Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday evening roundup

If I were Christian, I would be offended that these people are defending their bigotry in the name of their religion. Actually, I'm offended anyway. But I'm glad the legal system is blocking them from spreading and imposing their bigotry.

Anne Applebaum's column is excellent, but my comment is tangential: does it amuse anyone else that the Post can't decide how to spell 'Gaddafi'? It doesn't help that it prints stuff from wires--that's pretty much the issue. That said, please do read the column.

The Post profiles the food police, whom you can thank for having actually made your food safer.

Stephen Colbert joked about this study but it's so true. I've observed guys show off about their smartphones, but nobody cares (well, most people don't). Or much of the other crap that some people do to impress people.

Congratulations, Orlando: you're a fast food champion. In Boston, Dunkin' Donuts reigns supreme.

There is scientific evidence behind women with cats, although not necessarily single women with cats. I take their point about responding to the needs that your cat expresses, but Gracie expresses her needs non-stop, and I have a job and a life. As far as she is concerned, no amount of attention is too much. At some point, the only thing to do is tell her to zip it.

Monday morning roundup

Democracy in the Middle East is bad for terrorism.

The Farm Bureau hates America.

How February got the shaft. One of my coworkers is a leap-year baby... he told our boss he was thinking of taking today off because 'it's kind of my birthday.'

My roommates used to do this to me, i.e., approach with a questionable food and say, "A., could you smell our vegetables/rice/etc. please?" I'm kind of disappointed, though, that Mr. Kelly is so pathetic in the kitchen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

Can Libya quickly enough build the institutions it needs for a transition? What's the outlook for Saudi Arabia? Fouad Ajami beautifully comments on the events in the region--their basis in the past, as well as possibilities for the future, while Al-Jazeera pats itself on the back. As for the Administration's response--forgive me not only for resorting to cliche but also repeating the same one in the course of several days, on the same topic, but it just works, even in this mangled form: speaking loudly is much, much less important than being able to wield a stick.

You can officially, empirically tell people to stop whining about liberal academe.

This quote reminds me of the 'I'm not a feminist, but..." antics characterizing generations of younger women. It's like, I don't give a f* about anyone else--I'm not one of those tiresome agitators--but I'm going to take a stand against fracking because it makes my family sick. Were that not the case, my attitude may well be 'drill, baby drill.
“I’m not an activist, an alarmist, a Democrat, environmentalist or anything like that,” Ms. Gant said. “I’m just a person who isn’t able to manage the health of my family because of all this drilling.”
Look no further than Virginia for the kind of assault on women's rights that can be legislated when people start taking those rights for granted.

So, if the problem is seniority--and I'm not suggesting that seniority-based systems aren't a problem--why is that also necessarily a problem with collective bargaining? What get lots in funding cuts: views from Ken Burns and others. Also: Frank Rich on everything.

Ernessa, thank you for this, which I just saw. Much to comment on, in detail at some point. Guys do love the Malcolm Gladwell. I sometimes enjoy reading his work, sometimes tolerate it, and always find myself wishing he would get away from sports analogies. But your larger point is, reading matters. Reading the news matters, for sure, but I also find that reading fiction matters. Have you ever read "Smilla's Sense of Snow," or whatever it was called when it was published here, by Peter Hoeg? There's a line where she, or the narrator, says she just doesn't get people who don't read, and who proudly proclaim as much. She adds, it's like they're proclaiming that the world has nothing to teach them. Anyway, with regard to not reading fiction, I find a sort of stunted emotional intelligence there. Small sample size, but I'm just saying.

Allergies in kids are linked to low vitamin D levels. Please don't increase the amount of dairy your kids consume; get them out in the sun instead.

I'm with both Kelly Freston and Mark Bittman on this one, i.e. on the issue of fake meat. I'm with him in the sense that it's uber-processed, and with her in the sense that meat, too, can be uber-processed (how are most meat-based burgers more 'real' than most vegetarian burgers?). Sure, there are Kobe burgers, but there are also home-made black bean burgers. But commercial burgers of any kind are processed, packaged, and often full of nasty ingredients. I see fake meat as (1) the dietary equivalent of methadone; and (2) an occasional convenience food. And Kelly Freston acknowledges that. If you haven't watched Mark Bittman's talk, which she links to, please do.

