Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday roundup

Unlike the Ombudsman, I see no value in Jennifer Rubin's blog. Her posts are simplistic, hateful, petty, and unprofessional, and her Norway post and subsequent "clarification" were bad journalism, if they could be called journalism. But I agree with the Ombudsman: calling her vile names and issuing vile threats are not appropriate.

You may think I've no standing to discuss clam chowder, but you'd be wrong: I've only been for not quite a year, and I was a pescetarian for two decades before that. And that, too, is irrelevant, because the issue is filler vs. flavor. So even though clam chowder is but a case study, and not the issue at steak, in Steve Pearlstein's generally interesting column, I have a dog in this chowder fight: removing the core ingredients and substituting them with flour is a bad bet all around. Oh, and Mr. Pearlstein's key point is an excellent one: consumer paradigms change. There's no reason to keep doing things the way they've always been done.

Your store-bought orange juice isn't as natural as it claims to be.

These are the kind of foodies that make the rest of us look bad.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

In spite of aid, maternal care in Africa is at a crisis point.

You know your regime's got problems when you feel the need to ban people from standing there.

Why asylum seekers are encouraged to exaggerate.

Is there something sinister in encouraging youth to pursue public service?

The evangelical right is rethinking its knee-jerk anti-feminism.

We're not really that broke, yet.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday evening roundup

Turkey's power structure is shifting definitively.

A very important point about choice.

I never liked any theory that associated McDonald's with progress.

More debunking of those bogus organic claims.

Cowards on race, or why am I afraid to broach the topic of fried chicken?

On my way to dinner with friends last night, I realized how infrequently I have dinner with friends. I have lunch with coworkers from time to time. I even had lunch with a friend a few weekends ago. I’m not saying it never happens; just very infrequently, and that's partly of my doing—I don’t like to go to restaurants often because it gets expensive and I’d rather spend that money on theater, and because it’s hard to find vegan food in restaurants (or annoying to ask about what any given dish is cooked in). By the time I’d refinanced and become vegan, I let one group of friends—the one that at one point regularly met for dinner—that I preferred we eat in more often, but it didn’t matter, because we’d kind of quit eating anywhere. One of us had another baby, cementing the shift that started when two of us (them?) moved to the outer suburbs and started having kids. And that’s where my situation comes in—I could initiate something, but I don’t want to, because of the reasons established above.

But I digress. Last night, I met Marcela, who’s in town for a short time between work stints in Kenya, as well as a Tasha, a mutual friend of ours, and H, a another friend of M’s. M picked a place with lots of vegan options (how sweet!) a few blocks from my office—I had no idea Busboys and Poets served vegan food! The vegan quesadilla was pretty good—definitely tasted like vegan cheese, but it was still good. But it's not vegan food I’m not writing to tell you about.

Remember I wrote last weekend of my disappointment with Clybourne Park? I nonetheless appreciate what it was trying to accomplish. One of the themes was our national cowardice, as noted by Attorney General Holder, in talking about race. I realized last night how true, and personal, that was.

It wasn’t when H, who is black, said that it wasn’t good for the country to have a black president right now, because the President’s blackness was bringing out that much more BS to interfere with his ability to govern. I don’t agree with that sentiment, but it’s an interesting point. It was when we’d moved onto something much more mundane in theory--as I wrote that, I realize I know better than to refer to food as something mundane--that the cowardice realization hit:

H.: Have you been to Russia House?

A.: No. Why am I gonna go pay for Russian food when I know how to make it and it’s not gonna be as good as my mom’s, anyway?

H: I don’t go for the food; I go for the vodka.

A.: I’m not really into vodka.

H: What? A Russian who doesn’t like vodka? That’s like a black person saying they don’t like fried chicken!

I was about to say, ‘you’re also sitting here with a Colombian who doesn’t like coffee,” but I was stuck on black people and fried chicken. First I thought, is that really true? Then I thought of two black friends in particular who I was pretty sure didn’t care for fried chicken. And thirdly, and most to the point, I quickly realized that I would never actually call them up and say, ‘hey, do you like fried chicken, being black and all? Just wondering.’

Considering how interested I am in food-—food itself, the culture of food, the socioeconomics of food, food identity, etc.—-calling people up and asking them about food is a very natural thing for me. And it’s not like I’d hesitate to ask my Asian friends whether they liked tofu (or something), or to ask my Latino friends about arepas. So what is it about black people and fried chicken that made it off limits? Is it because there is so much BS going around with regard to the Obamas, that racial stereotypes strike me as that much more distasteful?

Something to think about.

***
On a lighter note, we were talking about something else—I don’t remember what, or what I said—it was something silly—when H said to me, “I love you. Never change.” I said, “that’s what my gay husband’s boyfriend said to me!”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

Were you wondering what Glenn Beck has been up to?
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The recent history of deficits.

What Sen. McCain has to say.

Don't throw that out.

Wednesday morning roundup

As India bleeds CEOs, those who stay work around the country.

The Chamber of Commerce continues to eat the disaster it helped make, but, unfortunately, so do the rest of us.

Almost half of the men surveyed would leave a woman who'd gotten "fat."

Look, I'm all over the creative use of language, but some words are just unnecessary.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Really, JetBlue? Do you really want to play fashion police?

I thought it was interesting that this exploration of the concept of moral absolutism used "it is wrong to eat beef" as an example, but only in the context of belief systems, not in terms of the environmental impact of food choices. Because that would have been an interesting discussion: is it "wrong" to not act in the best interest of the environment? If so, is it wrong to run my air conditioner, or fly to Asia and back?

Good for LA for sticking up for cyclists.

Yes, Russians love their dill. If you don't like it, don't go to Russian restaurants. Would you criticize Hungarians for indiscriminate use of paprika? Try 'When in Rome' and shut the f* up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday morning roundup

As Mr. Sageman points out, rhetoric is not cost-free.

Third-party time?

It's wonderful that someone's making the argument that it's the food system, not the calorie count that's driving the obesity epidemic, but as someone who finds myself at the mercy of restaurants when I travel for work, etc., I want to know what's in my food. I want to know how many grams of sugar are in that salad or other dish.

As New Yorkers marry, a quote from Hairspray, from Motormouth Maybelle, comes to mind:
Well, love is a gift, a lot of people don't remember that. So, you two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.


Wow, “remorse, remorse, my kingdom for remorse” is a most awesome Shakespearean take on the Murdoch blowup.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday evening roundup

Relative privation is roiling Africa.

India dumbs down its SlutWalks.

I really like South Asian food and this makes me really sad.

Yeah, I thought that calorie count article was out of line and unnecessary, as was the frivolous dismissal of the other First Ladies' accomplishments. Those are Smithies you're undermining.

I'm increasingly finding Kathleen Parker's column to be a waste of space.

Won the lottery again

Of the two shows I saw this weekend that included impromptu audience interaction, I was pulled in to participate in the one where the cast members took audience members by the hand and danced with them, rather than the one where cast members stripped down to their thongs and gave audience members lap dances. The woman sitting right next to me at the latter won the other lottery.

Sunday afternoon roundup

Holy crap the ISI overstepped.

Bet the Pope and Rupert Murdoch never thought they'd be subject to an unhappy comparison.

Some people are woefully ignorant.

Mark Bittman offers a no-brainer food policy fix.

The Post reviews a book on living with childhood food allergies.

