Monday, November 30, 2009

RM update

In which RM informs me that he'll be stopping by to retrieve the rest of his belongings, as well as his security deposit.

And I inform him that I'll be out latish and had not left the deposit check out. I think:
(1) Woohooo! I won't have to interact with RM when he comes to pick up his stuff; and
(2) Just like him to inform me that he'll be coming by and just expect me to be there.

But alas, RM replied, "no hurry," and said he'd come by tomorrow or the following evening and will let me know which. He can let me know all he wants, but I'll be out tomorrow evening, too. This time I'll leave the deposit out so it doesn't keep him from stopping by.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don’t let the door slam you in the @$$ on your way out

On pg. 52 of the November 6 issue of Express is an interview with Walter Lamond, who has a blog of dos and don't for his (unborn) son: a primer on human decency. Over the last few weeks, inspired by that book/blog, as well as the Times piece on restaurant staff dos and don'ts, I developed a guide to roommate dos and don't. It's mostly based on my experience over the last six months, but a couple of issues inspired by other roommates have made it in there.

Respect my boundaries and my privacy. Don’t come into either of my rooms without knocking, and if you knock and hear me say ‘yes,’ do not sit down and make yourself comfortable.

Outside of my rooms, make yourself at home, since you are. Don’t ask me if you can use the Tupperware—that’s what it’s there for. But don’t make yourself so at home that you feel free to zip up your pants as you’re leaving the bathroom rather than before (I’d put this in the creepy category, but lots of guys do this). Along those lines, keep your door closed when you’re getting dressed, even if you’re just zipping up.

Don’t be nosy or even vocal about my personal habits. I don’t constantly want to field comments about how I eat healthily. Nor do I want to hear my roommate (this was a different roommate) say, “I’d never guess how smart you guys are based on the crap you watch on tv.” I don’t make comments about your eating habits (if you don’t have something nice to say…). Along those lines, since you don’t cook, my being organized about the food I buy, cook and eat may seem like an “eating plan” to you, but it’s kind of what I have to do so my food doesn’t go bad.

No need to be overly effusive when offered food. Also, no need to accept food you have no interest in consuming. I won’t take it personally; I will, however, be disgusted at the sight of half a cookie with a bite mark in it on a plate on the dining room table.

My presence in the house does not indicate a willingness to spend the evening with you.
Our relationship is one of business, not affection; the basic assumption is that the person you live with will want to spend time at home without your being a part of her evening.

Be attentive to signals. The most obvious is whether or not your roommate wants to talk (hint: one-word responses mean that person doesn’t want to talk). That extends to content: if, every time you’ve asked your roommate what she did at work that day, she’s said something like “nothing interesting,” and every time you’ve asked her, in the morning, what she has planned at work that day, she says, “I’m enjoying not thinking about it until I get there,” that might be a sign that she doesn’t want to talk about work.

If you do want some of your roommate’s time, make sure you get the roommate’s say on the matter. Don’t just hijack them while they’re in the middle of something, and then act hurt when they prefer to go on with what they were doing.

Don’t make your guests my problem in any way, i.e. if you’re going to disappear to get your things together before going out, don’t leave the guest downstairs to make (painful) small talk with me.

When I have guests, don’t annoy them. Don’t interrogate them. Don’t do the peacock show-off thing. They don’t care what a long day you’ve worked or with which celebrities you’ve crossed paths. Nor do they want to hear your commentary on whatever we’re watching on tv. In fact, guests or no guests, I don’t want to hear your commentary on whatever I’m watching. Or on the conversation I’m having, since I no longer watch tv in your presence.

Another thing not to be: creepy. Don’t stare. Don’t touch your roommate’s feet (don’t touch your roommate, period). And don’t stock your cabinets and your side of the fridge with foods you never would have bought in your life, just because you see that your roommate has them. Don’t read notes I’ve left for myself. They’re not private, or I’d not have left them in the common areas, but it’s just creepy to deliberately take the time to read something that’s clearly not meant for you.

Don’t be manipulative. Don’t go sit elsewhere in the same room and whimper. Don’t slam doors or pout. If you can help it, don't be a moron.

Don’t give gifts regularly. Sure, Kevin and I would bring one another stuff from travels, particularly when those travels entailed caring for the other roommate’s cat. But frequent, ‘just because’ gifts are just creepy (especially when you say, “this is because I came home late”—remember, we are not friends). If a gift is in order, opt for an appropriate one (Kevin and I would opt for tea, Trader Joe’s gift cards, etc.). Pearl earrings-not appropriate. Immitations of things I have around the house-not appropriate.

Also regarding “don’t slam doors or pout”: your roommate welcomes your constructive feedback. If she’s doing something that bothers you (apart from rejecting your overtures of friendship), by all means, tell her. But pick a good time—and this goes the same for any conversation you want to have with your roommate. Don’t just blindside her and start talking.

On the flipside of that, don’t take feedback personally (and then go on to overcompensate—see below). Asking you to clean out the crumb tray is not a personal insult. Similarly, if I thank you for cleaning, I’m not saying I’ve now seen the light and do want to be your best friend after all.

Pay rent, on time. If you’re going to forget and pay rent late, upon being reminded, don’t forget five months in a row. After the first two forgettings, you may want to start leaving notes for yourself in your planner.

Rent’s not the only thing your roommate shouldn’t have to remind you about more than once. So you didn’t know how to recycle—fine. But once your roommate asked you several times to recycle, do it. Same with disposing of anything with traces of food on it into the covered trash. And so on. Don’t make your roommate repeat herself to the point where she decides that your skull is so impermeable that taking stuff out of the trash is less work than asking you again.

Do apologize; don’t overcompensate. Neither of us is a perfect being, and both of us do things that inconvenience the other. If you for got to pay the rent, or left the cat out, say you’re sorry and move on. Don’t make excuses or try to convince me it didn’t happen. Don’t look around for gratuitous services to do. Picking up my laundry, when I’ve set it down to get the hand towel from the bathroom, and taking it downstairs is just going to annoy me, and certainly isn’t going to make me forget about the late rent. Apologizing for the late rent, rather than saying things that make it sound like I’m unreasonable for requesting the rent, is going to make me forget about the late rent.

Use resources judiciously; turn the lights off when you leave a room. Recycle.

Respect generally accepted quiet hours. Just because your roommate is generally up by 6:30am on a Saturday, doesn’t mean you should assume she is, thus coming in and making lots of noise, until you see that her door is closed.

Do not take it upon yourself to wake your roommate up if you think she may have overslept. Your role is not that of alarm clock. On the same note, engage in no other acts of paternalism. If your roommate has left the house, you don’t need to think about whether or not she took her key, and you certainly don’t need to martyr yourself by staying home until she gets back, just in case. If you do, don’t then cite it as an example of how considerate you are.

Conversely, if you’re leaving the house, don’t assume your roommate is going to be home when you get back. Take your key, or at least ask her whether she has plans to leave.

That’s one example of the ‘when in doubt, ask’ principle. Don’t guess, and don’t try to surprise me. You don’t know me well enough—nor are you insightful enough—for a surprise to be a good thing. When you bought the pearl earrings, you thought that would be a great surprise. It was certainly a surprise.

Speaking of unwelcome surprises, don’t lead me to believe that someone’s breaking into the house. If you specifically tell me that you’re going to be out of town on a given evening and you change your mind, let me know before you come in and set off the alarm.