A new, thought-provoking Gaughin exhibit opens at the National Gallery.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can you guess where mom gets her news?

Mom: Where have you been all day?
A.: All over. The good news is, I have a fence.
Dad: Great! Do you like it?
A.: Yeah. It's taller than I expected, and not even on both sides because the ground isn't level, but it doesn't look wrong--I guess that happens all the time if there's an incline. They did a good job with it. It looks good.
Dad: Is it [Russian words I don't know] or [other Russian words I don't know]?
A.: I don't know what that means. I'll take a picture tomorrow when it's light out. Or you can come visit and see it in person.
Mom: That works. When are you going on your trip again?
Dad: [Laughs]
A.: [Rolls her eyes] We had this conversation yesterday.
Dad: May.
Mom: Well, so far there are no protests where you're going.
A.: Where I'm going already has relatively free elections.
Mom: That's not what the protests are about!
A.: They're not??
Mom: Of course not. They're being organized by some outside hand.
A.: If nothing else, that sounds very Middle Eastern.
Mom: I came to that conclusion independently.
A.: [Sigh]
Mom: But you're not going to any of those countries.
A.: No. There is some unease over rising food prices where I'm going...
Mom: So? Food prices are rising here, too.
A.: [Sigh]

This is analogous to when I say, "look how cute my friend's baby is" and my mother says, "so? you were a cute baby, too."

Mom: What?
A.: Food prices here are a much smaller proportion of people's income, even for most poor people. Most people here will still more or less be able to afford food. When food prices rise in very poor countries, people are shut out of food markets.

Why the f* am I explaining this to my mother? She grew up in a very poor country... during a food crisis. How does she not understand that having to pay another dollar for a package of pasta in the U.S., even for a family of four subsisting at the poverty level, is not the same as a poor family having to pay more for staple grains in any part of the developing world? This is not a rhetorical question. I am asking you: can anyone explain to me why this conversation transpired??

Phone call

A.: I just talked to M. She's fine--she's out of the hospital and her operation is in two weeks.
Mom: I know, I talked to E. She gave me the details, and told me about her useless, ungrateful kids. From what I understand, they're even worse than you are.
A.: [Shrug]

Mom gets one of those in from time to time--a dig from out of nowhere. Like, "they're such wonderful people--so warm and welcoming. Everything unlike you." I don't really understand what she gets out of it, or how she manages to complain that I don't call often enough (really?) and in no way connects her nastiness to that. Which is fair enough; I don't actually not call because I don't want to deal with mom. I don't not call. It's actually amazing that I don't call less because I don't want to deal with mom.

A.: I tried to access your subscription on the Better Homes and Gardens website. It said that your subscription had been canceled.
Mom: Oh, that's because it's 'Good Housekeeping.'
A.: [shakes head]
Mom: I guess I'll write them.
A.: Or just call them.
Mom: I want to express how unfair their practice is.
A.: Or you could just get them to stop billing you.

Saturday morning roundup

Vietnam is not free.

The Secretary of Defense tells West Point not to ever get involved in a land war in Asia.

Why should children's lives matter as much once the children are actually born? What kind of logic is that?

Wow--the connection is official: Egyptians, among others, are donating funds to keep the Wisconsin protesters fed. Also: Milbank parses the prank call.

A gay social secretary makes so much sense.

The Onion on DOMA.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday evening ramble

The power went out just as I was leaving the house this morning. There was surprising order on Route 1, given the absence of functioning traffic lights; cars were voluntarily stopping to let each other go by, and to let me cross. When I got off the metro in the afternoon, I was thrilled to see the traffic lights lit, an indicator that the city had gotten its power back. The wind here, and in DC, was fierce. On my walk home from the metro, I asked a woman sweeping glass out of her car whether someone had broken in, but she said it was the wind that did the breaking, and pointed to a couple of other cars in the same situation. I came home to my car windows beautifully intact, but there was a massive branch that had fallen right in front of my back door--just where I'd stand to turn the key. A few feet away, a lawn chair had picked up and turned over. Gracie keeps asking to go out, but I'm afraid she wouldn't withstand the wind. She's not that heavy, or, at least I'm not willing to find out.

