Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday evening roundup

Awesome rally sign.

What has gotten into Kathleen Parker? Is it the CNN gig? That column was the stupidest thing ever. Could she find something more pointless to overanalyze? Maureen Dowd's column today was more bitter but slightly less pointless.

You wouldn't think it from the coverage, but female candidates have no monopoly on inane comments.

The Post's ombudsman agrees that the paper ought to watch its labels.

Amazing people are still flawed human beings... and other interesting reflections on a recent biography of Simon Wiesenthal.

A history of "OK."

This class-conscious Middle Earth thought experiment makes my head hurt.

Happy Halloween

Lots of fairy costumes out there.

It's been a rough night for Gracie, since she runs away whenever someone knocks on the door.

Do you all know what today is, besides Halloween? That's right--it's the second anniversary of my closing. Do you know what's ironic? Two refis later and a fifteen-year loan, my monthly payment is back up to what lenders originally quoted me when I started looking two summers ago. That's right: I bid $30,000 less for a house than what I bid and paid for mine, and had I gotten that house, my monthly payment on a thirty-year loan would be the same as it is for my current fifteen-year loan. Thank you, whoever, for saving me from myself.

The weekend in pictures

On the metro before the rally

getting out of the metro

the men's turn to do the wave

the stage

those guys found some great spots
morning bike ride

because I know you love to play 'what did A. eat?'

Sunday morning roundup

Frank Rich isn't feeling the Tea Party love.

Microfinance is far from a panacea in India.

In Israel, a town recognizes the importance of culture as nourishment for the soul.

Is anyone shocked that the meat industry isn't thrilled about cutting back on antibiotics?

Two great New Yorker pieces from last week: Tad Friend on the leaf-blower wars and Ian Frazier on the invasion of Asian Carp. The latter, in particular, is very wittily written.

I'm struggling to balance the compassionate, rally-going part of me with the part that's perpetually frustrated with newby Metro riders... and I do feel for them, but wonder why they didn't think to get their farecards ahead of time. And also figured out how to use them so they didn't block the turnstiles for five minutes at a time while thinking about it. And of course it clogged traffic! Forgive the uncompassionate me for saying this, but you're a moron if you opted to drive in downtown DC yesterday.

And I wish I could tell you that this was the most civil crowd, ever--and I couldn't do that even if I hadn't been to a viking festival in York. English people, my friends, are overwhelmingly civil. But (many) people certainly pushed their way through, pushed us out of the way, etc. And as for Jon Stewart's call against douchiness, what could be more douchey than smoking a cigarette in a large crowd like that? It's not like people can, or should have to, get away from the smoke.

All that aside, though, the rally was a blast, and it was powerful. And it does inspire me to get over myself and be more civil.

The pre-rally media chatter annoyed me for being overwrought, oversimplified, etc.--and the post-rally chatter is no different. There's a difference between channeling outrage and vilifying people who may not agree with you.

It's almost 7am, and my f*ing Sunday paper's not here yet... so there will likely be a part II roundup later today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

In the print edition of the Post, the picture associated with this article on the attacks on Sufi shrines in Pakistan is large, front-and-center, and heart-wrenching. Also heart-wrenching: this piece on treating wounds of war.

Japanese food in America: awesome. Japanese anime and magna: To each her own. Japanese-style deflationary spiral: not good. Let's keep that one out.

I've long suspected that sending kids to private school makes them obnoxious.

Hopefully, this ruling will inspire parents to not only take responsibility for their kids' behavior but also teach their kids to be more responsible at an early age.

This (election-related) analysis is equal parts reassuring and disturbing.

I love it when Gail Collins does quizzes.

Especially because I'm going to this rally, I wish people would stop trying to hijack it and infuse any sort of divisiveness. I won't be rallying for atheism. I've not read these On Faith entries on the rally (here, here, and here), even though I probably will--but (as usual) I can't find the comments that the Post reprinted in the Metro section this morning, which seemed to imply that people were going to use this as an anti-sermon. Let it go, people: it's about living and letting live, not shoving the opposing perspective--even if it's opposing Glenn Beck. There are other fora for that. This forum is about sanity and civility.

For example, I'm going to agree to disagree with the people who find no damage from Gov. McDonnell's administration and his reactionary Attorney General.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On lentils

I promise you this is not turning into a food blog. I am aware that the world doesn't need another food blog. And yet, as I sit here while my friends are laughing their butts off at a Margaret Cho show--I didn't know if I'd have theater tickets tonight so I declined the offer to join in the laughs, which is mostly a good thing, since I need to replenish my electrolytes for the rally tomorrow--I wanted to take a moment to talk about lentils. Here are some things you should know:

-lentils are a convenience pulse because (1) you don't need to soak them; and (2) they cook relatively quickly, depending on the variety.
-lentils vary quite a bit in flavor as well as behavior. I believe French (green) lentils--not to be confused with green split peas--take longer to cook, but still not as long as beans. Even though you could make dal out of any kind of lentil, each of those dals will taste quite different. I bring this up to say, don't substitute brown lentils for red lentils--totally different flavor, texture, etc.
-cook lentils in exactly enough water--if you have to drain, you drain lots of flavor, too. You can measure, but also err on the less-water side and add more as needed.
-I like to bring out the flavor in lentils by sauteing dry ones with onion for a few seconds, and then covering in water. This will work with any variety. You can also just add onion to the broth.
-in my experience, red lentils will cook in twenty minutes or so.