Don’t try to help without my permission—If I’m doing something (like changing a bike tire), don’t try to grab it out of my hands. It might be polite to ask (once). It’s not polite to insist once I’ve made it clear that it’s something I’d prefer to do on my own. However, do take initiatives on basic things (changing the battery on the smoke detector, etc.). RM does this, but I once had a roommate who would wait until I got home to inform me that the battery needed to be replaced. It was after 9pm and she’d been home since the afternoon. Oh, and I don’t mind putting away the dishes most of the time, but I don’t appreciate coming home from a business trip to a full dishwasher, when you’ve had at least several days to clean it out. And when you do clean or fix something, don’t strut around like you deserve a medal.

Significant cleaning aside, no one should be able to tell that you just used something, because you shouldn’t leave any signs, such as hair in the shower drain, stains on the counter, crumbs in the crumb tray (or worse, on the couch), etc.

Here’s another one inspired by a different roommate: do not ever use people dishes—especially mine—to serve a cat (or other animal).

Well, now that we’ve gone through all that… goodbye, and don’t let the door slam you in the @$$ on your way out.


Mom: Hello?
A.: Hi, I'm returning your call.
Dad: You're online on Skype.
A.: I was talking to Marcela. Want me to call you on Skype?
Dad: Sure.
Dad: I see you!
A.: I don't see you.
Dad: Mom did something to the settings.
A.: I see.
Dad: Anyone else? Where's the cat?
A.: Let me go get her.
Dad: I see her. Now I see her belly.
Mom: Let me go over there.
Mom: I don't see any belly. I just see spots.
A.: That would be her belly. I'm going to let her go.
Mom: You've aged.
Dad: No, she hasn't. You look fine.
Mom: I wouldn't have recognized you.
Dad: I recognize you.
Mom: No, something's wrong. You look odd.
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: Besides, it's past your bedtime.
A.: I do need to start getting ready for bed.
Mom: Goodnight.
Dad: Goodnight.
A.: Goodnight.

Sunday morning roundup

It's unbelievable that among people who have found themselves in need, some still embrace exceptionalism and claim that everyone else on food stamps really is lazy. Not to mention people in need of affordable health care. Who do they think they are, quitting their jobs just because the blood leaking into their brains makes it impossible for them to work? The nerve. And those socialist neighbors of theirs, pitching in for their rent so they don't end up homeless. That's just unAmerican. Were Mr. Kristof a more fair and balanced journalist, he'd have asked them why they hate freedom.

Perhaps my issue is that I don't iron enough.

Words would only diminish this:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Roundup

Something close to all our hearts: screaming kids on a plane.

Some thoughtful op-art on slow food, and a wry cartoon for a different perspective.

Just say no to ethanol.

Kathleen Parker recommends against pandering to our inner simpleton.

This is obviously a very dumb way to try to get a bank loan, but I have equally little sympathy with this woman. There may be a method to the Post's madness--its strategy of choosing unsympathetic people for its profiles of "victims" of the recession or housing market crash, but I haven't figured it out yet. I mean, there's nothing inherently unsympathetic about that single mother of four, earning $15,000 a year--until she decided to by a nearly $700k house and then complain about losing it.

Here's a Post profile that's actually inspiring. Hint: it contains no 'wah, they took away the house I never should have bought by lying on my mortgage application.' Or 'wah, my 300k income barely covers my nanny expenses and I'm struggling to make ends meet.'

Confession: I shopped on Black Friday. Inadvertently. I went to the Freer Gallery, and stumbled upon an attic sale, where I bought a small, decorative plate. Then, I thought I'd hit Harris Teeter on the way home to get some oatmeal--surely that wouldn't count as "Black Friday" shopping--but oddly enough, they were out (yes, I am loyal to HT's store brand traditional oats). I left, disappointed, but as I was facing Bed, Bath and Beyond on the way out, it occurred to me that I needed to get a cleaning product. Again, not exactly a flat screen, but still.

Speaking of shopping that I am not doing, could someone hurry up with this? My pumpkin pudding is now pumpkin ice cream--pretty tasty, actually--and this is what my fridge does on its lowest setting. Ice cream I can deal with; fresh greens becoming frozen is much less desirable.

Anyway, from that article--two links ago, about Black Friday:
Our children, meanwhile, have been raised with a sense of entitlement: Not providing a PlayStation3 is tantamount to child abuse. We talk to our kids about nutrition, safety and the environment, but we ignore our responsibility to teach them about money and how it works.

I'm debating whether I should call SunTrust and make them reimburse me for the $10 they took from my escrow account to pay the late fee for my homeowners' insurance, even though they were the ones who made the payment late. I think I will, out of principle. Besides, it's not like I don't pay that bank enough money as it is.

Phone call

A.: Hello?
Mom: How are you? How's your mood?
A.: Fine...
Mom: Let me call your dad to the phone...

[Horrible screech]

A.: Mom!!!! Make it stop.

[Horrible screech]

Mom: Okay, it's over. I'm not sure why that happens when I put on the speaker phone.
Dad: How was the museum?
A.: ...

[Horrible screech]

A.: What is going on?
Mom: So, how was the museum?
A.: Good. The one I initially went to had a long line outside so I went to the Freer instead...
Mom: Of course, you're doing us both an enormous favor by telling us about it.
A.: What??
Mom: Based on the tone of your voice. You're privileging us with your museum story.
A.: The tone of my voice is based on the headache I have from that screeching sound. But never mind. The museum was fine. How are you?
Mom: Fine. You know, I'm looking at the coverage of the traffic on the East Coast as people are starting to disperse. It's bad. I can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow.
A.: Mom, you don't have to...
Mom: How's the weather.
A.: Sunny and chilly...
Mom: Here, too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving evening roundup

A couple of pundits suggest we give the Obama Administration some breathing space.

I actually agree with George Will.

Overparenting appears to be out, but even "free-range parents" struggle with the independence-safety balance. This cartoon is fitting.

Please stop with the cupcake trend stories.

A brief semantic and cultural history of sweet potatoes.

He's not ugly. Please.

Happy Thanksgiving roundup

I couldn't have stumbled upon a better quote to start the day:
“It’s an important reminder that crucial change is often ignited by very plain, unremarkable people who then disappear,” said David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King.
Has God mellowed out over the centuries?

Gail Collins ponders the ins and outs of the First Family's Thanksgiving. Here's what it looks like everybody else will be eating, by region.

I'd meant to post this "Rhymes with Orange" from weeks ago, but only remembered when I saw yesterday's Thanksgiving-themed strip.

I was quite surprised, when I brought in this morning's Post, at the volume of circulars that came with it. They rivaled the bulk of the newspaper itself, actually. Am I the only one that won't be shopping on Friday? I may be going to work, since my parents won't be here, in which case I might stop at some stores on the way home, by the time some of the crowds will have dissipated, but I certainly won't be standing outside of Target at 5am. I'm not trying to come off as an ethereal being who has transcended materialism--I was certainly shopping this time last year, and perhaps I'm shopped out (apart from clothes). But I still find the doorbuster phenomenon baffling.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Clusterf*, continued

0900--I call Mom

A.: Mom, it occurred to me that there might be affordable flights out of National on Monday. You can fly into BWI and out of National. I found some for $150.

Mom: But I already invited Misha over for Thursday.

A.: Okay then.

Mom: Are you hurt?

A.: No. I understand.

Mom: I am kind of disappointed that we won’t be spending TG together.