I found "Clybourne Park" disappointing--I really don't see what that Pulitzer was about. I mean, it's funny enough, it's pretty good... but there's something missing. It's great that it seeks to bring out issues of race and gentrification, but seeks is the key word. It's not a particularly insightful or deep conversation.

I thought all that last night, and then, this morning, even before I read Peter Marks' suggestion for Kennedy Center Honors, I thought, Tom Stoppard would have pulled it off. He would have written a play that made us constantly think and question our assumptions and conclusions. I know that's not really fair, and I'm the last one to hold every playwright up to the standard of Tom Stoppard. I'm just saying, there's an innovative way to do a problem play and a blah way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Life imitates art, or at least "The Fifth Element."

I don't entirely understand what the fuss is about over men on the Hill still wearing suits. If you get a good, natural-fabric suit, it's going to keep you cooler than khakis anyway. Do they expect people to go to work in shorts?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday evening roundup

Tom Laskawy takes on Scientific American's anti-organic article.

I was reading this fascinating article about the lottery on the platform at McPherson Square when I won a different kind of lottery and stepped into what turned out to be a non-air-conditioned car. I tried to switch at the next stop, but the next car over wasn't open, so I went back for more another twenty minutes of sweltering fun.

Courtesy of Grist, some tips for staying cool.

As my two regular readers know, I'm not one to turn things into vegetarian vs. meat-eater, much less over someone who's trying, but my gut reaction when someone says that vegetarian food isn't as good is that that person is an idiot. I guess he's talking specifically about vegetarian restaurants and I rarely go to restaurants, much less vegetarian ones. So I can't speak to how hard it would be for someone with a serious restaurant habit to become a vegetarian. In fact, I'll give him that, because when I travel for work, I find veggie options very limiting. But it's not because they're not possible--it's because most chefs don't care enough to create good veggie options. Which is silly, because there are enough of us out there to make a difference, business-wise. I won't touch the cupcake thing because I could give a $hit about cupcakes, but I do know that Chef Chloe's vegan cupcakes won some Cupcake Wars, and those weren't even the chocolate beer cupcakes with Irish whiskey buttercream. And I know I've made a very simple cream out of silken tofu that people couldn't believe wasn't cream.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

I'm really learning to like Mayor Bloomberg.

Nuaru: a cautionary tale.

I think this article speaks to the fact that it's not a parent vs. non-parent thing; it's a civility thing. There was a screaming baby on the metro the other morning--and I mean screaming--and the parents were doing nothing. Not picking it up, nothing. Who the f* cares about the other riders?

WTF? These were the ads in my Gmail just now:
Psychic Love Spell Voodoo: Powerful Spells Returns Lovers 100% Psychic Miracle Worker
Save More on Electronics-Best Place to Buy Online
100% Remove Evil Spells: Expert Indian Vedic Rituals Remove All Sort of Curses & Black Magic.
Ashra's Love Spells: Real Spells with Powerful Results Best Spell Casting Service Award

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

F*ed up Wednesday evening roundup

This is so tragic on multiple levels.

If you think our national discourse over sexual assault is f*ed up, note that f*ed up is relative.

Wednesday morning roundup

Tea Partiers are fine with billions in federal spending when it goes to their districts.

Shanghai is kind of warming up to donuts. Take out the pork part, and I'd be all over seaweed donuts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Sigh. This expose on organic myths is skewed, even if it's factual. One thing it doesn't mention, of concern to the meat eaters out there, is that organic livestock can't be treated with antibiotics. Which isn't irrelevant. The "more nutritious" issue has been debunked (British study narrowly defined "nutritious"), and the productivity issue isn't quite right. Besides, is the issue productivity or access? The world produces a lot of food. Food waste aside, production capacity isn't, in and of itself, going to get it to people in need, so arguing that however millions more would be starving is, simply put, bull$hit.

A meat-loving Grist writer goes veg for a week.

Have I mentioned how much I admire this man?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday morning roundup

In India, uber-transparency can be boring.

How far News Corp. had gone.

How cool would a third party be?

A new, empirical book about human desire.

If you're in the area, go see Pandora. It's f*ing hilarious.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Response to comment

I could have sworn I just saw a recipe for vegan key lime pie--I'm looking for it. PCRM did just send out a recipe for vegan mango-lime sorbet.
In any case, I'd imagine it would involve silken tofu and key lime juice. I don't know if you squeeze your own key limes, but it's a huge pain in the ass.

I'd highly recommend anything by Isa Chandra, but here's another one with fewer ingredients. I found a couple on EHow and Food.com, but they involve a lot of crazy processed $hit.

Also, I wouldn't be too concerned about corn on the cob. It's the corn that makes it into animal feed, rather than sweet corn, that's highly engineered. Mind you, even organic sweet corn has clearly been genetically selected; the corn that once grew in this country was much more colorful and diverse.

Thank you, though, for getting my point and emphatically supporting it. I'm just so done. There was a point many years ago where I'd accepted as a part of life that I was going to have to field stupid questions and comments from people and I let it go, but now I'm more frustrated because of the double standard: if I say anything to them (why do you put that $hit in your mouth), I'm dismissed as a crazy, ranting vegan trying to impose my lifestyle on people, but they can drive me up the wall without that risk.

It's one thing when mom does it, because I get it. She has no sense of relativity, i.e. that people can do their own thing without believing that that's the only way or the best way, is a foreign concept to her. Mom automatically translates the act of [someone else] doing something with the act of [that person's] thinking everyone must do it. If I don't have cocktail sauce in my house, she reads that as my trying to convince her that she should never have cocktail sauce.

Ever since I was a teenager, my parents friends who would come over to dinner would say something like "isn't it tempting?" or "just have a little piece," and it was more annoying than anything else. I kind of expect my parents' friends to be annoying.

And I learned to expect RM to be annoying (specifically, but not exclusively, about food). Remember when he suggested I was on an eating plan? I tried to get out of going to dinner with him, so I said I'd just bought a bunch of fresh food and wanted to use it. So he said, "right, you want to stick with your eating plan." And I was speechless--I mean, of course, if you've never shopped for fresh food in your life or made your own meal, you'd equate any meal planning with a strict eating plan that must be adhered to. So there's clearly a case of people's own food habits informing how they interpret others' food habits. And, as we've established, we can just expect RM to be annoying.

But I don't expect my own friends to be annoying, at least not in that way. I'm frustrated in the same way I was frustrated when my parents drove down for my grad school graduation. I told them to take everything out of the car--I was living in Shaw at the time, and my roommates' cars were broken into regularly for a few visible coins or a candy bar. Mind you my parents were staying in a hotel in Foggy Bottom, but all of DC is just a good place to have nothing in your car. If you have visible stuff in your car, your car gives the impression that there might be more stuff somewhere in your car, some of it of value. So I was annoyed to find that my parents didn't take everything out of their car overnight, and surprised that they said, "but we did take everything out of the car!" Really? What about that pillow? What about those quarters? What about... [and so on]." But it was like they were so used to all that clutter that it didn't register to them as stuff. Even though I'd explained deliberately and in plain English that by nothing I meant nothing, my parents were so stuck in their paradigm of 'but that stuff is nothing' that they couldn't register what I was saying. Similarly, my friend is stuck in various paradigms, and even though I sat down with her and made it clear that she really, really needed to avoid added sugar altogether, and that once she did so for a few weeks she would no longer want it, she's still not there. And if she's not willing to consistently do what she needs to do to improve her health, she's going to react to seeing me doing what I do for whatever reason as obsessive dieting. I'm exaggerating a bit, but I think that's what it comes down to. It's the same basis that drives mom's behavior, only more subtle.