Friday evening roundup

The two topics of the week come together: civility and food. Civility about people's food choices. I mean, if you're going to villainize people who actually care enough to question the food system and make informed choices, find a better derogatory term than "fouche bag." That doesn't even connote anything. Meanwhile, let's not feed into their stereotypes by purchasingequally unhealthy high-end foods. Contrary to the anti-foodie undercurrents in this piece, it's not about the trends or celebrity-driven fads. It's just about good food. Check out that last site and this one for some vegan and macrobiotic recipes, respectively.

Not that any of the above is surprising, given the virulent anti-intellectualism sweeping the country. Sometimes I find Rothkopf tiring, but that quite a good article. Along similar lines: how the foreign press is parsing the Tea Party.

And coming back to sanity for a minute, I loved these lines from this article about Germany's identity crisis:
The question is this: Does participation in democratic procedures have only the functional meaning of silencing a defeated minority, or does it have the deliberative meaning of including the arguments of citizens in the democratic process of opinion- and will-formation?

The more the scope for action by national governments shrinks and the more meekly politics submits to what appear to be inevitable economic imperatives, the more people’s trust in a resigned political class diminishes.

The United States has a president with a clear-headed political vision, even if he is embattled and now meets with mixed feelings. What is needed in Europe is a revitalized political class that overcomes its own defeatism with a bit more perspective, resoluteness and cooperative spirit. Democracy depends on the belief of the people that there is some scope left for collectively shaping a challenging future.
Okay, these horrendous puns are worse than they seem, since "yuan" is actually pronounced "yu-en."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

The Post may have intended this to be a feel-good story, but the extent to which the police basically handed the detective work back over to the family--after the family basically gave them evidence--is disconcerting. Not to mention the Sprint bill.

Ruth Marcus chides Mary Fallin for playing the mommy card.

Gail Collins shares election season lessons learned.

Oh, Dave Brooks, there won't be 100,000 Priuses at the Rally to Restore Sanity. The Daily Show/Colbert Report viewership has the brains to metro. On another note, why can't people drop the 'liberal agenda' thing and accept that it's really about sanity? Did you not see the bus clip from Tuesday night's show, when the passengers had intelligent, reasonable conversations and agreed to disagree?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Response to comment

Well, you're in a really tough position with the tree nuts and peanuts, and sesame seeds means store-bought hummus, but you can make your own and leave out or replace the tahini. Do you know for sure he's not allergic to pumpkin seeds, because they have a super-high protein count and are generally very healthy. Also, minimally processed soy (edemame and tofu) should be helpful. You really can do anything with tofu--you can make amazing chocolate pudding (or pumpkin pudding) by mixing cacao powder or pumpkin with silken tofu (you'd sweeten it with whatever you use). You can marinate firm tofu is olive oil, vinegar, lemon and garlic and then grill or saute it. Also, get to know your high protein veggies--I believe that broccoli and asparagus each have a few grams a serving. And don't forget those whole grains! Oatmeal and whole wheat pasta (or buckwheat) will give you 5 or more grams a serving. Here's a sample menu:

-breakfast: rolled or steel-cut oatmeal (with whatever): 5 grams
-mid-morning snack: pumpkin seeds: 9 grams
-lunch: whole wheat pasta (8 grams) with red lentils (10 grams) and vegetables
-mid-afternoon snack: edemame (5 grams) or chickpeas with salt and pepper (9 grams)
-dinner: brown/red/black rice (3 grams) or quinoa (6+ grams) with vegetables

So, those are protein counts for a full serving... but if you halve them or mix things up, you still come out with 25 grams.

As for cookbooks, do look into Veganomican, the Kind Diet (macrobiotics don't use a whole lot of nuts), the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, Mark Bittman's latest (the Food Matters Cookbook), and the Bean Book by Rose Eliot. The last two are not entirely vegan (I think the Farm cookbook is), but you have plenty to work with. For websites, check out and If there's one forbidden ingredient that's not too key, just leave it out (the black-eyed pea curry on that last site looks amazing, and I imagine it would still be good without the plantains). New Farm is really good for basics/staples.

If you (i.e. anyone) feels the urge to comment that a toddler shouldn't be eating curry, spare me. That's how kids learn to eat food rather than "chicken" nuggets: they eat what adults eat.

I have a TON of recipes, both online and in cookbooks. Most are vegetarian and can easily be made vegan; some are already vegan. I usually make red lentils one of a few ways, two being moussaka and lasagne--I can send you both recipes. Both call for cheese, but I've been making them without cheese for years, and they're just as good (now, the moussaka has wine in it but the alcohol cooks out). The lasagne is amazing (and you can use the lentil base as a sauce for any pasta if you don't feel like making lasagne). Or you could do lasagne and cover with vegan cheese.

I tend to say 'pulses' generically, but you can really do anything with chickpeas and black beans--they're really versatile. I like black-eyed peas and navy beans, but they have a more distinct flavor so you have to be more selective about pairing them. I'll be making black bean chili for a cook-off at work next week, will share the recipe if it turns out well.

A lot of Thai recipes will be off-limits because of the peanuts, but your basic Thai curries won't be, and coconut milk is super healthy--particularly for a kid who's not already getting a ton of saturated fat.