I had dinner the other night with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. When I got to the restaurant, which was pretty empty at the time, I thought I saw him, already at a table, except I was thrown because the person at the table had facial hair, and my friend had none the last time I saw him. I told him as much when I was sure it was him. He told me he wasn't convinced it was a good look for him, but he'd tried it for a fundraiser and got hooked on the ease of not shaving. I shrugged, didn't have an opinion one way or another--just hadn't recognized him because of the new look.

Later, he'd mentioned that he'd read my blog over the holidays, and thought mom's behavior--the harping on the weight gain--had bordered on mean-beyond-funny. I said that it was past the point where the content of the harping bothered me; it was the harping itself. I told him it would be as if the first thing I'd said to him, upon not seeing him for half a year, was "that beard doesn't work for you." Our dinner conversation might go something like this:

G.: What are you thinking of ordering?
A.: That beard doesn't work for you.
G.: Right, you've said that. This pad thai looks good.
A.: No, really--that beard doesn't work for you.
G.: Um...


A.: That beard doesn't work for you.
G.: [Shrug]
A.: I wonder why you're keeping the beard, when it clearly doesn't work on you.
G.: Well, for one thing, my wife doesn't mind it.
A.: She's just being polite.

And so on.

Friday morning roundup

The Middle East's monarchies are more stable than the full-out dictatorships, but in any case, it's wise not to take sides.

Marcus on Huckabee on DOMA.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Some of these protest signs are truly awesome.

Eewwww! No my cat does not pee on the toaster oven, but if you have mice pooping in yours, you have bigger problems.

Phone call

I don't get snippy just because mom calls me with a customer service issue. Or because she wants to recruit me into a completely unnecessary, disproportionate response to the customer service issue--one more concerned with making a statement than resolving the issue at hand. Or because she tends to have these issues when I'm especially tired and busy.

It's when she gets in the way of resolving the issue that I lose it.

I hate to be a guy in this way--I'm really good at listening to my friends just to listen, without offering potential solutions--but mom is after solutions. She's not just calling me to kvetch; she wants me to get her out of whatever issue (or in this case, non-issue) she's gotten herself into.

Mom called over the weekend to tell me that Better Homes and Gardens has once again sent her a bill. She called again tonight to say they've sent her an issue. I've continued to reiterate that they can't really do that and that she doesn't have to pay them, and she's making an issue out of something that could be resolved with a phone call.

Mom: But there's no phone number!
A.: Of course there is. But it's fine--send me your information (subscriber number, etc.) and I'll take care of it.
Mom: And they raised the price, too!

So my outburst might be better suited to small caps than all caps--it wasn't very angry. It was more like, 'stop providing irrelevant information and give me what I need to cancel your subscription.'

Thursday morning roundup

Whether the Administration actually has a Middle East policy is a fair question. Not suggesting it's preferable to speak loudly when you've only a small stick; not suggesting there's not virtue in behind-the-scenes policy execution. I'm just saying it's a fair question.

The worst things about these scams is that no one will listen when someone genuinely needs help. John Kelly's right about needing to be better about carrying cash--I was shocked that the hospital garage only took cash (really?). But there will always be situations where someone's in genuine need. I remember I was back in Boston and I was supposed to call my parents when I got to the nearest T stop, which was an hour's walk away, and it was brutally hot. I had no change, and my cell phone had died. I stopped into a local shop and asked if I could use their phone for a local call, and they very coldly refused. I mean, how could that possibly have been a scam? I wasn't asking for money. I hope they feel good about themselves: I had to walk home.

Gail Collins explains the budget stalemate with a Star Trek analogy.

McDonald's is an amazing place. They've magically turned oatmeal into junk food.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday morning roundup

Steve Pearlstein on Wisconsin.

An environmental novel from T. Coraghessan Boyle, and a new book on Russia and mothers from Elena Gorokhova.