Sunday morning ramble

Speaking of China, kind of, the Dalai Lama was here for a while, and you could see people in red robes and sandals all over (ironically) Chinatown. Ironically, only because that's where the Verizon Center is. I bring this up only because a family friend, who once forwarded cheesy Dalai Lama inspirational quotes now, having lived with a Chinese roommate, has turned 180 degrees against him. That's too strong a statement--she was never necessarily for him, just never gave the manner much thought. And my standards for forwarding anything have always entailed giving the matter thought.

I say this in a broader exploration of the concept of family friends--and by extension, the concept of family. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty careful about who I let into my life, for better or for worse, and--not immature political opinions in and of themselves but the propensity to broadcast them--is a huge deterrent for me. Does that have a narrowing effect on my interpersonal circle? I'm certainly glad this family friend (who is not, by the way, Russian) is in my life. But I wouldn't have thought to bring her in myself; she wouldn't have made it past my filters.

Hers was the first birthday this weekend of which I joined in the celebration. As with family, I found myself in the tiresome position of defending my food choices, and, unlike with my mother, it caught me off guard because I really thought she got it. I mean, I went to see her in the hospital a few months ago and, when she got out, explained some nutritional basics (because it's not like the hospital could have set up a meeting with a nutritionist before discharging her??). I gave her my detox book, and she really got how toxic sugar was. So then why does she argue with me when I turn down a drink she got whose first ingredient (after water) is added sugar. But it's organic! It doesn't matter. But just have a little bit. I don't want to. There's no point.

This all unnerved me--by 'all,' I mean there was another argument about a cheesy spinach artichoke dip ('but just have a little bit!' followed by 'fine, well, if your diet is that strict.'). It unnerved me because I thought she got it, and, being obese, she needs to get it. It being, it's not about 'have a little bit as a treat.' It's not like I'm not going to have a little bit because I'm afraid that I'll gain ten pounds overnight. The issue here is (besides her still not knowing how to read ingredient labels and look out for what's important) seeing my "diet" as some sort of restrictive thing from which it's nice to occasionally take a break. I want her to understand that once you get used to eating well, you don't *want* the things that make you feel icky, and added sugar and dairy make me feel icky.

And my "diet" is not that strict (and by this I don't mean just that I find plenty of vegan food to eat and it's amazing, so much better than the crap that people buy). I "cheat" when I need to (and by "need," I mean what I said about India--it wasn't like, "yay, an excuse to eat dairy;" it was more, "I guess I'd better eat dairy."). And last night I had a mini pumpkin muffin--at another birthday celebration--because I hadn't eaten in many hours and while they had lovely fruit and vegetable trays, even I can't go on fruit and vegetables alone. I don't feel guilty about it, and I'll even admit that it was tasty, but I'm telling you about it just to say that I'm committed to veganism but not obsessed by it. I don't care about one-off excursions (but I do not seek them out). But I keep coming back to this: I'm sick of being put in a position to justify what I choose (not) to eat. And I'm not going to take how-to-eat advice from someone who's obese.

***
Last night's birthday celebration started with going to see Harry Potter. I'm not here to tell you it was really good, even though it was, but I did want to impart some observations about cinema in general.

I spend a lot of time in theaters and much less time in movie theaters, so when I sat down in the seat, my gut reaction was, "holy $hit! this is comfortable!" Then, once people started engaging in the same antics they do in theaters, only on a greater scale, it hit me that those antics are actually acceptable in the movie theater: it's not bad form to crinkle candy wrappers (although it is equally annoying). And the guy sitting next to me--a friend of my friend--couldn't get through the two-hour movie without opening his phone, the light from which was distracting.

Afterward, we retreated to the HP-themed party. I didn't know anyone but my friend, and people were very nice, but they also all, overwhelmingly, belonged to the same church and knew each other, so I decided not to engage that many people in conversations, and instead to wait to have my palm read by Prof. Trewlawny. And let me tell you, she was amazing. She totally read me. I tell you all this because she picked up--from my palm--my introversion (need for alone time, etc.), but she was spot on about a number of other things that she just couldn't have guessed or interpreted from looking at me. It was wild.

Sunday morning roundup: governance edition

There's been much progress in Central America, but the northern half especially has taken some significant steps back.

It's a press-filled morning for governments attempting to strike a balance, for better or for worse. See Tajikistan, Egypt, and China. The last one is particularly interesting because it touches on the power of art, and the importance of relevance to art.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ramble and response to comment

Yes, that double standard persists: I doubt men get told to talk less or not monopolize. Did I post the Sheryl Sandberg profile, which discusses the trade-off women face between effectiveness and likeability? I've essentially been told by a male manager (not at my current job) that it's best not to show too much knowledge or skill. Now, I'm the first to say that it's not a good idea for anyone, male or female, to be all up in your coworkers' faces with knowledge and skill, except by virtue of leveraging it to do your job, but I wonder whether anyone's ever told a guy to tone it down, it being the appearance of competence.

Here's the other thing that really, really pisses me off, and it's been simmering ever since "Bridesmaids" opened. And I just read it in the program of "Shrewing of the Tamed," which is part of Capital Fringe: Can women be as funny as men? Are you f*ing kidding me? Why would anyone even ask that?

Saturday morning ramble

I'm going to draw us back into the introvert debate to reassert that introversion isn't synonymous with social ineptitude or awkwardness, and extroversion doesn't guarantee social aptitude. We don't need to bring my least favorite roommate into the argument: the argument itself tells us that extroverts are somewhat oblivious to external signals; they just plow on, paying no mind to what other people might be thinking. How is that social aptitude?

I bring this up because yesterday I considered gouging my eyes out. I was in the lobby of our building, waiting for some people so we could all wait for other people to show them to a spot in the building. So this guy and I were the only ones who were on time, and from the first second, he talked, and talked, and talked. Never mind that I was offering little encouragement (I'm very practiced at sending 'stop talking' signals, but they're lost on most extroverts). I was avoiding eye contact and offering very curt responses. But he kept talking.

And the lack of social skill evidenced itself not only in the quantity of the words coming out of this dude's mouth, but in the appropriateness. Here's the first rule of small talk: if you insist on spewing it, keep it light. You don't talk about budget cuts--much less in the lobby of your building--and you certainly don't talk lightly about how if you were some other people, you would be worried. I mean, in recent days, we've all been quietly expressing dismay at the potential budget cuts, as well as compassion in terms of job insecurity. What you don't do is go on and on and on about it flippantly.

Finally, the others got there. And this guy just. kept. talking. The others were pretty annoyed to. Thankfully, he was the first one to go show someone to the room in question, at which point we all took a deep breath. My friend was more frustrated by the volume, but I commented on the tackiness, and to my surprise, she sort-of defended him: he's young. Most of the people we work with are not young. There is one, smallish department that recruits people right out of college (recruited, I should say; not a lot of recruitment going on right now), and the rest of us have little contact with them. My friend made a very good point: how clueless were we, just out of college.

Which is a good point; I'll give her that (even though I know much less annoying people right out of college).

Back to the point, though: extroversion, in and of itself, doesn't translate to social aptitude.

Saturday morning roundup and response to comment

I guess when USDA shows itself beholden to industry, food safety depends on other industry taking action.

Survivors of the Whitey era speak.

The oceans are sending out distress signals of their own.