Wednesday evening f*ing roundup

FP publishes a skinny jeans theory of national decline.

There's some validity to this critique of DIY development consultancy, but I don't think Nicholas Kristof is the problem. He also regularly spotlights locals making a difference.


WTF, Tea Party leadership? By the way, I think this Onion article may be alluding to some of your people.

And watch those energy drinks. I sampled a tablespoon of an acai drink at Whole Foods--30g of sugar! Nothing with that much sugar can be healthy, regardless of its antioxidant content.

Greenwashing is ever-rampant, so be careful. And as for this green mom, try making your own cleaning products.

I f*ing love this website.

Wednesday morning roundup

A global extinction crisis is likely.

Corruption in Russia has gotten to the point where it threaten's the country's economic system.

Those are some stylish saris.

Sometimes you have to wonder what planet Kathleen Parker inhabits.

The Times' editorial page and Tom Friedman on political rhetoric vs. reality. Also see Harold Meyerson's column, on which country we want back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Response to comment

Short answer: not exactly. The question was, will I be substituting the dairy I previously consumed, presumably with imitation dairy. The medium-length answer is, only very occasionally. The long answer follows.

One of the reasons I opted for macrobiotics over veganism is the former's emphasis on real, minimally processed food. You can be vegan and still eat a lot of crap (and I know many vegans who do, and, conversely, who wouldn't know a fresh vegetable if it bit them in the ass). While vegan cheese isn't crap, it also isn't quite real food. I won't avoid it completely, but I don't feel the need to replace two or three servings of dairy with imitation soy products. I'll replace them with something to make up for the protein and other nutrients, but it needn't look or taste like dairy.

For example, up until last week, I started my morning with a bowl of oatmeal with whey powder and flax seeds. This week, I've been putting brown rice protein in my oatmeal. It's taking some getting used to, but the cinnamon and other spices in the oatmeal neutralize the flavor, and I figure I won't notice it after a few more days (I experienced a similar lack of enthusiasm every time I switched brands of whey).

For those of you tempted to pipe in to tell me that brown rice powder has less protein and/or that it's incomplete, you'd lure me into the lecturing rabbit hole I'd prefer to avoid. I'll have no choice but to point out that you've been brainwashed by the meat and dairy industry. No one needs that much protein--in fact, I used half a portion of whey because who the f* needs 26 grams in one meal (not even including the 5 grams in each serving of oatmeal). And as for "incomplete," you don't need to get every amino acid in every meal. I won't preach, but I will talk back if you preach at me, particularly with misinformation.

Anyway, I'd then have some cottage cheese upon getting to work, with some nuts and maybe a sweet potato or something. That's been harder to "replace." I'm not really interested in looking for vegan cottage cheese--just like I haven't been into fake meat for years, I'd rather just find real food. So over the last couple of days, I've had pumpkin seeds (roasted some from the pumpkin I started carving for Halloween). I'm out of those, so I made some edemame for tomorrow. One serving has 10 grams of protein--not the 14-16 in cottage cheese, but, again, that was overkill.

At some point later in the day, I'd have some cereal with milk or kefir. That's been really hard to "replace," so I've been sprinkling the cereal nuggets over a fruit salad instead.

I'd also have some sort of seafood a couple of times a week. And that's still allowed, under macrobiotic principles, but I want to see whether I can do without, for the most part.

I'm still figuring this whole thing out. It was kind of a snap decision, but it also wasn't. I've been flirting with it for a while, thinking about it, trying aspects of it... but I didn't have time to do the research and I was concerned about nutrients. I stopped buying cheese for home consumption (I'd still have it in restaurants) half a year ago, and then started trying to cut out other dairy a few months ago. Then, at work on Friday, I ran into a friend who is a very serious athlete (triathlons, etc.). We were talking about how much crap there is around the office this time of year, between Halloween and the holidays. When I mentioned that I was considering cutting out dairy but concerned about sports nutrition, she recommended that I check out Brendan Brazier's website. Over the weekend, I read up a little on him and on other vegan athletes, and figured if they could do it, so could I. Now, Mr. Brazier's really into hemp protein powder, which I bought months ago when I first seriously considered weaning myself off whey, and I found it positively nasty. It's basically palatable if you drown it out in a fruit smoothie.

Part of where I'm going with all this is, one reason I could make a lifestyle change in a quasi-snap decision was that it wasn't that big a step. I took a few months, without officially committing, to see what it would be like to not have a lot of dairy. And I didn't crave it. If it were right in front of me, at a party or something, I might have some, but I never found myself eating in and thinking, 'this meal would be better with cheese.' The whey and cottage cheese were functional, and the milk/kefir was a vehicle for cereal. Which I could also have with soy milk, but that's where the minimally processed thing comes in... but if I ever truly craved a bowl of cereal with 'milk,' that's where I'd go. And if I get a hard-core craving for pizza, I'll go out and get some soy cheese.

As I already discussed with one of you, the supplement I will be taking is vitamin B12, because it's difficult to find outside of animal products (particularly since I'm cutting back on seafood as well). As much as I'm committed to getting things from natural foods, I draw the line at eating feces.