Dana Milbank on Rush Limbaugh and other critics of the First Lady's, including those on the left. People just can't seem to grasp that her making suggestions about food and nutrition does not amount to directing the way people eat, or that she's not preaching nutritional purism. I understand people's sensitivity about being told what to eat (see my ramble from yesterday, or my posts from over the holidays), but let's just all take a deep breath and approach Mrs. Obama's efforts with less sensitivity and more reason.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another sign of journalism on the decline

I don't blame the Post for running fluff pieces on the royal wedding, although my issue here is that the article could have been so much more interesting. But here's what gets me: "They are speaking Czech, or Hungarian, maybe - some Eastern European language with harsh consonants and rolled R's."

Hungarian is not really an Eastern European language. It sounds nothing like Czech and behaves nothing like Czech.

Sorry. That $hit really irks me.

Tuesday evening ramble

Nothing Rush Limbaugh says should surprise us in its disgustingness, but this is just sad.

I wasn't going to link to this, because frankly, it's annoying. It's blah. It's not really worth your time. And not just because I thought Tracy McMillan's HuffPo piece (linked yesterday or over the weekend) was tongue-in-cheek. But there are a couple of unrelated reasons for which I am linking to that response:

(1) I caught up on TV over the weekend, and found that two of my favorite shows--"30 Rock" and "How I Met Your Mother"--offered remarkably unflattering portrayals of single women. Both shows were nonetheless funny, and neither offended or threatened me, perhaps because I don't see myself as the 'spinster' they're mocking. I have yet to show up to work in a sweatsuit, or don a fanny pack, or rename my cat 'Emily Dickinson.' I am not frumpy. In fact, I often marvel at women (or people) who have let themselves go, and quite often, they're married. Now, that's what the dating consultants call a 'limiting preconception'--you're blocking yourself from a committed relationship, because deep inside, you're concerned that you might become one of those frumps. But I'm not. I know lots of quite stylish married women. But I digress. I'm not threatened by either of those episodes, but I find the portrayals to be cheap thoughts. Which is what sitcoms are for.

(2) The very response to TM's piece reminds me of a conversation I recently had over lunch, and another that happened on this blog. Let the thrice-divorced writer go on about what she thinks might be wrong with you if you're not married, and let it go. Who cares? I saw her column as anything but an invitation to get defensive and assert why you're different--why you're a perfectly nice unmarried person. Who the f* cares? There probably are things about me that keep me from a committed relationship (see 'limiting preconceptions' above), and there are plenty of things wrong with people who are in committed relationships. I just don't feel the need to defend/assert myself.

But some people feel the need to defend/assert themselves in the face of other people's life's choices and situations, even when the situation is presented neutrally, i.e., not as a value statement.

My mother is an extreme example of this: I mention, for example, that I don't keep cocktail sauce in my house, she interprets that as "you're telling me I shouldn't keep cocktail sauce in my house!" I'm not even talking about the Palinism of taking a reasonable statement and reducing it to an extreme; this is simpler than that--it's taking anything one says as something they do as a judgment, i.e. a statement that everyone should do it that way.

The thing is, I've found a number of people who are not my mother feeling the need to 'defend' their carnivorism, even when I don't do anything, to my knowledge, to put them on the defensive. Last week, I was having lunch with a coworker at a conference. I was trying to find a sandwich that was vegan or at least vegetarian, so I mentioned, as we commented on the sandwiches available, that I didn't eat meat. My coworker said, "Oh. I eat meat... because I do." It wasn't a strong statement or a particularly defensive one, but I thought it was odd that she said it at all. I guess I was more in the mindframe where her response might have been, "I don't want the turkey because I hate the taste of turkey," so her actual response through me.

Point being, I regularly find myself in situations where it's appropriate to explain (though not assert) my vegetarianism/veganism. I'm having dinner tomorrow night with a friend I've not seen in a while; it looks like we'll go out for Thai, but if not, I'm going to be in a position to talk about being vegan. When I say, "I don't eat meat" or "I don't eat animal products," I don't say it with an unsaid follow-on of "...and neither should you." You know by now that I find "you should" statements annoying and counterproductive.