Women are underrepresented in think tanks.

This is better in concept than execution, but I'm posting it in the spirit of Harry Potter mania.

***
Yeah, I think we may be talking about the same person. I truly wonder how people with a strong literary sensibility can stand to listen to her.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quick Friday morning roundup

Eastern Europeans discover an ironic form of protest.

I have a question for anyone reading this who is both conservative and literate. I have a good friend who is both, but I lack the anatomy to ask her the following question directly: how on earth can you stand the way Sarah Palin talks? Do you not ask yourself how she can manage to torture every single sentence?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day roundup

Bill Keller doesn't know why anyone writes books.

I agree--in this day and age, applying single-issue doctrines to a president is silly.

David McCullough reminds us of some of what ties us to France.

Funny--"Harry Potter" is one of the few pop culture phenomena that I've opted into ("Mad Men" is another). But I never got into "Star Trek" (never saw an episode or movie), never read a "Twilight" book, and haven't yet got into the Larsen series--though I might once I've read everything else I want to read (that does not hold for "Twilight").

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday morning roundup

Businesses are sleeping in the beds they made before the elections.

Do non-expert opinions on global warming count for anything?

I had no idea that Zawi Hawass had a clothing line.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More from last night's phone call

I do not, as you know, feel the need to broadcast my veganism, much less spend money to broadcast my veganism, but some of these are hilarious and a propos, particularly this button and this decal. On that note, when I talked to mom last night, she again demonstrated her refusal to let it go.

Mom: What did you do today? Was it hot?
A.: It was hot...
Mom: And you don't have anywhere to swim, do you?
A.: No.
Mom: So, what did you do?
A.: I went on a bike ride in the morning before it got hot, then I cleaned some, then went to see a play, then made some food.
Mom: What did you make?
A.: I just made some baba ganoush...
Mom: What's that?
A.: It's like hummus except you use roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas. But the other ingredients are the same--lemon, tahini, salt. Oh, except you don't add oil because the eggplant is soft enough.
Mom: What are you gonna eat when you're done eating that?
A.: Um, I don't know. I'll figure it out next week.
Mom: Sounds like pain.
A.: It was very quick to make.
Mom: I understand that you have to make these complicated things, because otherwise, with your restrictions, you'd get bored if you don't mix it up.
A.: I think everyone gets bored if you don't mix it up.
Mom: Just keep telling yourself that.

Monday evening roundup

I don't usually link to coverage of kidnap stories, as the coverage is often sensationalistic and the stories are broadly covered, but I found this interview summary very inspiring.

Also inspiring: Philip Gourevitch's piece on cycling in Rwanda.

Also do check out the profile of Sheryl Sandberg and let me know whether you think women must choose between assertiveness and likeability.

For those people concerned that gay marriage might grease the slope to animal marriage, please note that the former is not a prerequisite for the latter.

You've heard me rant about having to drive to the suburbs for Asian ingredients, even though I work in Chinatown. Well, many others are bemoaning Chinatown's devolution into Chinablock, and now, China corner.

Quick Monday morning roundup

For doctors, social aptitude is a technical skill.

Wordsmithing the President's clean energy rhetoric.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Phone call that hit it all

Dad: It's gonna be 101 degrees in DC on Wednesday. I saw it on the weather channel.
Mom: Don't bike that day, okay?
A.: Okay.
Mom: You need a TV. Why don't you have a TV? There's so much good information. Recently they were talking about how good coffee is for you. Where do you stand on coffee?
Dad: She drinks coffee. Let it go.
Mom: Oh, I talked to Olga this morning. She's still raving about how great you looked when we skyped last week. But I have to tell you, you have gained weight.

Sunday afternoon roundup

The marriage pledge loses a paragraph that "may be misconstrued."

I'll watch black movies. In fact, I was hooked on Soul Food when my roommates got me watching it. But I probably wouldn't have stopped on it on my own.

Does 'the other woman' deserve more blame when a man cheats?

What? The food industry doesn't have its customers' best nutritional interests in mind?

Not sure I agree with these results for best supermarket hummus.

Check out three books on water.

There are some great articles in the Post's Outlook section, but the Post doesn't want me to find them to share them with you. Which is why I roll my eyes at the idea of paying for access to its website. And the ads are ridiculous--there are so many of them, and they're so big, that any page takes forever to load. They really get in the way of reading content (if you can find it). So if you're going to threaten to start charging for web access, clean up your f*ing website.

Sunday morning roundup

You needn't read this somewhat convoluted, but valid, column about measuring hunger in its entirety. Points is, hunger still plagues millions too many, even though measuring it by people getting less than 2100 calories is, indeed, inane.

Oh, Rand Paul. By the way, here's a question, though not the most important one, for anti-choice protesters: do you people have jobs? Do you have better things to do than harass people?

The tactics of British tabloids have always been impressively, shockingly offensive. By the way, I've never understood this aspect of French politics: "Sexual activity among male politicians, indeed, is still seen as a sign of vigor rather than a cause for moral concern." Since when does being able to get it up signal fitness for public service?

Erica Jong is concerned about the end of sex. This is a good day for the Brontes; they make it into three columns in the Times, Kristof's and Dowd's being the other two (you needn't read either of those, either).

What you should read is this exploration of the dissonance between thought and action, explored by way of "Hamlet."

I'm pretty much off seafood now, but I'd eat an invasive species.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday morning roundup and response to comment

This Marriage Vow pledge business makes my head hurt for more than just the obvious reason.

Assateague's horses are getting out of control.

I'm never disappointed when understudies take the stage. Though maybe if I'd gotten tickets to last year's 'Streetcar' with Cate Blanchett, and someone had taken her place, I'd feel differently on the matter.

Attention DC tourists: please read these helpful hints from Vicky Hallett. Also, no grooming your leg hair on the metro, please.

I love Manolo, the shoe blogger.

Yeah, the Smith Alum Quarterly regularly advertises $10k trips to Nepal (or even Italy) and really overpriced rental properties. But this was just a local listserv. I know rents are high, but they're not that high. It's not my place to tell other people what to do with their money, but if you have over $3k a month to spend on housing, wouldn't you rather buy?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday evening roundup and quick ramble

Interesting piece about naming colors (goes well with the earlier piece on paint colors, none of which is 'pond scum').

Jail-time for gardening is f*ed up.

It's amazing the stupid things people will put in writing.

Then again--you all can thank heaven that I don't tweet--I got bored waiting at a light and found myself so admiring my (unfortunately non-vegan) toe cleavage that I decided to take a picture and share it with you, against my better judgment.

In other rambles, I got an e-mail from the local Smith alum listserv advertising an apartment for rent--a two-bedroom with just over 1k square feet--for over $3,000 a month. Really? That's significantly more than my monthly payment (on a 15-year mortgage, for a four-bedroom house, plus property taxes). I mean, the condo was nice but not that nice. You really think who can afford to pay that wouldn't rather buy? I'm just asking.

Washingtonians love their flextime

I've said before that one of the perks I most appreciate at work is the flexible schedule. Apparently, I'm not alone. Another thing I love about my job is that face time isn't important. Unlike those in the article, though, I do tend to work on Fridays. Partly because the office is relatively quiet, it's a great time to catch up on stuff. Also, if I'm going to see a play in town, I may as well do it from there. I did leave an hour early yesterday to get a mani/pedi, but that's a rare occurrence, precipitated by the fact that my hands and feet were an awful mess (and also by the fact that I had a groupon-like voucher I needed to use). But nobody cared.