A.: Me too, but I understand. Anyway, I'd better go.

0930--Mom calls me.

Mom: Why don’t you come up here?

A.: First of all, I don’t want to leave the cat on her own.

Mom: Oh, please. Just leave her a bunch of food.

A.: It doesn’t work that way, mom. You know that.

Mom: Can you find other people to have Thanksgiving with?

A.: Probably not at this point, but I have things to do. It’s okay.

Mom: I feel bad.

A.: Don’t. But I have to get back to work.

1100--Mom leaves a message:

Mom: Call me back in exactly 20 minutes.

1330--I call mom.

A.: I just got your message, mom.

Mom: What’s the airport code for National?

A.: DCA. The tickets that were available in the morning are no longer listed. The only ones remaining are over $600 each way, per person.

Mom: I’ll look for other things.

A.: Okay, but I’ll understand if you don’t end up coming. It might be best at this point to not spend anymore time on this. The options are pretty clear.

1430--Mom calls me.

Mom: I’ve found indirect flights in and out of National.

A.: Not worth it, mom. Think about it: those are at least three hours, and you’ll have to be there an hour early, and then you’ll have to get to the airport. May as well drive.

Mom: I just don’t know. Are you very hurt?

A.: Mom, I understand the circumstances. This isn’t about feelings. But I can’t keep talking about this. I have to get back to work.

Mom: I feel a little better about this now. I felt really bad after that last conversation—you make it sound like this is all my fault.

A.: I never said that.

Mom: No, but you imply it.

A.: Can we talk about this later? I have to get back to work.

1530--Mom calls me.

Mom: We can get to Philadelphia and rent a car.

A.: Mom. That’s ridiculous. You may as well fly into Baltimore (or just drive).

Mom: What about the way back?

A.: The only reasonable option for the way back, at this point, is taking my car back. I can drive it back down when I come up for the holidays.

Mom: I don’t want to drive through or around New York. Check flights out of National.

A.: I’ve checked flights out of National. This morning, there were very reasonable flights for Monday morning. They’re gone now.

Mom: Why didn’t you buy them?

A.: You told me not to! You told me you already invited Misha.

Mom: We’ll check tomorrow morning.

A.: Mom, I think it’s time to move on. It’s just not going to happen.

Mom: But…

A.: Mom!

Mom: I don’t want to talk to you anymore!

A.: I don’t want to talk to you anymore, either. I have to get back to work.

It would have been nice, theoretically, to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, but it was becoming more trouble than it was worth. I'm not saying anything's mom's fault--I agree it's a long drive, and I never liked the rationale behind driving (i.e. there's too much crap that they have to bring me). Now, had the reality of the long drive sunk in earlier, we could have looked for reasonable flights, but whatever--things often seem like a good idea at the time. I can deal with spending Thanksgiving by myself, although, again, had this been decided beforehand, I could have made plans with other people. Luckily, I decided to wait until tonight to shop for the vegetables, so I haven't ended up with a bunch of perishable food that I can't use. I'm going to make myself pumpkin pudding and roast up the farm share butternut squash. Maybe I'll even make moussaka--I have all the ingredients anyway. and this way I don't have to listen to my parents complain about it. I understand that the plans didn't work out, but I also understand that, work-wise, I couldn't afford to break away from my desk every hour to discuss the situation with my mother. Taking a few minutes to shop for tickets is one thing; going around in circles about the options is entirely another thing, especially when the only workable options are clear. Same for hashing out the interpersonal fallout--we can do that when I'm home. And the sooner I could get back to what I was doing, the sooner I could go home.

Anyway, that's where we left it. I know some of you were looking forward to some four-day mom blogging, but you'll have to settle for any additional phone calls.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Thanksgiving Clusterf*

Today, at work

A.: Hello?
Mom: You're really busy?
A.: I'm busy, but what's up?
Mom: There's going to be freezing rain, so we're not driving. What airlines fly into National?
A.: I can pick you up from the outer airports--not a big deal.
Mom: Do you have a minute to look for tickets?
A.: Just about.

A few minutes later.

Mom: Hello?
A.: So...
Mom: So there's this "roth... road..."
A.: What?
Mom: Roth or road...
A.: WHAT are you talking about?
Mom: We keep getting these people's mail. They live on C. Court rather than C. Street, but it's the same house number.
A.: Can we talk about that later, mom?
Mom: Right, you were saying?
A.: It's reasonably affordable for you to fly in and out of Baltimore, but only if you fly back on Monday rather than Sunday.
Mom: Oh, but then dad would have to miss work.
A.: Right.
Mom: Well, let me check in with him.
A.: Okay.


A.: Have you decided yet whether you're driving or flying?
Mom: We're not driving for sure.
A.: Okay.
Mom: Why?
A.: I was going to ask you to bring some brandy if you were driving--one of my dessert recipes calls for it.
Dad: You're making food?

Are you f*ing kidding me? Did he think I was going to eat duck? Besides, we've discussed this.

Mom: Well, we can bring brandy even if we fly.
A.: No, you can't.
Mom: We could put it in checked luggage.
A.: Not worth it; I'll just buy some or do without.


A.: I found you a ticket, returning Monday at 4pm.
Mom: That won't work, your father has a doctor's appointment. I suppose he could change it...
A.: There's not much earlier.


A.: It just occurred to me that I won't be able to drive you back to the airport on Monday--I have to be at work that day.
Mom: Can't you get out of it?
A.: No, not that day. I mean, you can take the MARC train up to the airport.
Mom: Oh, no, no, no. We'd have to take a train? What a hassle!
A.: No, really, it's really straightforward.
Mom: And we'd have to spend an extra day in the city, just hanging out.
A.: As cities go, it's not a bad one to be stuck in for an extra day.
Mom: Is it really important to you that we come down?
A.: Well, I did invite you, but if it's going to be a big pain it's not worth it.
Mom: We can come down for your birthday instead.
A.: What? What does my birthday have to do with anything?
Mom: Does it mean a lot for us to come down?
A.: I've already answered that, mom. It would be good to see you, and I'm not going anywhere, but I didn't realize it was going to be this much of a pain.
Mom: Let's give it another day and see how it goes.
A.: Okay. Goodnight.
Mom: Goodnight.

Tuesday evening roundup

The Post's ethnically Czech columnist just has to come out with an appeal to embrace one's immigrant parents' cooking. Well, I embrace it all the time--just not this weekend (although herring or any other food that leaves a permanent stench will never be allowed in my house).

There seems to be quite a bit of consensus on phrases that really, really bug people, with "no problem" topping the list. Funnily enough, there's overlap between Stanley Fish's lists and those of things you should never hear from restaurant staff.

These fake turkey reviews are hilarious, but they drive home the point I've been making all along--and the point this guy makes toward the end: lose the fake meat and go for something real.

Check out this website, brought to my attention by the Economist.

Eating just enough

Before I get to the point-- both sides of the political spectrum find overreach in the criminal justice system.