I was also ready for the 'positive' aspects of macrobiotics, i.e. the emphasis on what to eat, not just what not to eat. As I've said, I know too many vegans who basically subsist on fake meat and cheese, refined starches and other crap. Macrobiotics is all about whole grains and vegetables. I actually like both, and I already love sea vegetables. I think any major change in dietary change is very difficult to sustain if you feel like it's pushed on you (and what's wrong with having cheese outside the house, if you're not the one allergic to it?). When I became a vegetarian twenty years ago, I said to myself I'd try it for a week and see if it would work. It did, so I kept going. No pressure. Next thing I knew, I had no desire to go back to eating meat, and I was discovering all these foods that I'd previously ignored. I never felt deprived or put upon; I'd just found something that worked for me.

So, (since you asked) here's the breakdown of what I ate today (fear not, this will not be a repeat feature of the blog, unless someone asks/wants ideas). Yes, my (new, smaller) fridge is extremely full with cooked grains, pulses, and vegetables--even more so than usual. I don't think it will always be like this--once I decided to go for it over the weekend, I went a little nuts at the Asian market. Anyway, here's the breakdown, with approximate protein counts:

Breakfast (circa 5:30 am): 1 cup (2 svgs) oatmeal, 1 tbsp brown rice powder, 1 tbsp flax seeds; cinnamon, nutmeg, chipotle and lemon zest to taste: 25g protein.

Post bike-ride snack (c. 8:30 am): 1/2 cup peas (I'm not obsessive; that's just the size of the tupperware); a few nuts and a few pumpkin seeds; chickpeas with kinpira and greens; a small sweet potato: I'm guessing 10ish grams of protein. If that sounds like a lot of food, consider that it followed an 8-mile ride and each portion was quite small. There are probably more calories in a small muffin.

Lunch (c. 11:30 am): lentils with barley and mushrooms; sauteed vegetables (snap peas in sesame oil, eggplant, zucchini, and asparagus); an apple: 20g protein.

Pre-bike ride snack (c. 4:00 pm): a handful of almonds; leftover half-portion of soba with pumpkin and cumin; 1/2 cup butternut squash: 6ish g protein.

Dinner (c. 7:00 pm): two toasted corn tortillas with hummus; spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt and pepper; cauliflower; wakame soup with mung bean sprouts, scallions, and grated Korean radish; black rice with edemame; papaya and pomegranate with some sprinkles of Kashi 7-grain nuggets: 15ish g protein.

Holy crap! That's 75 grams of protein, and I wasn't even trying (except at breakfast). That's how much protein comes with your whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.

I'll concede to people who find the above obsessive that it does require some work, but it didn't require much advanced planning. I mean, I've always taken some time over the weekend to pre-cook a grain or two and a pulse or two, and to roast some vegetables, and then mix and match, and I've always done it on impulse, based on what I had around the house and what I felt like eating that week. If I don't have time to pre-cook, I'll make whole wheat pasta or soba for dinner and take the leftovers to work. Do I ever find myself thinking, on Sunday, 'I'd rather be doing something other than cooking for a few hours right now'? Of course... just like I think, I'd rather be doing something other than laundry, but I'm not going to pay someone else to wash my clothes. And most of the time, I quite enjoy putting on Pandora and making food while I listen to music. The more important point is, it's worth it to me, and I can tell you right now, I already feel better and my skin looks better. I can't tell you whether that's because of the absence of dairy, or because of the added vegetables, or because I've been more vigilant about not having added sugar. It's probably a mystery combination of all of the above.

Here are some tasty and simple grain/pulse combinations, just off the top of my head:

-any red lentil dish (moussaka, lasagne) over pasta;
-green or brown lentils, sauteed in onion, with barley
-bulghur with chickpeas (with salt and pepper)
-whole wheat couscous with chickpeas and saffron (feel free to use oil in place of fake butter)
-tofu with soba
-three bean salad over quinoa
-black beans over buckwheat
-curried split peas over rice or quinoa
-curried anything (tofu with greens, lentils, etc.) in ingera, if you can get it
-navy beans with sage or oregano over pasta, with olive oil
-black or red bean curry over rice

Add greens, scallions, herbs, spices*, and vegetables to taste.

*This is just me talking, and I am not a nutritionist, but do use your salt shaker. If you're not buying processed foods (frozen or pre-packaged meals), you don't really need to worry about sodium (within reason). Salt and black pepper do wonders for bringing out the flavor of any food.

Tuesday evening roundup

Really, China?

May you rest in peace, Paul-the-Octopus.

Whatever I crowned 'best headline ever' a week or two ago has serious best headline ever competition.

I promised this morning that I wouldn't preach, but I never promised not to become one of those jerks who posts pictures of her food. I can't help myself... it's just so pretty.

Musings on a lifestyle change

Shinjuku was the second neighborhood we stayed in in Tokyo, and probably my favorite, for many reasons. Like much of Tokyo, it was a little bit of everything. I was amused at the long line outside of the Krispy Kreme just behind our hotel, and I was ecstatic to have found a Life is Macrobiotic supermarket on the other side of the hotel. I wrote in my travel notes that it was delightful to be in a store where I could eat anything--I didn't have to think about accidentally buying meat. And I loved that everything would be whole-grain, too. I wrote that if there was one diet closest to the way I aspired to eat, macrobiotics would be it.