I'm going to take advantage of the flexible schedule to see as much of Capital Fringe as I can. My choices, in case anyone wants to join me, are as follows:

An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein

Pandora: A Tragicomic Greek Romp

PUN

Flyboy

Fat Men in Skirts

Assembly Required: Comedy A-to-Y

and maybe Pascal's Aquarium.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

If you can't be bothered to read the pork industry expose I linked to last week and again this morning, here's a very short and entirely ungraphic quick take from Mark Bittman.

There's some good stuff in this column, even if the conclusions are misguided. Here's a thought experiment: Has anyone thought to poll about whether Obama has lost the support of Jews who are also environmentalists?

What? Not all cultures register the word 'dick'?

I don't quite get this but I'm posting it because it ties into the discussion we were having about whether extroverts reap more networking advantages. Now the question is, do men, by virtue of geosocial networking?

Wednesday morning roundup

Wow. There are people out there who really believe in pray-away-the-gay.

Putting DSK's accuser in context. On that note, I don't really understand the point of Ruth Marcus's column, as is more and more the case with musings from the Post.

Mexicans are increasingly finding illegal immigration not worth it. And that's without considering the Hormel House of Horrors. Please read that, if you haven't already,

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coffee

Sometimes something's so funny that all I can do is laugh hysterically. And I can't contain myself. Dad had poured the coffee. Mom was messing with something at the sink. I raised the coffee cup half-way to my lips.

Mom: Do you drink coffee?
A.: [laughter]

I had to put the cup down.

Mom: Seriously--do you drink coffee? What about coffee?

Dad smiled. I laughed. After a few seconds, I thought it was safe to pick up the cup.

Mom: What about coffee? I'm sure coffee has some adverse effect on the animals.

I had to put the cup down.

Mom: What kind of laugh is that? I'm trying to think what animal that sounds like.

I picked up the cup.

Mom: So do you, or don't you, drink coffee?

I couldn't put the cup down in time. I laughed so hard that some of it spilled into the saucer. Dad was laughing, too.

Sunday night/Monday breakfast and quick roundup

Not only am I an introvert, I'm not a multi-tasker. And talking to someone is a task--an enjoyable task, usually, but one that requires my full attention.

In concrete terms: Not only do I not want to talk to anyone until I've read the paper--nor do I want to talk to anyone (except you) while I'm reading the paper--I shouldn't talk to anyone while I'm making breakfast. If you talk to me when I'm making oatmeal, we're going to end up with some burnt oatmeal.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I read the paper and make oatmeal in the morning, and I was trying to read a book last night. Dad was trying to read that article about Alexei Ratmansky I gave him, but was finding the language heavy, as he does with New Yorker articles. I normally don't, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I found Adam Gopnik's essay burdened with superfluously weighty language. Does good writing not entail taking any topic, new or foreign or just personal, and making it universally understandable in an effortless way? Mr. Gopnik, it seems to me, went out of his way to litter his essay with esoteric metaphors. But I digress.

Dad read his article, I read my book, mom talked to herself-by talking to us. Did I pay this bill? What did I do with that thing? Do you have enough light there? What do you mean you're going to bed? It's only 10:00!

***
Earlier last night

A.: Eewwwwww! Who didn't close the herring?
Dad: What are you doing with the herring anyway?
A.: I needed to get something out of the fridge and the herring was blocking it. I barely touched it and the lid came off, and now there's nasty herring oil in the fridge.
Dad: There's not that much.
A.: When you keep something that gross and smelly around, you'd best make sure it's completely sealed.
Dad: You're a klizma.

***
Dad: Where's Jay these days?
A.: He's in Provincetown.
Mom: Ooooh--that's like... he's in heaven.
A.: It's gay-friendly for sure.

***
Last night we skyped with a family friend abroad.

Mom: She's gone completely nuts. All she eats is grass.
A.: Mom's exaggerating a little.
Mom: She's veggy.
Friend: Huh?
Mom: No milk products...
Friend: What would you do with the cows? You'd have to kill the cows.
A.: Dairy cows here don't do so well.
Friend: I toured a dairy farm once. The cows were happy--they went right up to the milkers on their own.
A.: Yeah, most dairy farms aren't like that. It's not a nice industry.
Mom: She can't make me give up dairy! She's always telling me what I can and cannot do!
Dad: No she's not.
Mom: Yes she is!

***
But back to the oatmeal this morning:

Mom: What's wrong with raisins?
A.: I don't want any.
Mom: What about that other dried fruit?
A.: It has added sugar--
Mom: Oooh! God forbid! The horror!
A.: It's too bad--I'm always looking for dried cherries without added sugar. Trader Joe's carries them, but they're super-expensive.
Mom: Why not live a little?
A.: I don't like the added sugar. It makes the fruit too sweet. With that fruit, I tasted it before I read the ingredients.
Mom: Your shoulders used to be more delicate. Now they're bulky. You used to look more girlish.
(Pause)
Mom: So you can't have sour cream?
A.: Can I offer you a simple rule--one that I believe I've offered in the past. If it's not an animal product, I'll probably at least try it. If it's an animal product, I won't.

That, and I've never liked sour cream.

***
I had a dream last night that mom woke me up in the middle of the night and offered me food. I said, 'no, thank you.' She asked what was wrong with that food.

***
You know I love public transportation, but if you're going to make it work, you have to make it practical. LA is about to make it more onerous.

I should let you know that the Times has a number of commentaries on marriage. None are interesting enough to be linked here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Soup Talk

Mom: Seems like a lot of work. Lots of vegetables to cut up.
A.: There was exactly one vegetable to cut up: onions. Oh, and the celery. You chop up onion and celery on a daily basis. And I grated a carrot. Hardly an unseen event in this house.
Mom: How did you decide what to add?
A.: I looked in the fridge and saw what you had, especially for what needed to be used. I know I brought you a big bunch of collards, so I based the soup on that. And then thought black-eyed peas would go well with that and I saw some in the pantry when we went to get the chick peas for hummus.
Mom: I didn't even know we had those. I probably bought them on sale at some point.
A.: I figured.
Mom: Sounds like a lot of work.
A.: No more than any other soup, and you eat soup every day.
Mom: What else is in there?
A.: So, onion, celery, carrot, collards, black-eyed peas, salt, pepper, and soy milk to make it creamy.
Mom: The horror! But I wouldn't have guessed.
A.: That's all.
Mom: I don't think I'll make this soup.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I'm not saying it's not good.
A.: It's okay. I just made soup because you said you wanted soup, and we had vegetables. I wasn't expecting a medal.
Mom: Maybe I'll make it with cream.
A.: Suit yourself.
Mom: What about leeks?
A.: What about them?
Mom: Do you eat leeks? What's the issue with leeks.
A.: No issue with leeks.
Mom: Okay.

Sunday, pre-dinner

Dad: Should I take the olives out?
Mom: A., olives are disallowed, right?
Dad: Right.
Mom: Why are olives bad?
Dad: Because... the cows pass under the olive trees.
Mom: You really shouldn't take anything to extremes.
Dad: The cucumber is over there.
Mom: Cucumbers are forbidden as well, aren't they?