I found Elyssa East's column particularly pertinent:
In the nearly 400 years since the first Thanksgiving, the holiday has come to mirror our transformation into a nation of gross overconsumption, but the New England colonists never intended for Thanksgiving to be a day of gluttony. They dished up restraint along with gratitude as a shared main course. What mattered most was not the feast itself, but the gathering together in thanks and praise for life’s most humble gifts. Perhaps this holiday season we could benefit from restoring a proper Thanksgiving balance between forbearance and indulgence.
RM is certainly making his last few days memorable (he's leaving tomorrow, probably straight from work, and coming back on Sunday for a day or two). He's stromping around, being really sloppy (not just spilled crumbs and sugar, but leaving large objects out of place and in the way), perhaps purposely to draw attention to himself. Or perhaps because he's used to someone else cleaning up after him. I'll never know, and soon I won't care.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday evening roundup

OMG, I'm a cliche:
For Thanksgiving dinner, what side dish would you prefer to accompany your turkey — a serving of well-marinated conflict over how much or how little you eat, or some nice, fresh criticism of your cooking skills?
I kind of like the idea of bingo (like Mom Madness):
Betsy said her cousin also complained of holiday meal tension with her own family, so the two devised a strategy to help each other cope. Each made bingo cards, but instead of numbers, the squares were filled in with some of the negative phrases they expected to hear during the meal, like “That outfit is interesting” or “Your children won’t sit still.” As comments were made at the separate family celebrations, each woman would mark her card.

More food ethics, and agriculture ethics (those are two different links--Times and Post, but on the same topic. And the nativism tax.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I will not yield

This was part of yesterday's conversation but I neglected to post it

Mom: What about soup?
A.: I'm making butternut squash [same word in Russian as pumpkin] soup.
Mom: No! I mean, I like pumpkin, but I like it in my pumpkin bread.
A.: Well, maybe you can try it in a different form.
Mom: doubtful.

I've mentioned the mom situation to three people, of whom one was helpful, i.e., she did not offer obvious, unsolicited advice, such as "why don't you just order out for Thanksgiving" or "well, let her take care of the food", neither of which is the point.

First of all, I want to make Thanksgiving Dinner. I don't want to order out; if I did, I would have thought of that myself. Nor would my parents be happy with takeout (although if it weren't for the duck, I could still see mom going to McDonald's just to spite me). That is what this is about: mom pulling $hit like that just to spite me. I want to try the recipes that I've found, and I don't want to have mushroom potato casserole. I can have that at every event at my parents' house. I want to go through with the menu that I have thought out and envisioned, and I would like my parents to give it a chance. If they don't like it, they can focus on the duck they're bringing, and make up for lost mushroom potato casserole at every other dinner they host or potluck they go to. They'll be having it on Wednesday evening; perhaps on Thursday they might abide something different.

I can go on and on about the various underlying issues coming into play here: mom's genuine suspicion of my cooking is the least of it (her persistent need to undermine my cooking, and/or one-up me in everything, is another matter). More relevant:
-Mom's unwillingness to acknowledge that I am an adult who can function without her;
-Mom's knee-jerk negativity and inability to let a thought go by unexpressed;
-Mom's one-size-fits-all approach to life, i.e. her deep-seated, albeit perhaps subconscious conviction that every aspect of my life--career, home, dinner, etc.--ought to go according to how she would have it.

I discussed this a bit yesterday with regard to the dumplings: she tends to make dumplings with mushrooms, so it is inconceivable to her that I would want to make dumplings with anything else. That there are other dumpling possibilities that are equally good or better does not penetrate the mom world view. And she'll bring it up every time I mention dumplings.

It's the same thing with the house: it's not exactly the couch, bookshelf, etc. she would have chosen, so she has to say something about it. That it's my decor, that it works for me, and that many of the smaller or non-furniture items are personal--i.e. gifts or travel mementos, gives her no pause.

I asked her, last time, whether she approaches the homes of other hosts and hostesses with the same critical eye and uncensored tongue. I don't know about you, but if I notice something that doesn't particularly appeal to me in someone else's decor, I keep it to myself not only out of politeness but out of respect for their personal style. I understand that they live there, so whether or not I like something [that is short of all-out gaudy] is immaterial.

There's no room for different senses of style in mom's world, and if there is room for unexpressed thoughts, it's not in regard to my sense of style. Just like it doesn't hurt my feelings that she doesn't care for my decor--I could care less, actually--it doesn't hurt my feelings that she may not like the food I will have prepared. But it is grating to listen to persistent negativity, and it's defeating to cook a family meal knowing that it will be (a) unappreciated and (b) approached with the scrutiny rivaling that of a food critic--one with a chip on her shoulder, at that. So maybe I should cut my losses and let her deal with dinner. I mean, why do I even bother?

Because I want to.

Sunday morning roundup and rant

Debates in three countries over secular government in their own way. Four, really.

Advertisers split hairs (pun intended, if hesitantly). I was thinking about the soup case, and other food "claims." I recently saw eggs boasting a "gluten free" claim (along with vegetarian-fed, hormone-free, certified humane, and other elements of "happy" eggs); this is akin to advertising produce as "cholesterol free," i.e., no $hit. I have a friend who has full-blown, diagnosed Celiac's--not "gluten insensitivity," not intolerance, etc. We've cooked and dined together quite a few times, and I've never seen her worry about the gluten content of eggs, whether or not they're grain-fed (first of all, who's going to feed hens with wheat? but that's not the point).

Also, I didn't have time during the week to rant about the mammogram debate (although I posted Gail Collins' and Steve Pearlstein's thoughts on the matter). In addition to their very valid points, the controversy speaks to our unwillingness to perform due diligence on important decisions that affect our lives. Health is complicated, and there are nuances; it's only natural that there won't be a clear-cut answer. Nonetheless, some people prefer to ask Suze Orman whether or not they can afford something, rather than come up with a budget and assess their priorities; some people would rather have the food industry slap a "smart choices" label on Fruit Loops rather than read the ingredients; some would rather eliminate entire foods and food groups from their diets, rather than accept that, say, eggs are good for you in some ways, bad for you in others (or when consumed in excess), and that there is both good in bad, in different ways, in both the yolk and egg; and some need to be told how often to get a mammogram, rather than actually read the research and delve into the details and specific implications that might tailor the research to their lives.

Would it be a stretch to connect that national impatience for nuance to the Palintological appeal that Frank Rich so astutely parses? Maureen Dowd also talks about it, while Kathleen Parker takes a different angle.

I know the Post probably thinks it is serving the interests of balance by chronicling various faces of the recession, and in all fairness I haven't read the whole article--which spans part of the front page and two more pages of the A Section--and don't intend to because the lead on the front page hasn't made me care. I know blond girls who can't find work right out of business school are people, too--and I'm not being smug; had I graduated in hard times, I'd be struggling, too, and with a much less impressive resume. I'm just saying, is this kind of thing really worth so much (A Section) real estate?

While I'm Post-bashing... the paper's Travel Section is normally a waste of space, but this piece on Holocaust museums in Chicago is quite thoughtful.

Human rights should not be but an auxiliary to our China policy.

Lessons from Rwanda on balancing, or not balancing, open society with development.

Blah, blah, blah. Jonathan Safran Foer has been saying it better for weeks. Of course, Foer doesn't advocate strict veganism. And Steiner makes a good point: meat-eaters are a self-righteous bunch: they're always the ones demanding that we vegetarians (or pescetarians, since some deem me unworthy of the vegetarian label) justify ourselves. By the way, I do think it's odd that when my parents go for walks, they admire the ducks they see, but don't think twice about having them for dinner. My mom probably does think twice about it, actually, but that's not enough to stop her. And I can't blame her-- after all, I love squid, both in nature and on my dinner plate.

The delicate matter of correcting an adult's grammar and pronunciation for his or her own good.

Chocolate-lovers, go find your local Russian food store and check out their dark chocolate offerings.

