modified as feed corn? I need to look into that. And I reiterate: if you're concerned about corn and soy, and you eat factory-farmed meat, please be aware that you're probably consuming more of both through your meat than directly.

On that note, please see Mark Bittman's column on getting agricultural subsidies right.

Coke is acquiring Honest Tea.

Western lobbyists are thinking twice about working for murderous regimes.

How corporate tax cuts can hurt states.

Police forces turn to volunteers to help with the workload. It's kind-of working in Britain.

How inherently subjective are performance reviews?

If fashion isn't fluff, fashion bears responsibility. I wonder with Galliano's fall from Grace whether Kate Moss will still have him design her wedding dress.

Sakura Matsuri will now charge a fee. But a style note: even I know that 'matsuri' means festival, so could we stop saying "Sakura Matsuri festival"? I've actually never gone, lately because I haven't been in town for it. Didn't miss much last year, since we were hitting peak sakura everywhere in Japan.

Mmmm, Persian food.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

How to cede power gracefully.

Assange blames the Jews (including Jews by association).

I am taking deep breaths as I type because Jennifer LaRue Huget's guide to whole grains makes my head want to explode.

First of all, she encourages people to consume refined grains as half their grain consumption because, I $hit you not, "Whole grains are not enriched, so if you replaced all your refined grains with whole ones, you'd need to get those nutrients elsewhere, perhaps through dietary supplements."

Are you F*ING KIDDING ME?? Get your f*ing nutrients from real food, including whole grains. The idea of encouraging refined grains because they're enriched--this coming from a nutrition writer--is absurd to the point where I think she should resign.

Less offensive but equally ignorant: soba is not actually whole grain; it's usually made with over 70% refined wheat and only 30% buckwheat. It is difficult and expensive to find 100% buckwheat soba.

She didn't pull this bull$hit from the guidelines themselves, which say nothing of the sort:
At least half of recommended total grain intake should be whole grains. (See Chapter 5 for specific information and recommendations.) Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the minimum recom-mended amount of whole grains, which for many is about 3 ounce-equivalents per day. On average, Americans eat less than 1 ounce-equivalent of whole grains per day.

Americans should aim to replace many refined-grain foods with whole-grain foods that are in their nutrient-dense forms to keep total calorie intake within limits. When refined grains are eaten, they should be enriched. Individuals may choose to consume more than half of their grains as whole grains. To ensure nutrient adequacy, individuals who consume all of their grains as whole grains should include some that have been fortified with folic acid, such as some ready-to-eat whole-grain cereals.
That's fair enough; JLRH's interpretation is most definitely not.

More food news: factory farm findings to gross you out.

Why the hating on cyclists when we're great for the economy in the long run.

Tuesday morning roundup

Egyptian police struggle to overcome an institutional legacy and reputation for brutality.

The mess at Wisconsin's Capitol building is stressing out the state's unionized custodial staff even as they appreciate the benefits of organizing.

I'm literally not sure how I feel about this parody description of the Civility Institute. Maybe I don't think it's funny because I'm too tired to be amused, or maybe I don't think it's funny because, on a fundamental level, I disagree with the message. Yeah, scratch the 'it's too early/I'm too tired' argument, because I was able to fully appreciatethese confessions of a newly-discovered communist.

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