I've long been a 'cheating' macrobiotic, but I recently decided that it was time to be more faithful. Within reason. I'm giving up dairy and eggs, unless I'm absolutely certain that the latter are organic, cruelty-free, etc. Which means giving up pre-made products containing eggs. And I'm going to be more serious about not having refined grains or sugars (I haven't kept any in the house for years, but now I'll avoid them outside the house as well). Why am I doing this? Well, like I said, it's pretty close to the way I'd 'ideally' eat, so I've decided to take the next step and just eat that way. The only real change is giving up dairy. I guess there's also embracing rice, which may be even harder. But I bought some black rice and red rice, which are more flavorful. Anyway, I've found that I need a more committed way to eschew the ingredients I know are not great for me (or the environment), because without making it official, I cheat at every opportunity... and opportunities abound. And I'm not going to go completely macrobiotic--I see no reason to give up nightshade veggies (don't even think about taking away my eggplant) or tea or coffee.

Fear not, however: I'm not going to preach at you. You know me, and you know I don't preach. I just don't believe in it. I believe that eating habits are highly personal and that everyone has to figure out their own. I can only continue to share information about food issues, and provide musings on how the new lifestyle is going.

But as a long-time vegetarian, I know that people are going to preach at me and expect me to justify my food choices. And you know I hate being put in a position to justify my food choices. It's tolerable in a one-time encounter but highly annoying when part of an ongoing situation, such as staying with my parents (or their staying with me), or when roommate would constantly bring it up. Oh, if only he could see my fridge and pantry now. I'm sure the massive bag of wakame alone would be quite the conversation-starter. But I digress. RM is irrelevant because he's of the past. Mom, however, is sure to give me even more crap about my food choices than she already does. Well, whatever. I have lots of practice in the art of listening to it and letting it go.

Tuesday morning roundup

I've been treading somewhat lightly in commenting on other states' elections, but when things get crazy, I've gotta pipe in... and expressing admiration for the former East Germany--as the model for dealing with immigration--gets us there. Speaking of dealing with immigration: Countries across Europe are showing mixed feelings.

Tom Toles' awesome rant, just under the cartoon.

Did you hear about the dorm room meth lab at Georgetown?

As usual, we can see that most people who leave comments at the Post are pricks. Here's the original article, from yesterday, about how Facebook has been a little too in-your-face for couples struggling with fertility.

Check out the Opinionator's musings on stories vs. statistics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday evening roundup

Really, Poland and Lithuania?

You know, of all the proposed explanations of why one is single and associated remedies, I actually find "straighten your hair!" one of the least offensive (but not the most actionable).

Today's Non-Sequitur is spot-on.

Monday morning roundup

I don't usually get infuriated first thing in the morning, unless I discover cat poop outside the litter box... but this morning I discovered bullshit in the Metro section of the Post. All I had to do was read the caption on the photo associated with this article:
Robert Hilton, 77, raises corn-fed beef at Dusty Hill Farm near Damascus. Like many in the rural pocket of Montgomery County, he is frustrated with the performance of politicians in Washington and Rockville. "All they know how to do is tax, tax, tax and more, more, more," Hilton says.
Can anyone tell me what two parts of that quote conflict? That's right, the complaints about taxes and the phrase "raises corn-fed beef." [Breathe]. It's not like taxes have anything to do with corn-fed beef. It's not like that corn is very heavily subsidized. In other words, it's not like that farmer benefits from government "handouts" that are funded by taxes. Your taxes. And it's not like your taxes aren't paying to clean up the run-off from that farm and the others in the article. Maybe some politician, somewhere, will have the anatomy to connect taxes to revenues to outlays to agricultural subsidies? Maybe?

A new generation of Japanese men is rejecting Alpha malehood.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Russia can't get where it wants to with the tactics of the past.

A history of womenomics.

Gail Collins urges Wisconsinites to vote for sanity.

While I feel kind of bad for this guy, I feel worse for the people who end up sitting next to him.

Maybe I should start flaunting my anti-hipster credentials. I consume gluten and cooked foods, and I think people who rustle candy wrappers in performance halls ought to be taken out and shot.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday morning roundup

It bothers me less--though it might make me feel old--that the generation that started college this fall may not know that Czechoslovakia once existed, but it's a shame that they may not appreciate the words of Vaclev Havel and Desmond Tutu.

A sample of intelligent responses to the acrimony over federal salaries. Meanwhile, food inspection is a microcosm of what can go wrong when the private sector polices itself on a fee basis.

Metro moves to become better prepared for snow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's come to this?

Mom: You used to get Better Homes and Gardens, right?
A.: I did, once.
Mom: And you had no problem unsubscribing?
A.: No.
Mom: Well, as usual, I've no such luck.
A.: How is that even possible?
Mom: Well, they sent me a renewal notice, but then they sent another letter saying that since I didn't respond, they assume I'm "satisfactioned" and are not only renewing my subscription but also starting two gift ones.
A.: They can't do that, mom. Just ignore them.
Mom: Then they'll bill me.
A.: They can't. If they do, don't pay it. Just ignore them.
Mom: I don't think it's that easy...
A.: Call them.
Mom: There was no number. They said I had to go online...
A.: [Exasperated sigh] Send me your account number and I'll go online and unsubscribe you.
Mom: Can't you just go in by my name?
A.: No.
Mom: But...

This went on with more "just..."s from me and "but..."s from her, until I said...

A.: Either send me your account number or stop wasting my time.
Mom: Fine.