Ezra Klein's tips for not encouraging gorging this Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


This morning, on the Mt. Vernon Trail:

A.: I'm passing on your left.
Jogger: Jesus loves you!

I've crossed paths with the Jesus-loves-you guy before, but I think that was the first time I passed him on the same side, because the incongruousness of the exchange struck me. It reminded me of other absurd exchanges (that I would like to collect in an anthology one day), like:

A.: Hi. I'm here to feed a cat in apartment #3c. Could you please sign over the key and buzz me into the lobby?
Receptionist: You can't take dogs through the lobby.


A.: How thickly did you want these sliced?
Mom: Doesn't matter.

Thirty seconds later

Mom: You're slicing those much too thick!

I could go on. I could also re-post that article from last week about how processing absurdity is good for the brain, but it really was either last week or the week before, so if you care enough you'll find it in one of the roundups. Instead, I'm going to ask you whether it's just me, or it's really funny that my mother, when presented with the fact that someone has paid me a compliment (or tolerated my presence), whether over food, dress or anything else, rarely misses an opportunity to attribute that compliment to the other person's politeness, yet, at the same time, uses as evidence of her superiority, the compliments that people have paid her. Whose spontaneity I have reason to question, because I can actually see my mother presenting something at a dinner and saying, "everyone always loves this. What do you think?"

I mean, she could be right: although people regularly tell me, with no prompting on my part, that I'm a very good cook, it's possible that all of those people are just being polite. I, personally, like my own cooking, but then again, I'm biased. Actually, people--including polite people--do let me know when they're not thrilled with a particular dish (and are thrilled with others). And I notice, at dinner parties and other parties, what food goes over well (and that would be most of it). That's part of the fun of it--trying new things and understanding that something might not turn out as planned, or that some people may not like something. I'll tell you that the pea dumplings go over brilliantly, with nary a leftover dumpling. Nonetheless, when my mother asks what I'm making for a party and I say 'pea dumplings', she consistently launches into her schpiel about how mushroom dumplings are a must and how dumplings have to have this or that. That extra logical leap of, 'yes, those dumplings are good. These are very good, too, and I'd like to do something different' just doesn't happen.

On the bright side, this takes any pressure off of me: if mom is going to disparage anything I make for Thanksgiving, I have no reason to stress about it. I don't mind eating leftover moussaka for a week--it's that good. I do mind eating leftover mushroom-potato casserole-- it's okay. I mean, sure, it's good, but it's boring. If you put enough butter and salt in something, and melt enough cheese on top of it, sure people will love it. It's not bad. If I were at someone else's home and it were served to me, I would eat it. But it is what it is, and I like to try something new from time to time. But I digress--this post isn't about specific foods; it's about my mother's attitude (and selective application of her they're-just-being-polite logic). With all the roommate drama, I almost forgot how... full of personality mom can be.

There's another, bigger issue here: a mature person with an iota of self-awareness might say to herself, "I'm clearly a much better cook than my daughter is; I'm not sure why she even bothers. However, she doesn't seem to be receptive to my offers to bring a lot of food, so although it might entail some gastronomic sacrifice on my part, it's more important to celebrate Thanksgiving in peace and civility, so I won't keep pushing this." But that's really funny. I mean, we are talking about my mother.


A.: Do you have clippers? I had a pair but I can't find them. Or they got stolen.
Mom: What?
A.: To cut thinnish branches. Dad asked me if there were any tools I wanted you to bring.
Mom: I don't think so. They were stolen? We have all sorts of stuff in the back yard that's never been stolen.
A.: That's wonderful.
Mom: Should I bring you a mushroom-mashed potato casserole?
A.: No, mom.
Mom: Everyone loves it! If people know I'm bringing it, they save room for it. I'd bring one and it would be better than any of the dishes you're making.
A.: That's the attitude.
Dad: Seriously, why are you...
Mom: Whatever! Everyone loves it!
A.: Broaden your horizons. You're not hosting this Thanksgiving.
Mom: I am bringing potato pancakes, at least for us.
A.: Mom, I'm sure you go stay with other people and don't bring your own food.
Mom: They're so good.
A.: Fine: bring whatever you want, eat whatever you want. I'm done. Oh, except herring. I'd never get the smell out.
Mom: You make a good point. We just spilled some by accident and it does smell.
A.: I'm glad we agree on something.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The New Yorker

It will not surprise you to learn that it was through the New Yorker's food issue, a couple of years ago, that I became addicted to the magazine. Well, this year's Food Issue has arrived, and I can't wait to get to the food articles. In the meantime, I'll share some pertinent and amusing articles that have nothing to do with food. For what it's worth, I understand the argument in the last piece in principle, but now that prices have gotten to where they are, I couldn't afford my house without the mortgage interest deduction. Also for what it's worth, while we're on the topic of me (and also food), I have chocolate milk almost every day, but I don't add sugar; the milk is sweet enough.

Thanksgiving dinner promises to be interesting

I don't generally speak in moral absolutes, but waffles out of a spray can, organic or otherwise, are just wrong. Like the blogger says, make your own waffles, people. And like this other blogger says, broaden your horizons. Like she said, I'll accommodate food allergies and committed, principled dietary restrictions (vegetarianism, veganism, etc.), and I'm not going to watch what you eat or nag you about what you don't eat, but I'm not going to be told what you don't abide. If you don't like something, don't eat it.

That post actually resonated because, as I mentioned, I'm not sure how my parents are going to take to the Thanksgiving menu I have planned. I don't cook meat or poultry, so turkey is out. There will be shrimp, so they can't complain about protein deficiency. And they should be fine with the roasted vegetables. Most people love my moussaka; if they don't, they don't have to eat it, even though it will be the hearty/centerpiece dish. We'll see how the soup goes over; I've now changed that to Mark Bittman's Thai squash soup. I think I'll make ginger scones, too.

Actually, I just talked to mom.

A.: I’m not sure whether Mirella’s joining us for Thanksgiving Dinner or coming by at another time. I’ve also invited a couple of friends who have asked me about Thanksgiving plans—I’m not sure whether one or both will come, but they might.
Mom: Great! Oh, we’re bringing duck.
A.: Fine. Bring something to cook it on, too.
Mom: Okay. What about these other people that may be coming—are they vegetarians, too?
A.: No, but I’ve had Thanksgiving with both of them before and they don’t consider meat an essential part of the meal.
Mom: Ha! They’re just being polite.
A.: Doubtful. One of those Thanksgivings was hosted by someone else, and it was entirely vegan. They just don’t care.
Mom: They just wouldn’t tell you if they did care.
A.: Or they’d go elsewhere for Thanksgiving.
Mom: Maybe they enjoy you’re company.

OMG, we’ve come full circle: mom is still arguing that my friends are just being polite, but in this case, it’s because they actually do enjoy my company, if not my food. I actually prefer this than mom’s usual ‘they’re just being polite,’ which entails my friends’ putting up with me out of loyalty even though I’m socially overbearing.

Mom: How many days are we coming for? Do I need to bring other food? Herring?
A.: No. No herring.
Mom: But… but…
A.: You can go one Sunday without herring. I’d never get the smell out of my house.
Mom: I don’t know if I can go a Sunday without herring. It’s fish—you eat fish.
A.: I don’t eat salt-cured fish.
Mom: I don’t know about this.
A.: No.