Sunday breakfast

Mom: I can't open this.
A.: Hand it over. (I open a foil packet of tea). It smells funny--what is that? It smells like fake vanilla.
Mom: It's... vanilla-green. Want some?
A.: No thanks.
Mom: I like vanilla.
A.: I like plain green. If it's quality green tea, you don't need another flavor. Though sometimes it's nice with a bit of jasmine.
Mom: Ooooh. Ooooh. Well, I like vanilla.
A.: Okay.
Mom: What's this?
A.: An apple peel.
(Mom eats the apple peel).
Mom: Ha! There--I'm poisoned!
A.: You can have this conversation with dad. I'm not the one who peeled the apple.
Dad: I peeled it because it tasted like pesticide.
Mom: So? Tastes good to me. My body can process pesticides. You have to talk to your internal organs and train them to get rid of toxins.
Dad: Well, I don't like the taste of pesticides.
A.: Either do I. Either does the soil, nor the rivers, nor the ocean. That's why there's a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mom: What does that have to do with why I can't have vanilla tea?
A.: It has to do with the apple peel.
Mom: You don't understand the power of thinking, of paradigms.
A.: I very much understand the power of paradigms.
Mom: It's all in your mind.
A.: The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is in my mind?
Mom: I believe firmly in buying what's cheapest.
A.: Well, I believe in paying another ten cents per apple for organic.
Mom: I'll keep buying what's cheaper. But I agree, pesticides should be banned.
A.: Pesticides are not going to be banned, and they're not going anywhere unless you get away from always buying what's cheapest. I don't always buy organic either, but I don't dismiss it as a load of hippie crap (like I do locavorism).
Mom: You can't make me change.
A.: Can I make you stop whining about pollution and environmental degradation, since you're not gonna put your money where your mouth is?
Mom: No.

***
A.: Mom!
Mom: What?
A.: Don't stick the serving spoon that's on your plate, touching the fish, back in the hummus!
Mom: Big deal! This was in the hummus.
A.: Than why'd you put it on your plate?
Dad: You take after me.
A.: Me?
Dad: Yeah. I believe in keeping serveware clean.
A.: Use a different spoon.
Mom: Big deal.


***
This conversation happened yesterday, too, almost exactly as it did today.

Mom: Stop furrowing your brow. You know, when you got here, your forehead was clean. Now it looks worse. (Whispering) Is it your period?
A.: No! Get off my back.
Mom: Is it?
A.: You asked me that yesterday.
Mom: Then what's wrong with your forehead?
A.: I don't really know how to answer that.
Mom: Interesting.

Sunday morning roundup

Do gun rights extend to people with a history of mental illness?

Wow, this so truly captures the spirit of India.

Frank Bruni makes a compelling case for politicians to shut up about their kids.

City living appears to .

This settles Jay's and my debate on how to spell badonkadonk.

Other Saturday stuff

Mom will drive only very short distances now, so yesterday, dad drove. Mom provided a running commentary ("you might have started braking by now," etc.). I said I'd sit upfront on the way back to give her less inspiration, but dad said that wouldn't put a dent in the commentary, and he was right. He said it ran in the family--apparently, my maternal grandmother, who never drove a day in her life, also liked to narrate other people's (read: my dad's) driving.

It wasn't hard to think about the other things that ran in my family, especially because in the course of however many hours we were out, each of us triangulated an accusation at another, using the third as the bad example.

Mom: Can you believe she tried to rip that pasta out of my hand?
Dad: Yes. She's just like you.
A: I don't understand why you're buying crappy pasta when for $1.29 you can get very tasty, not to mention whole-wheat and organic pasta, at Whole Foods.
Mom: I am set in my ways and I'll get the pasta I want.
A.: You could at least try the whole-wheat pasta. If you're not even willing to try it, you're being just like dad.

And so on.

***
For some reason, mom has felt the need to bring up RM several times, usually in the context of "I feel bad for him. He was such a nice guy, and you harassed him." I harassed him? How does that work? I thought of him for another reason, though: he, too, thought I needed saving from myself. From my loneliness in particular. And I don't just mean that he would talk to me to save me from my loneliness; he would regularly try to convince me (well, he would regularly inform me) that I was lonely. I would tell him otherwise, but he would come back with something like, "oh, good--you have plans with a friend this weekend. You won't be lonely." I couldn't get it through his head that I wasn't lonely, just like I can't convince mom that I'm not deprived. Mom's not the only one who's suggested that I'm martyring myself for veganism--a friend said she could never do it because she loved food too much--but you guys know how much I love food. It's not like I'm drooling over the eggs and dairy on my parents' plates, wishing I could have some. I really, truly want none of it.

***
Last night, as usual, mom talked to herself as she looked for something or just put things away, and as usual, she tried to involve dad and me in this conversation with herself. So I decided to go to bed so I could read without being asked whether she'd already e-mailed this friend or another. And as usual, she said, "you're going to bed? It's only ten o' clock," and, like the night before, shook her head in disbelief that I'd go to bed so early. It couldn't have been disbelief, because she knows-she's always commented--on my going to bed 'so early.' But like the way I eat--not just what I eat writ large, but what I eat at any given moment--and how I walk, and how dad drives, and about everything else, mom doesn't get why it's not just done the way she'd do it. To what extend do you think everyone thinks that but only some people express it? Not that much, right? I mean, I know I don't give much thought to how other people should do basic things.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday dinner

I was making soup and dad was setting the table. He offered me a piece of the banana he'd opened, and I took it. Mom came in from her nap and saw the remaining half-banana on the table.

Mom: What's your issue with bananas?
A.: What is my issue with bananas?
Mom: I don't know. I'm asking.

Mom took some sides out of the fridge, including grated beet with mayo.

Mom: Are you gonna have beets?
A.: No.
Mom: Why not? What's wrong with beets?
A.: Nothing.
Mom: Then what?
A.: I don't eat mayo.

(Pause)

Mom: There's an old story about a man who used to be a drunk. When he was drunk, he was always falling over backward. So he decided to get sober, which he did by finding religion. So then he would pray, falling over forward. All this to say, you shouldn't fall to far in any direction. I'm telling you this because it applies to you.
A.: How?
Mom: Like I said: you shouldn't fall forward or backward by bending too far in any direction.
A.: This has what to do with me?
Mom: You can't have a beet salad just because there's a little bit of mayo. You're falling over forward.
A.: Okay, first of all, I've never really liked mayo...
Mom: A bit of mayo, and you can't have it. You can't have the beets or the walnuts, just because of the mayo.
A.: The issue isn't can't.
Mom: That's just it! If you didn't read and you didn't know, you'd be eating the beet salad.
A.: I'd be living a very different life in a lot of ways if I "didn't read and didn't know."
Dad: That's a good point.

Response to comment and ramble

Sorry--I may have confused things by talking about jokes. The rhubarb joke isn't a joke. It's just a statement. My friend's mother lives in a small town where people grow so much rhubarb that they give it away, sometimes by sticking it in unlocked cars. I just thought that was cute. As I said, where I live, other things are done to people's cars. I just thing it's great that there are places in this world where people unburden themselves of excess rhubarb by placing it in people's cars. That's all.

The reason I introduced it on this blog in the context of a joke is that my mom's reaction to it was the same as her reaction to a joke: she asks irrelevant questions, to the point that a one- or two-line anecdote becomes hardly worth it.

***
I was hoping we'd leave the house pretty early, but it's been one thing after another. So when I realized we wouldn't be leaving the house, I went outside to read. But I couldn't really read, because mom started talking to me instead of finishing up whatever she was doing. I didn't mind; I like it when mom talks to me--not to be confused with "when mom talks to herself and expects me to pay attention." That's annoying. But when she's actually communicating, rather than asking herself where she stuck the phone bill, and saying "well?" when I don't answer, it's all good.