As usual, mom caught me in a crappy mood. I was pissy because Trader Joe's was out of organic lemons (what the f* are they good for if not that? they were out of a bunch of other staples last week). I was pissy because something else had recently disappointed me--what was it? Was it the People's Republic of Del Ray, where a couple of people, at various times, opted to walk in front of my car, in the dark? That's to be expected, though. It wasn't the Post--the usual suspect--which came through today with this masterpiece, and you know I love that $hit. Anyway, I was slightly better on the way home from TJ's, thinking about how my handbag never disappoints--I had a power drill (and battery pack) in there together with the kefir I'd just bought and a couple of tupperware containers for lunch. But I digress. Or not, because I don't remember what I was on about.

Thursday morning roundup

Is Russia about to join the inner circle of the global economy?

I know we're all trying to be tolerant, etc., but it's now official: in the Tea Party, morons predominate.

Are you eating the animals that are eating the corn whose cultivation is leading to dead zones in the Gulf?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

It's true that I've recently rolled my blog eyes at TFri, but you know what I always say: when he's right, he's right.

If you're doing time in Heathrow, be prepared to get dehydrated (or extorted).

This kind of logic infuriates me. How does "Mad Men" glorify the inequalities of the 1950s/1960s? Why is showing something or addressing it in any way paramount to glorifying it?

Wednesday morning roundup

Got oil spill compensation money? Blow it on a Sponge Bob tattoo.

Some people just don't get it.

Actually, more people--many voters--really just don't get it. Rinse, repeat.

Maureen Dowd points out that not getting has become cool. Kathleen Parker accuses Maureen Dowd of cat fighting. More curiously, she writes that Carly Fiorina ran HP but neglects to mention that she happened to run it into the ground. Anyway, Ruth Marcus wraps up this morning's analysis of gender politics.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

If you're going to try to harm your friends--particularly those with whom your spouse cheats on you--stay on the safe side and limit yourself to conventional weapons.

Best headline EVER. And best Twitter fail ever.

Ask Amy brings you some people who need to count their blessings.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday evening roundup

The battle over a road is a microcosm of the struggle for civil society in Russia.

Research confirms that people settle for ideal enough because our ideals are rare or non-existent. But that's not the same as 'good enough.'

A review of Milbank on Beck and a more in-depth analysis from the New Yorker.

Monday morning roundup

Well, f* you, too.

The Tea Party is entitled to its views, but not to its "facts".

Have you seen that episode of 30 Rock, where Kenneth goes up to Pete and asks him what he's doing? Pete tells him he's enjoying his quiet, alone time, at which point Kenneth pulls up a chair and starts telling him stupid stories. And then repeats it the following morning and the one after that. I bring this up because I had an RM dream (nightmare) the other night. Probably because this is the time of year, last year, when things went from really bad to really, really bad. I have another six weeks to purge the one-year-out memories, and then I'm good to go.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

Kandahar is hurting.

So is Japan's economy.

Frank Rich laments the lunatic fringe infusing our politics.

I've given Tom Friedman credit when it's due, and I haven't often called him out for being wrong. It's for pop-tart journalism. Meanwhile, the New Yorker offers you a whole-grain, hearty article on the Beijing Consensus, should you want some evidence and analysis to go with blanket statements.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

An exhibit asks Germans to continue on the path of coming to terms with their history.

Gail Collins asks how far back in a candidate's past is fair game.

This article shook me when I started reading it on the metro. I, too, have read books in, and borrowed books from, this library. In other New Yorker news, I LOVED Nora Ephron's essay.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday evening roundup

Eugene Robinson has had it with the craziness.

The Tides Foundation has had it, too.

Some interesting perspectives on Russia.

Currency as measured by the big mac index.

Do you suppose mom would respect a ban on fat talk?

A brilliant idea for nutrition labels.

I've been trying to cut back on animal products, but this looks AMAZING.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

Syria is reeling from drought and other extreme weather.

Really, France? This is honestly more embarrassing than the non-mosque controversy.

Some mothers-to-be are clearly worried about the important things.

A fitting defense of cat people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

Warning: this great column, which argues that "Mad Men" is the most feminist thing on TV, is full of spoilers.

Can airports help wear out traveling kids so they're less obnoxious?

Anne Applebaum argues that the word "elitist" has lost its meaning.

You know, I'm getting sick of singles-issues blogging, but this litmus test concept is intriguing (and more often referred to these days in terms of 'deal breakers'). I thought the last paragraphs of the original 1982 article were fascinating:
In 1976, the University of Pittsburgh marriage counseling center conducted a study of 131 couples to determine, among other things, what initially attracted the spouses-to-be to each other.

The results showed that those who had checked off such things as "the relationship was never dull; physically attractive, beautiful or handsome; sexually exciting; romantic; and life of the party," were still happily married.

Couples who married on the basis of such things as "intellectually challenging; dependable; maturity; financial security; and common interests," were seeking marriage counseling.

"Not very many things surprised us about that survey, but that those results was surely one of them," said Dr. Ellen Frank. "The people who selected the more romantic, as opposed to cerebral, reasons for marrying were happier by far. Personally, those results influenced the way I counsel now. These tests really can't be ignored."
Especially--you guessed it--in these days of Gottlieb and Katz.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday morning roundup

Misguided parents are eschewing picture books. More importantly, I hope that "“Monsters Eat Whiny Children” by Bruce Eric Kaplan, a new book about children who are nearly devoured as a result of bad behavior", becomes a best-seller.