Friday evening roundup

It's great that they're leveraging their privilege for the greater good, and it's great that they're coming to realize that real privilege of wealth is the ability to pay for health care and other necessities, rather than fancy dinners out and other luxuries. But no, we the common people would prefer that you take money from your parents than take up resources out of principle.

Columbia Heights is reeling from the murder of a small child, in his own home. Petula Dvorak points out that you can build a fancy Target with a fancy parking lot. And a yuppie vegan bakery. But that's not going to prevent crime. Meanwhile, far outside the city, a biology student collecting frogs is taken out by a hunter.

I'm glad Gail Collins pretty directly countered all of Dave Brooks' arguments. Most of the comments did the same, only much less thoughtfully.

I've had no trouble waiting for the third season of Mad Men to come out on DVD, because it's impossible not to have learned what happened with so much Mad Men based social commentary going around. This is at least the third piece I've read.

On a lighter note, I'm going to get a dwarf citrus tree and other fun stuff for the room that RM is now occupying.

Pearlstein laments the political CYA on mammograms.

Two Bush administration officials defend Holder's civilian-trial-in-NYC decision.

Charles Lane calls for more accuracy in the way we talk about food insecurity.

Friday morning roundup

But... but... I thought we might have learned.

China "is still unaccustomed to the dynamics of some African democracies."

David Brooks demonstrates partisan flexibility and praises the Administration's handling of the financial crisis. And not a minute too soon. Check out the first comment on this post, which is as acrimonious as it is deluded.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

all-video roundup

I was going to comment on the Eggo waffle shortage, but why be predictable? Instead, here's some Palintology:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show: The Rogue Warrior
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Grand Old Pity Party
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating
and the second half of the Dobbs interview:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Thursday morning roundup

Lots of wisdom, on various topics, from Gail Collins.

I don't think I need an edible wall, but I'm considering a rooftop garden (which entails a tall ladder, which entails a shed to store it in, etc.).

I don't get it. This is why people have little faith in our criminal justice system.

I have successfully resisted the "Twilight" craze. In fact, "resist" is too strong a word, since I haven't given it a second thought. With all the things to read out there, who needs that crap?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Which, by the way, is the name of Hothead's cat. But we're not talking about Hothead; we're talking about RM, and the game of roommate chicken in which we are currently engaged.

I think I last wrote about him on Saturday, when he told me he would move out at the end of this month. I just said, "okay," without expressing any emotion whatsoever (neither joy, nor surprise, nor pain from suppressing a 'don't let the door hit you on the way out'). It occurred to me that he might have been lying about the orders, that he could be moving up his move-out date because the tension has become unbearable since the foot incident, upon which I determined that avoiding him to the extent possible and being perfectly icy when we do find ourselves in one another's presence would be the only way to prevent future incidents. If I betray any friendliness or even civility, he'd only take that as an invitation to flout boundaries.

Meanwhile, he's been a bad roommate. He's leaving crumbs everywhere. I am not cleaning them up (Roommate chicken, exhibit A).

Second, he's left a note. I have not read it (Roommate chicken, exhibit B). At first it was on his placemat. I saw it, ascertained that it was a note to himself, and opted to ignore it. He has since moved it to my side of the dining room table, although not quite to the placemat at which I normally sit. I don't read notes not meant for me, and I don't reward passive aggression. If it moves closer, I'll let you know what it says.

Meanwhile, he's proverbially pooping on the carpet, i.e. stomping around and slamming doors to make me aware of his displeasure at being ignored. Shrug. Again, I don't reward passive aggression.

I am operating under the assumption that he will not be here for Thanksgiving (if he is, he is not invited to dinner with my parents and me). If he is actually leaving, that gives us about a week of remaining cohabitation. Enjoy the blogging while it lasts (of course, over TG, you will have mom blogging); I won't miss him.

Wednesday morning roundup

Watching much of the media exploit the issues of relocating Guantanamo prisoners and trying KSM has been disappointing. As always, we should at least be able to discuss these things openly without recrimination and fear-mongering.

May I insert myself into this comparison? I, too, "sometimes want “a wife” to organize things." I've never really had an Ann Taylor phase, although I went in on Sunday on my way to Banana and got a couple of blouses (I'm emerging from over a year of frumpiness rut). I have not yet transitioned to Dolce & Gabbana at consignment shops. That takes a whole new income bracket.

I love it when Mark Bittman comes out with his hundred-and--one recipes in a few pages.


I'd told you before that Paul Collier's essay on whether biotech food could cure world hunger infuriated me; meanwhile, Raj Patel's contribution was the best. Nonetheless, I thought it was careless to use as his benchmark for world hunger the statistic that over a billion people consumed fewer than 1,900 calories a day (not least because most people don't need that many calories a day). I'd let it go, and then yesterday I stumbled upon another inane measure using calories: calories per pound of pesticide as measure of food safety/sustainability. You can't compare the pesticide load of rice with that of strawberries using calories per pound; most people couldn't possibly, but more importantly, wouldn't, consume nearly enough strawberries to equal the amount of calories in a small bowl of rice. That doesn't mean that conventional strawberries aren't laden with toxic chemicals; it just means that the Green Lantern needs to apply some basic critical thinking to its analysis. The other reason this bugs me is because the 'calories per pound' argument is often used in poorly crafted arguments against sustainable agriculture. Of course pig farming is going to yield more calories per pound of land than, say, soy cultivation. That doesn't mean it's more efficient. A more useful, but still incomplete, in and of itself, measure might be gram of protein per acre.

Speaking of food, here is what I'm thinking for a Thanksgiving Day menu:

Eggplant moussaka
Butternut squash soup with cilantro pesto swirl
Grilled asparagus
Roasted sweet potatoes
Fresh bread (or maybe biscuits) with white bean and artichoke bruschetta
Red wine cookies

It's going to be good. But I can still somehow see at least one of my parents saying 'f* this' and going to the McDonald's two blocks away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday evening roundup

Life kind of imitates art, i.e. Mario Benedetti's brilliant short story, "Los Astros y Vos."

I bet she's already been the subject of a few doctoral dissertations.

Someone's earned a special place in hell.

I think if the deer hunt can be done humanely, it's a great idea. At the same time, it's great that people are up in arms about whether or not it is humane. Hopefully, those same people bother to also ask whether industrially produced meat, which also occasionally makes its way to area homeless shelters, is procured humanely.

This is news?

It's surprising that some constituencies want a slice of the perceived oppression pie. On a related note, other constituencies sure have an inflated sense of entitlement:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Skeletons in the Closet
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Tuesday morning roundup

Anti-corruption legislation is only broadly effective when applied consistently.

The Times sends the CBO some love.

Indian and Pakistani geeks take the Kashmir fight to electronic maps.

Oh, I'm not screaming. I don't have a problem with her celebrity; I'd just prefer her perpetual absence from any national policymaking.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday evening roundup

James McWilliams is growing on me.

Does the President hate America? The article linked within that post is positively infuriating.

I'm not sure the writers/activists here do themselves any favors by invoking feminism. The way they do it implies that it's women who are naturally responsible for doing the laundry.

Fight rudeness with rudeness?