She told me a story that reminded me of another friend's story. Except mom stopped mid-story to ask what was wrong with my forehead. At which point I told her to finish whatever she was doing to get on our walk. But she started talking about going around to very poor villages in Russia--she was traveling as part of her job--and peasants--dirt-poor people with nothing to their name--would come out and offer her whatever they had, whether it be cucumbers or a head of cabbage. I've seen the same thing in Central America, heard other stories of it as well. Someone I met while traveling in Nicaragua said she'd been in El Salvador, where someone had offered her her chicken.

I thought about a friend of mine who, in grad school, was recruited by a friend of hers to work a suicide hotline. The friend who recruited her went to India for a few months, came back, worked the hotline again. And soon quit because she couldn't take it. Having been to India--having seen people who have practically nothing and still manage to be happy with what they have--she couldn't stand to listen to people contemplate taking their own lives because of a repossessed car.

I'm not romanticizing poverty or generalizing about motives for suicide--just relaying my friend's friend's experience. Those people in India who had nothing might have hit a wall when that nothing limited their options for medical treatment, or they might, by now, have moved to the city and become more miserable from factory work. And people think about killing themselves over more (and less, and different) than a repo'd car. And people also don't think about killing themselves about more than a repo'd car.

I don't really know what I am saying, except that I've seen people who have every reason to be miserable, happy, and every reason to be happy, miserable.

Saturday breakfast

Dad: We're out of peppers.
A.: Why don't you use some of the [farm share greens that I'd brought] in your eggs?
Dad: That might be interesting.

I took out a few collard leaves and tore them up for him.

Dad: How many eggs do you want?
A.: I'm not having eggs.
Dad: Oh, yeah.
Mom: Chickens work so hard. Why not eat eggs?
A.: I stopped eating eggs before I stopped eating dairy. It's almost impossible to have humane eggs unless you raise your own chickens.

That said, I'd sooner 'cheat' with eggs than with dairy, but I tend to cheat when I'm traveling (business or otherwise) and my choices are limited. I could have cheated this morning, I suppose, but I'm at the point where I don't want eggs. I suppose if I came across humane ones I could talk myself into wanting them again.

There is so much stuff in my parents' fridge that, more often than not, to get to what you need, you need to take out 3-5 things that are blocking it. So it happened that the olives were out, and dad offered me one before returning them to the fridge.

Dad: Can I pass you an olive?
A.: No, thanks.
Mom: Why not? Why not an olive?

Mom, who's never been good at keeping track of what's hers, accidentally took a swig of my soy milk. The surprise wasn't a pleasant one (which surprises me, since she mistook it for her buttermilk).

Dad: You could have--oh, I was going to offer you some of my eggs if you were still hungry, but they're infused by now with the bacon.
Mom: So! Who cares. Bacon will only improve the taste.
Dad: Your mom doesn't appreciate the rules of Kosherness. That's when her non-Jewish side comes through.

***
Earlier this morning

Dad: I'd started to read the article you gave me, but your mom started asking me to help her with the computer. She couldn't find the letter "c" on the keyboard.
A.: I don't think it's her memory. She's always pulled stuff like that.
Dad: I don't know. She's been very forgetful.
A.: She's always been very forgetful. Maybe I'm in denial.
Dad: Maybe I'm reading too much into these things.
A.: I think she's fundamentally not detail-oriented and that she often doesn't pay attention, and that's what's been exacerbated with the tiredness.
Dad: You could be right.

Saturday morning roundup

It's too early in the morning to deal with the rhetoric and other crap surrounding the flotilla.

The Metro escalator situation is so bad that it the Times is covering it.

Credibility is a factor but not the only factor.

Friday, July 1, 2011

No joke

I don't tell jokes in front of mom, because we get stuck at the first line with 'why' questions. Example:

A.: A man walked into a bar.
Mom: What man?
A.: A man.
Mom: Why'd he walk into the bar?
A.: It doesn't matter, mom.
Mom: It matters to me! I can't understand the joke without context.

But what I told over dinner wasn't a joke; it was just a story, not even. I thought of it because we were talking about things (i.e. edible plants) growing out of control.

A.: My friend was telling me that where her mom lives, in a small town in Minnesota, you never leave your car doors unlocked when you go to church. Otherwise, you come back and your car's full of rhubarb.
Mom: What? Why?
A.: Because there's so much rhubarb growing--
Mom: It grows right into the car?
A.: Um, no.
Dad: People give it away. People who grow it stick it in your car.
Mom: Their town doesn't pick up brush?
Dad: People don't want to waste it. They want to give it away to people who might use it.
Mom: I don't get it.

This went on for another round of explanation. Mom 'got it,' but still didn't get it. I.e. I just thought it was cute--it's not like in DC or Boston, 'don't forget to lock your car' is generally followed by 'or else it'll be full of rhubarb when you get back.' But once you have to over-explain it (to an engineer), it kind of loses its charm. Dad's an engineer, too, but he's less of an engineer in that way.

That was close

I was concerned hell had frozen over. I thought I was going to disappoint you--I know how much you enjoy the fat talk, and I had none to offer. In fact, mom had gone as far as to say, "you do, indeed, look good." Thankfully, dinner came along.

Dad: There's not enough salt here.
A.: There's never enough salt as far as you're concerned.
Mom: It's true. You don't even try anything, you just salt it.
A.: He suggested I put soy sauce in the salad! Can you believe that?
Dad: Would've been better than all this vinegar.
Mom: So, you're not allowed sour cream, you're not allowed cream cheese.
A.: I wouldn't say 'not allowed.' I just don't eat it.
Mom: Because you're not allowed.
A.: Because I choose not to eat that.
Mom: Because you have different ideas, which preclude you from eating it. So you're not allowed.
A.: However you want to think of it, mom.
Mom: So then what? They'll just kill the cows.
A.: They kill the cows anyway. And their calves.
Dad: They'll set them free, so they'll roam the streets the way they do in Delhi.
Mom: Well, your skin is definitely better since you've gone veggie. I've always had good skin, but you didn't always have good skin. (Pause) You've gotten very muscly, too. (Pause) I think women should be... delicate, gentle, thin. I was always thin at your age.
A.: [Shrug]

Friday morning walk

But first, something I omitted last night. This was part of the pre-afternoon snack conversation.

Mom: But you'll eat fish.
A.: I prefer not to, but I will.
Mom: Do you want some herring.
A.: No.
Mom: Why not?
Dad: A.'s always loved herring. Don't you know it's her favorite food.
Mom: But you said you eat fish.
A.: That doesn't mean I'll eat herring.
Mom: This is exceptionally good herring.
A.: There is no herring, as far as I'm concerned, that is so good as to make it minimally palatable.
Mom: Just try it.
A.: No.

***
Thirty seconds ago

Mom: You should have put raisins in your oatmeal.
A.: I did.
Mom: What, my dear, is your problem with raisins?
A.: I have no problem with raisins.
Mom: Oh, the things we have and you don't! Christmas Tree Shops we have, and you don't. Ocean State Job Lot we have, and you don't. What else?

***
Earlier this morning, we finally made it out of the house for a walk. I'd played around with the dumbbells while I waited for mom, so I was feeling a little tired and I wasn't sure whether I'd run or walk. Our usual drill is, I run and catch up with mom, who walks. She's walking a bit slowly after her knee replacement, and I sort of felt like I should stay close. But I decided that I felt like running and I felt like a little bit of peace and quiet before I rejoined mom. I had a feeling her regularly scheduled rant would air, and it did a few minutes after I caught up with her.