While we're on the topic of books, check out this take on Mario Vargas Llosa. It's also very true that politics almost necessarily infuse Latin American Literature.

I'm off to the beach, straight from work. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

I don't know about you, but if I wanted to present a compelling argument against dress codes at official government fora, what I wouldn't say is "Gaddafi, for instance, for sure would not have been allowed in the Cabinet."

Really? "Hicky" people? Greg Sargent totally misses the point--the issue is the hypocrisy of trying to fake association with "real America"... by hiring fake West Virginians and directing them to be folksy.

In honor of this study on the marriage gap and this confused "nice guy", I have to post this brilliant article. Sure it's a bit teen-magazine in tone (you can blame HuffPo for linking to it), but there's a lot of truth there--including the topic I was discussing a week or so ago, about how men apparently think that women make their sartorial and other aesthetic choices with their tastes in mind.

Thursday morning roundup

Hezbollah's done well for itself.

China's economy and reputation is starting to suffer from a lack of integrity.

More and more women--especially in this area--are earning six figures.

Rally to Restore Sanity on the mall, pizza at my house afterward.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

The Onion on public interest.

Guess what in this quote infuriates me:
"James Murray, a professor of animal sciences at the University of California at Davis, says the fears surrounding genetically engineered foods sound similar to concerns about microwave ovens, which some people initially thought would give off dangerous radiation or blow up pacemakers.

Murray is working on genetically modified goats as a way to produce milk that can fight devastating diarrhea in poor nations.

With the world population predicted to surpass 9 billion before 2050, genetically engineered food is the only hope to avoid starvation, he says.

That many people cannot be fed "using agriculture as it is right now," Murray says. "What is the cost to humanity if we do not use this technology?""

I'm still not thrilled with Michelle Cove's categories for single women, but she's sort of redeemed herself in interviews, and you'll notice a theme in these comments. I have to admit, since we're talking about perpetuating unsubstantiated and unflattering stereotypes of single women, that 30 Rock is quite guilty.

Wednesday morning roundup

Things fail and wildlife (and sometimes people) die when we fail to maintain infrastructure.

So glad someone's counterdemonstrating against the military funeral protesters. More on the issue here.

Good for Metro for fighting to keep Virginia's seats on the board local. You know that governor would just gut funding to the system.

Speaking of Real Virginia, see Toles on Cuccinelli.

Milbank reports on ratings of conservativism.

Courtland Milloy chats with former DC mayor Tony Williams, who emphasizes the role of journalism in keeping elected officials honest.

Brace yourself: Glenn Beck on slavery.

Feast your senses on this example of a libertarian society.

No do not move an ugly statue from Moscow to St. Petersburg, where there's actually a beautiful skyline to ruin.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

I know my readers are too smart to have wasted any money on so-called vegetable rinses. Just use water (and some vinegar, if you'd like).

South Carolina continues to impress. Ready for another shocker? Most Tea Partiers are Christians and think our country is a Christian one.

Oh, airlines. One seat taken up per seat booked, please. Oh, TSA. Please stop harassing pregnant women.

Tuesday morning roundup

The silver lining to scarcity: Japan is turning to used electronics for its minerals, and the US military is seriously exploring alternative sources of energy. Meanwhile, Cuccinelli continues to waste VA taxpayer money out of climate change skepticism.

Monsanto is having a bad year.

While we're on the topic of weeds, medical marijuana advertising is reviving local journalism.

A bipartisan panel concludes that the nation's public infrastructure is in very bad shape.

USAID has bedbugs.

Don't attempt to fight cold symptoms by "strengthening" your immune system.

Petula Dvorak reiterates that, especially for kids and teens, it's not easy being gay.

David Brooks on the real Rahm Emanuel. Brooks may be the only one who can pull off the phrase, "warmhearted Machiavellian."

Sea creatures are so pretty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life lessons from 30 Rock

I was too busy to blog about this at the time, but a month or so ago, I got into a verbal sparring match with a cyclist who passed me without warning on an especially narrow part of the trail, just as I was about to go around a pedestrian. At one point, he declared that I kind of had a potty mouth.

I know you're shocked. You'd never have suspected that.

But today, it occurred to me that I have a gutter mind to go with my potty mouth. This epiphany came as I was thinking about two my favorite lines from Season 3 of 30 Rock:

(1) Liz has discovered and is at peace with the fact that Jenna had slept with Dennis Duffy (her then-boyfriend), until he tells her that it happened in her (Liz's) bed. Her response: "Eewww! I eat in there!"

(2) Kenneth is warning Jenna about getting too close to the baboon that Tracy left sitting in the studio. He tells her that he was once really close with a pig, but when she mistakenly thought he was going after one of her piglets, she bit off his nut sack... that he carried around his waist to feed squirrels with.

Monday evening roundup

The Economist's readership, apparently made up of a bunch of communists, thinks Obama has helped business.

I've always wondered whether a computer could learn the nuances of language.

I'd always believed that cabbage could thrive under any conditions, but apparently a cabbage shortage is turning into a kimchi crisis.