I've never been in denial about my bad hair, but I now have clear confirmation: When Robin lets herself go, her hair starts to look a bit like mine:

Phone call

Mom: Hello!
A.: Hi, Mom!
Mom: What's new?
A.: I actually have to run in a minute, but I wanted to ask you about Elena. Mirella hasn't been able to reach her and she's concerned.
Mom: She's in NYC because her mom's not well.
A.: Is she okay?
Mom: It's not too serious.
A.: That's good.
Mom: Listen, I'm bringing you cider...
A.: Okay. I'll call later, I have to go. But actually, since you're thinking of stuff to bring... remember how for years you accused me of having pilfered your kitchen scale, so I bought you another one, and then afterward you decided to buy another one just because you saw it?
Mom: Yeah. I gave you the one you bought.
A.: No, you didn't. You forgot it last time. Would you bring it?
Mom: Remind me.
A.: I'm reminding you now.
Mom: Ha! Remind me closer to the date.
A.: Okay. Bye.

Monday morning roundup

Haleh Esfandiari writes a well-recommended book.

"Superfreakonomics," on the other hand, is not good.

We're in an era of reverse remittances.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kenya, only upon suffering devastating consequences from deforestation, embraces conservation in a way that threatens the forests' own stewards.

Frank Rich on the rabid right, Fort Hood and Afghanistan.

Another amazing life story brought to you by Nicholas Kristof.

There's hope after all for the emergence of meaningful legislation in the face of the 24-hour news cycle.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It takes a barn

I went to see the Alchemist this afternoon (assessment: it was worth coming of the Benadryl, but I couldn't have said that before the second act). I'm not sure it was worth being the event of the day for which to be off the Benadryl; I'm missing out on a friend's birthday party as we speak. Between the itching and the wariness after a week of itchy, disrupted sleep, my resolve ran out after an hour or so of waiting around in the city between the events. But I digress.

I generally do not seek out the services of an usher; finding one's seat is not complicated. However, they usually like to be helpful, so I waited until one was available to tell me how far down the aisle and to which direction my seat would be. Except that the usher only said, "the row number is marked on the end, and the seats are numbered." Really?

I found my seat, which was the third in from the aisle. I said, "excuse me" to the two ladies in the first two seats, but you'd have thought from their reaction I'd demanded their first-born children:

Woman 1: You have got to be kidding me!
Woman 2: Another one?
W1: Well, this must be the last person.
W2: I really hope so.
W1: That's the downside to sitting on the end, I suppose.
W2: I just can't believe it.

I don't think it ended there-- thankfully, the play started a few minutes after I sat down, so they could move on (I hope). If having to get up for twenty seconds to let one person through--even if they'd already let through maybe ten other people, at most--taxes them this much, I wonder whether they'd be happier opting for less labor-intensive entertainment, such as television in the comfort of their own homes.

Happy RM Update

I just got the best news EVER.

RM is moving out at the end of the month. His orders came in.

I've spent the last week thinking, 'I despise this man and cannot wait to have him out of this house.' The money isn't worth it. My sanity is worth more.

Conveniently--I'm not just rationalizing--it was worth it up to a couple of weeks ago. It really was the attempted foot massage that pushed me over the edge. I've had nothing but contempt for him ever since, and the things that I appreciated (he did fix a few things) were irrelevant and the things that I tolerated (the increasing need to pick up after him) bothered me more. Yesterday, I wondered whether I could really take five more weeks. Thankfully, it'll only be two.

Saturday morning roundup

I think it would be fun to have a job where you watch sitcoms and count obscenities.

I hope that the people saying that "champagne is needed in tough times"--much like those that say that jewelry is an investment--are just bullshitting for marketing purposes. I hope they don't actually believe it.

If you can stand another commentary on the Berlin Wall, George Packer's analysis is worthwhile (and short).

Yes, dooring is painful and expensive. And I appreciate the District's steps forward, but can we have a bike lane on the southbound side of 7th Street? Please? And while you're at it, do ticket those jackass delivery truck drivers who park in bike lanes.

Goodbye, Lou Dobbs.

Looks like the women who most actively eschew feminism and abortion rights will now have to put their money where their mouth is. But I commend the straightforwardness of the move--at least you know where you are with the GOP; there's no pretense of choice.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday morning roundup

Local buy-in, essential for development and peacemaking? Who would have thought.

Men tend not to stick around when their wives get sick, while women are (seven times) more likely to stick around and care for ill husbands.

It's unfortunate that we have trouble discussing these issues with intellectual honesty and that we censor our museums when they attempt to address them. This queasiness over the human impact of military decisions is driving some of the impatience on thinking through an Afghanistan strategy.

Okay. Off to do some more yardwork, with gloves and long sleeves this time--let's see if that keeps the poison ivy away.

RM update

Last night, before going to bed, I went downstairs and moved the styrofoam box, whose food remnants stunk to high heaven, into the covered trash. In doing so, I discovered a soda can to be moved to the recycling bin. I was tempted to suggest to RM that he switch to water in the evening so as to lessen the need to get up in the middle of the night, but I didn't want to go there. But get up in the middle of the night he did, and wake up and itch from my poison ivy I did. To add insult to injury, in the morning, he said, "you slept good!" First of all, jackass, sleeping until 6ish, when one went to bed after 10pm, isn't really cause for exclamation. Second of all, I'd have slept better had you not gotten up in the middle of the night to stomp to the bathroom. The fact that you have the audacity to comment on how well I slept, knowing that you stomped to the bathroom--that it doesn't even occur to you that I woke up when you did that--speaks to your ever-surprising lack of self-awareness.

As it is, I decided to take a mental health day with a few work-from-home breaks. I'm so incoherent from a week of poor, itchy, disrupted sleep that it just didn't make sense to go in. Of course, "sleeping in" bore the unintended consequence of putting me at breakfast at the same time as roommate, who decided to talk to me about the weather (and the quality of my sleep).

I went to put my dishes away. In typical RM empty-gesture fashion, he gallantly said, "don't worry, I'll take care of the dishes." I said, "I'm just going to put them [two bowls and two spoons] in the dishwasher. That's what it's there for."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday evening roundup

How f*ed up do you have to be to hold a sign saying "God Hates You," let alone in front of a school.

Meanwhile, the Church asserts its priorities.

I'm only going to excerpt two examples from this article:
A teenage girl who was forced to become a child soldier at 12 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and who faces threats for speaking out against her captors has had her asylum application snagged on the grounds that during the period she was kidnapped, she was a member of a terrorist group.

A refugee from Burundi, whom Human Rights First identified only by his first name, Louis, was detained for 20 months, although an immigration judge thought he qualified for asylum because he had provided "material support" to a terrorist organization when an armed rebel group robbed him of $4 and his lunch.
Ariel Levy on women who scorn feminism.

I'm glad Happy's happy. Apparently, the key to revitalizing one's dating life is getting out of DC.

Five more very long weeks

It's not fair to resent my roommate for getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (every night this week). It happens to the best of us. It's been especially disruptive this week, because I have poison ivy, so when I wake up to the sound of his stomping, I have trouble going back to sleep because I'm itching.

It is fair to resent my roommate for going about as if I am his housekeeper. How prickish is it to leave a toilet paper roll out without placing it on the fixture? Of course, I'm sure in his view, he deserves a medal for replacing the toilet paper at all (although there's no need--there's an extra in the vanity). And don't even get me started on the bread crumbs on the counter and sugar on the stove (no, he doesn't actually use the stove--just pours sugar into his coffee over it; he doesn't use anything but the microwave and the toaster). Which reminds me, I need to go back downstairs and move yet another Styrofoam box with food remnants from the kitchen trash to the covered trash. Because it's not like we've talked about this once or twice.