Mom: These [Old Russian lady] welfare queens! Elderly people who've lived here their whole lives, worked here, don't get those stipends or housing allowances.
A.: Mom, you rant about this every time.
Mom: Because walking by their apartments reminds me of it and makes me furious. It's so unfair. Their children could support them, but they live off the government.
A.: Understood, but could you just let it go and enjoy the greenery?
Mom: How does it not infuriate you? You go to the theater, you have to consider the price of the ticket. They get discounts and they use their stipends for that.
A.: Well, I'm glad theaters have a demographic to count on, honestly. Second, I don't entirely know what's going on with these people and their stipends. And ultimately, I get such a comprehensive view of government waste and abuse that individual examples aren't going to rile me up. There are all sorts of groups that get handouts--usually whoever has the best lobbyists. I know it's unfair to elderly people who don't get stipends, and I'm not making light of that. But all I can really do on a macro level is shrug it off as another inefficient use of government funds--one that's a drop in the bucket to the agricultural subsidies that your buddies on Fox News were defending last night.

I shit you not. Fox was interviewing farmers saying, "what happened to patriotism? What happened to supporting the heartland?" But I digress.

A.: So I'm not disagreeing with you, but I'm asking you to let it go and enjoy the fresh air.
Mom: Don't you lecture me!
A.: I'm not. I'm asking you to at least let me enjoy the fresh air if you won't.

Later

Mom: It's so beautiful here.
A.: It really is.
Mom: There used to be more turtles but I think some of the chemicals got to them. I agree that pesticides are awful. I think they should be banned, not just for our own health but because they get into the water.
A.: That they do. Let's stop at Trader Joe's on the way home and get some organic apples. You can really taste the difference.
Mom: Okay. Your dad might complain--you know how he is about apples.
A.: Okay, I love dad. I appreciate dad more and more as I get older, but I also appreciate how irritating his stubborn side is.
Mom: I hear you. I also find that I love him more and more with time and appreciate what an amazing, purely kind person he is. But the intransigence is trying.
A.: It's like, why not try something different. Try it once and see whether it works.
Mom: No: he picked up a habit and childhood and that's the only way to go.

A.: Did you go to Michael's on his birthday?
Mom: No. First of all he was in Russia; second, I'm not talking to him.
A.: Why not?
Mom: I asked him to stop by Irina's when he was going to be in St. Petersburg to pick up some stuff for me--including an herbal medication for my eye--and he got huffy and said no, said he didn't have time. So I hung up on him. So then I started self-medicating my eye--you know how?
A.: No. Wait, yes--with pee?
Mom: Yes--with pee. And it worked wonders. My doctor was really impressed with the improvement. Of course, I didn't tell him about the pee, told him I'd used tea. He said to keep doing whatever worked. But Michael--you know how busy we are whenever we go over there, but we always have time to meet people and give them stuff from other people. I just couldn't believe his attitude.

I'm of two minds on this: on one hand, mom has a point. It's kind of encoded in Russian immigrant DNA that when you go back, you take your friends' crap to give to their friends, and bring stuff back. On the other hand, I know I've gotten snippy with my mom on more than one occasion because of the way she asks for favors. It reminds me of when I was little or not even that little, but still living with her. She's be reading the paper and making a mess of it--throwing sections on the floor. And then she'd decide there was a mess on the floor and say, "A.! Pick up the newspapers," and she meant that minute, even if I were in the middle of something else. And I'd say I'd get them when I got a chance but maybe in the meantime put them in a neat pile. You get the point. I still get snippy when mom asks me to do stuff sometimes, and usually not because of the thing itself, but because she calls at the worse possible time and then takes on a demanding tone. So I don't really know what to think of this spat, which is fine, because no one asked me.

***
We went to Trader Joe's, got some organic apples. I was looking at organic sweet potatoes.

Mom: You know, I've lived my whole life buying whatever's cheaper and I've always been fine.
A.: Mom, you just told me it's not just about our health; it's about the streams and the runoff.
Mom: Huh?
A.: It's about the environment.
Mom: Yeah, I guess it is. Let's see what they're sampling. Oooh! Are you gonna have some?
A.: No.
Mom: Why not?
A.: Because tzatzike is a dairy product.
Mom: Why don't you eat dairy? You should just eat everything.

Mom tries the tzatzike.

Mom: Mmmm, this sauce is good.
A.: Do we need anything else? Can we get going?
Mom: I'm going to look at the chocolate.
A.: You have a house full of chocolate. You have at least two five-pound bars of Trader Joe's chocolate. Why not finish that and buy the chocolate when it's fresh.
Mom: It'll be more expensive. Don't tell me what to do!

I get in line. Mom looks at the chocolate. She brings over two blocks.

A.: Milk chocolate? Why are you buying milk chocolate?
Mom: Is that milk chocolate? I didn't notice.
A.: Do you even look at what you buy? Who's going to eat that? Dad won't touch it.
Mom: I guess I will.
A.: Or you can put it back.
Mom: It'll get eaten.

***
I just got called over to participate in a Skype video call with the old country. Mom's friend raved about how good I look.

Olga: Her skin is amazing!
Mom: Her skin's gotten better since this veggie nonsense, I'll give you that.
Olga: What?
Mom: She's not even a vegetarian anymore; she's worse: she's veggie.
A.: Vegan.
Olga: What?
Mom: No animal products. Can you believe that nonsense?
Olga: Well, her skin looks great.
Mom: Her skin does look great. But she's not going to convert us. We resist.
Dad: Our skin doesn't leave room for improvement.
Mom: We're not going to go veggie.
A.: Vegan.
Mom: Whatever.

If Sisyphus were vegan trying to explain the concept to his mom...

My dad drinks buttermilk straight-up (or, even more gross, with orange juice), but who am I to judge.

Last night

Dad: Would you like some buttermilk? I find it to be the most satisfying drink.
A.: No, thanks.
Dad: That's right, you don't drink dairy. So no milk, buttermilk?
A.: I drink soymilk. I could drink almond milk, but I don't see the point.
Dad: I can't stand soymilk. It reminds me of what we had during the war.
Mom: So no ice cream?
A.: Soy ice cream.
Dad: There's been some bad press about soy.
A.: All meat industry propaganda. I was just a few hours ago talking about this with [a friend who's a doctor]. She's not at all concerned for her, but she asked her pediatrician whether it was okay for her daughter, and the pediatrician had no concerns whatsoever. Besides, you consume more soy when you eat meat than when you just have soy.

Incidentally, my friend's baby was offered meat and turned it away. These kids know what's good for them, I tell you. But I digress. The point is, Dad's approach to my veganism is something like this:

Dad: Would you like some cheese? Oh, yeah--you don't eat cheese. [End of conversation.]

Mom's approach is stuck on this:

Mom: Would you like some yogurt?
A.: No, thanks.
Mom: Why not.
A.: I don't eat dairy.
Mom: But the cows! What are you going to do with all the cows.

Rinse, repeat.

***
An hour ago

A.: Are we going on our walk?
Mom: Just a minute! I'm almost done with the yardwork.
A.: Can I help?
Mom: Oh, no. I'm done.

Five minutes ago

A.: Mom! Are we going?
Mom: I'm almost done.

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