Normally, I'd read another article about helicopter parenting and such with a sense of smugness toward the parents--and that was still the case with this one, but there was a mitigating factor. It occurred to me, having had to follow-up, a lot, with a number of less than responsive people at work recently, that it's a two-way street. I consciously stopped myself from apologizing for contacting them again, because here's how it works: I don't want to have to keep calling you; you do what you're supposed to do, and I won't call you. If there's a snag, let me know that you're on it. Otherwise, I'm going to have to keep calling you, because if I don't, I'll regret it.

Monday morning roundup

We still have a long way to go in terms of not driving gay teens to suicide.

Zakaria on Woodwardgate (pun kind-of intended).

Malcolm Gladwell on social change and the limits of social media.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

The debacles surrounding the Commonwealth Games are just the tip of the Indian iceberg. The Post has its own take.

Afghanistan through the eyes of a unit of female marines.

Moscow has its own mosque controversies.

Frank Rich suggests Christine O'Donnell might get the last laugh. Dana Milbank on the tea party and the deficit. Also see his column on Professor Beck.

Have child-safe environments turned our kids into useless wimps? We know Big Ag won't let us do anything to save them from obesity.

I find today's essay from the Times' Ombudsman interesting because I've recently run into similar challenges in my own work (day job, not blogging). The more stuff--names, titles, attributions, temporal details--you have to include in your writing, the harder it is to keep the prose flowing. And, as Michael Cunningham points out, writing entails making music, as well as compromising--with your own intentions. His essay is ever relevant in this era of masturbatory writing--writers can't be reminded enough that their product is ultimately for a reader. I also like his translation metaphor. On that note, I've always believed that learning to communicate in another language trains you to communicate more effectively in general--you literally learn to put things in terms that are meaningful to your readers and listeners, or else they won't understand you, or they'll misunderstand you. That experience disabuses you of the delusion that other people should have to work to understand what you have to say, no matter how clumsily you say it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday afternoon roundup

I'm disappointed in Michelle Cove. She moderated that workshop on Jewish women and comedy that Danielle and I went to, and showed a preview of her film, which looked moderately interesting. But this just strikes me as unnecessary. Why do single women lend themselves (ourselves) to categorization? Why do we have to be one of the above? That implies that there's something different about us. As this blogger brilliantly puts it, I would never assume that there's something wrong or different about someone who's unemployed. I wouldn't tell her to lower her standards (although, really, when it comes to employment, that's not a bad strategy). The double-standard othering is disconcerting. If you don't have something insightful to say, put a lid on it.

More on Sanchezgate, including excerpts.

Skype video call

It was an uneventful conversation for at least half an hour: plans for the weekend, the weather, personal and family and friend updates. Then, as we were saying goodbye, mom's teletubby power kicked in:

A.: Have fun in Rhode Island.
Dad: Will do. Have a good day as well.

Mom: Have you gained weight?


Mom: Your arms look fat.

For your benefit, I took a snapshot of my fat arm, as seen through the webcam by my mother. Picture quality aside, you'll nonetheless get a sense of the chubbiness of my arms.

I also thought I'd post some pictures of the river I do not have right near my house.

Saturday morning roundup

Tea partiers are studying up on their Rand and Hayek. Does no one else find it ironic that some of the most egregious interventions by the government in the economy are in the service of large industries? Have I ever told you how I feel about agricultural subsidies?

It's not just tea partiers that could stand to study up on civics.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday evening roundup

Once in a while, I agree with Michael Gerson.

Really, Rick Sanchez? Do we have to go over this again?

Meanwhile, these arguments are well-reasoned but still miss the mark. The Stewart/Colbert rallies are about the very distinction she makes: they're about discourse, not policy. And yes, we need policy change. But there's room for a liberal movement rally and a moderates' march, and it's not the fault of the better-publicized latter that fewer people will attend the former. The whole point is not ideological; it's about not being drowned out by idealogues.

The Post now gives you the option to report offensive comments. I found most of the comments in response to this article--about how profiles and lists of uber-successful women don't speak to less than uber-successful women--somewhat offensive.

So much to say here and it's more complex than the response by the vegan counter-blogger. If you're carnivore head is so far up your ass that you don't know how good vegetarian food can be, it would behoove you to get out more.

This is funny because it's true.

Friday morning roundup

Some stories from Haiti.

I don't know what it is about Petula Dvorak: even when her message is unassailable--life for poor kids is very difficult--her preachy tone irks the heck out of me.

Meanwhile, Britain cuts benefits for the poor but lacks the anatomy to cut those for the middle class.

That's an idea--record the plates of drivers aggressive to bikes and report them.

You've heard me complain about slippery tiles on metro platforms (i.e., whenever it rains or snows--not unusual conditions in this area--the tiled platforms become like ice rinks, indoor as well as outdoor, as riders track in the water. Well, it's come to this:
Board members said Metro's safety issues hit close to home Thursday when an alternate board member, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, fell at the Braddock Road station while boarding a Yellow Line train on his way to the meeting.

Euille said he slipped on wet platform tiles, injuring his kneecap and damaging a ligament. He said doctors told him he might need surgery.

Euille said he thinks it's "worth exploring" whether Metro should change the "slick tiles" at station platforms to a rougher surface that would provide more traction.

And you thought the office of Virgina's Attorney General was bad.

This letter, while hilarious, is somewhat less effective than the other ones on the page. I'd send it to my mother as an example of how aggression is not necessarily conducive to being heard, but I'm not sure she would appreciate it.