I also don't mind coming home late from work, per se. I mind coming home late from work because it leaves little or no time for me to have dinner and get organized before RM gets in and starts asking me about my day and talking about the weather. Because I've always been ever so receptive to that.

Five. More. Weeks.

Thursday morning roundup

Not a good idea to take women's votes for granted.

The toll of the recession on families.

Gail Collins was once banned from Nebraska.

I've already posted articles on Jonathan Safran Foer's new book and commented on vegetarian issues, so here I'll focus on the fact that I don't give my cat gifts. That's just the kind of empty gesture in which RM excels. The pet doesn't care; you're doing it for yourself. Gracie's ecstatic with a laser pointer and rubber bands. Then again, I don't eat (non-marine) animals.

The New Yorker's excellent piece on Gaza.

Tom Philpott makes an interesting point about the services we tend to outsource.

DC area residents excel at fruit and vegetable consumption. I find the national statistics on this unfortunate and scary, especially in conjunction with recent findings on the mental health impact of processed foods.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunday phone call

A.: Hello?
Mom: Where are you? What are you doing?
A.: I'm just outside, doing yardwork.
Mom: I've done a ton of yardwork-- we have so many leaves. You don't have that many trees.
A.: No, but my neighbors do. I don't mind... it's beautiful out.
Mom: Anyway, Tanya says we should get a Blue Russian (cat). She says they're very affectionate, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. You're cat's very affectionate, isn't she?
A.: She is.
Mom: See, that's not always a good thing. Anyway, what days do you have off for Thanksgiving.
A.: Just Thanksgiving Day, but I can take other days off depending on when you decide to come down.
Dad: Maybe we can fly.
Mom: Are you crazy? With all the stuff we have to bring her?
A.: Please don't clutter up my house, mom.
Mom: Anyway, we'll leave early Thursday morning.
A.: I don't believe you.
Dad: Why early? You're not going to be able to wake up early after the dinner. [A family friend passed away on the 25th several years ago, and my parents and other friends spend that evening with his widow].
Mom: Why not?
A.: Make sure to load up the car ahead of time, then.
Mom: Oh, please, like that's going to take any time.
A.: I don't know, mom. Last time you were supposed to leave "early" and you were loading up the car until noon. But it's your call--I'll be here. Just don't bring me too much stuff.
Mom: Oh, no, I'll bring you stuff. Oh, will you send me the name of that plant again?
A.: Sure.
Mom: How exactly did it die?
A.: I think I waited too long to bring it in.
Mom: When exactly did you bring it in?
A.: I don't know, mom.
Mom: When, approximately?
A.: I already told you--and I've told you before--that I don't remember.
Mom: Well, I need to know.
A.: Asking again isn't going to help me remember.
Mom: It might.
A.: Bye, mom.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Crazy Monday evening roundup

This, my friends, is a creative way to protest.

Which of these two is dumber?

Yes, people who complain they don't have time to cook but do have time to watch cooking shows piss me off, too.

I'm glad there are other annoying eco-sticklers out there who demand their rights.

Parents of the baby Einstein inclination are annoying as ever.

Monday morning roundup

As of April, it is illegal to sport a Che t-shirt in Poland. Okay, that was glib--even if you care not for my obsession with Che t-shirts, there's a lot more to that article.

Reflections on "The End of History"
are almost as old a friend as the Che shirt. I wouldn't say the one I just linked is a very good one. And here's why.

Response to comments

(1) You have to exclude people with certain beliefs within reason, otherwise you have no definition. I couldn't all of the sudden start calling myself Christian, because I do not accept Jesus Christ as my savior. Conversely, if you do accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you are not. Jewish.

(2) Apart from whether or not RM would cheat, the more pertinent issue is whether or not he would have initially or still would think that a woman twenty-some years his junior who has made it clear that the less time she spends in his company, the better, would be receptive to his overtures. But then again, applying logic to his behavior hasn't really been a winning strategy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Let's hope not

I went out to the Shenandoah foothills to see some friends and their fierce new yurt. They're just back from Baghdad, which, among other things, put Heather in the 'RM is definitely hitting on you' camp. A handful of people have suggested this, and I'd always dismissed it entirely. After the attempted foot massage, I dismiss it 95 percent. It's still preposterous--knowing him, I can see how he can be so inappropriate and clueless at the same time. And I just don't believe he'd be that stupid. But maybe that's giving him too much credit--after all, he's shown a tremendous illiteracy toward signals, as well as an amnesia of past discussions. He's so obtuse to the fact that I don't want to be his friend that it's conceivable that he can't imagine that I wouldn't want to sleep with him. A couple of friends were over last weekend--they were firmly in the 'hitting on you' camp as well. Their take was, 'he sees a single woman and thinks you must automatically want him.' He has betrayed single-bias assumptions before: more then once, when he's asked me what I did over the weekend and I say I did this or that with various friends, he says, “oh, that’s good. At least you had companionship.” You'd think that he'd realize that if I were actually hurting for companionship, I'd pay more attention to him. Except that even then, I probably wouldn't.

Anyway, Heather's perspective was, "You won't believe some of these deployed guys--it's like a parallel universe where cheating isn't an issue. Men will say that they're "separated," by which they mean their wives are here while they're over there." Classy.

I'm still not convinced, and not just because I don't want to be. I really don't want to think about it, though.

I shared a handful of the more preposterous RM stories. Since it was Heather that first taught me to change a bike tire, I told her about the time he kept trying to rip the wheel out of my hands to "help," even after I explained that I had to be able to do it myself, in case I ever needed to change a tire on the road... which he said, "if you get a flat, just call me. And if I'm not there, call 911."
Heather: What?? That doesn't even make sense!
A.: I know! I certainly hope he didn't raise his daughter to call 911 in that kind of situation.
Heather: Did you say that to him?
A.: No. I should have. I only think of the right thing to say afterward.

Sunday roundup

The toll of war on military therapists:
Dr. Peter Linnerooth, a former Army psychologist who treated soldiers in Germany and Iraq and at Fort Hood, said that in Schweinfurt, Germany, he was the sole psychologist for a community of 10,000 people in 2005.

At Fort Hood, he treated a burly man whose job in Iraq was to recover the bodies of soldiers. His patient was devastated by one particular loss, Dr. Linnerooth said.

“He had picked up this corpse that was so badly burned, it weighed about 20 pounds,” he said. “He was this big, tough, awesome guy. For him, it was like picking up his daughter. That was an extreme case. But you get those at least once or twice a week.”
Returning to our ongoing discussion about Gail Collins' book, I think this article on Germany's cultural reunification provides a good analogy, i.e. separate from the issue of gratitude to the people and events that brought about the change, not remembering the way things were, or looking back on them as if they belong to bizarro world and dismissing them because they're so absurd, is kind of a sign of how far we've come:
But he said his students found the annual ritual of dissecting the events surrounding the country’s reunification to be boring. “It’s like when we would say, ‘Oh no, Grandpa’s telling stories about the war again,’ ” Mr. Schwedler said.

After a century of war, of guard towers and barbed wire, of tanks and gas chambers, “boring” sounds tantalizingly close to that much desired national normality.
Check out the hazy photo of the sign comparing health care reform to Dachau, which Frank Rich links to in his column.

Britain asks, "who is a Jew?" I can tell you who isn't: Jews for Jesus.

A so-sad-it's-funny state of affairs as the House debated health care reform.

I think our net contribution was more positive when our main cultural cultural export was Baywatch.