There is one exception to the above: yesterday, I went to see a very close friend who was hospitalized with pancreatitis. It was gut-level, or maybe heart-level, painful to see this wonderful person so weak and so clobbered by physical pain. For not the first time in my life, I felt that I'd failed a friend by being too unpushy, too hands-off of her life. Then again, I also know that people will do what they will do, and being pushy will rarely get you anywhere unless the person is ready. At this point, my pained friend was ready. It's not as if the symptoms of obesity were ever only academic until now, but at this moment they were more stark than ever. So I told her I would help her give up animal products, and she agreed.

But I digress, again.

My point in all this isn't about animal products; it's about feeling the need to respond. Reading that response to the HuffPo piece makes me shrug; so TM thinks you're a bitch or a slut. Who cares? Unless you perceive some truth in that, whatever "that" means, let it go. So I mention that I don't eat animal products. I didn't say, "I don't eat animal products, therefore I am a better person." In fact, I don't eat animal products, but I verbally abuse my cat every day because she's a whiny little $hit and I don't know how else to deal with her. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday morning roundup

North Korea is starving, including its military.

How the revolutions of the Middle East are not like those of Europe.

I don't underestimate the power of individual stories, but it's important to stay focused on the overall crisis (treacherous migrant journeys, particularly by children) rather than just the charismatic poster child (although it's great that he's safe, etc.).

Fairfax County's zero tolerance policy has blood on its hands.

Poachers threaten the Chesapeake, and legal fishermen.

The departed Lion-of-the-Senate's canine intern.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday morning roundup

Can Tunisia remain a "land of beer and bikinis"?

Russian activists ask that world leaders quit with the warm fuzzies and hold the Russian government accountable.

Predator fish are at significant risk, and I'm going to try to go vegan again, at least at home. I think it was something else, rather than protein deficiency, that had thrown me earlier. And it's not just because plant-based diets make you happier.

If the government shuts down, things don't get done, people don't get paid, and the elephant poop piles up at the Zoo. Glad I don't live in Woodley Park.

Amy Chua is trying to market herself as a Chinese David Sedaris.

Some Montgomery County residents have learned that they're legally obligated to let their backyards revert to nature.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Matching appreciation

This has been my weekend to catch up on house stuff (and yard stuff starting today: it was just too windy yesterday). I opted to give Pandora a break and listen to some spoken-word, and on came this relationship consultant. Most of what she said didn't make a lot of sense to me, but one concept really, really clicked. She talked about figuring out what you have to give and want to give in a relationship, as well as what you want out of a relationship, and then figuring out whether that matches with what the other person wants to receive, and what they have to give. Otherwise, there's a disconnect, and people feel unappreciated even though they are giving.

What was remarkable was that she went on to provide examples that were straight out of my roommate saga.

Now, I have moved on from the roommate saga. To be clear, I'm still sufficiently scarred so as to not even think about getting another roommate, regardless of the pay freeze and threat of government shutdown (and the rise in property taxes that has added nearly $200 to my monthly payment). That said, roommate is but an annoying memory. Nonetheless, when a situation begs for a roommate-based analysis, I'm not going to walk away from it.

She--Alison Armstrong--went on to say that, for example, you may love to surprise people, but for some people, surprises are a nightmare. RM loved to surprise me--it wasn't so much a nightmare as, I don't give a f* about the things you think are going to surprise me, like seeing you in your whites. I think surprises can be awesome when they work, or presumptuous when you don't know someone well enough to make sure that whatever the substance of the surprise is works for them. RM also missed the mark with gifts--especially after I specifically asked him to stop giving me gifts. There he was, expecting appreciation, and demonizing me for not rendering any, and there was I, wishing he'd stop giving me stuff. The only gift I wanted was to be left alone, and that was the one thing he was unwilling to give. Am I succeeding in making my point? The issue isn't RM's cluelessness, but that disconnect that develops when someone refuses to understand that another doesn't want what he is trying to give.

Another example that AA gave was, you may love to share home-cooked meals with people you love, but your partner just likes restaurants. It's not just a shared interest thing; there's going to be a deeper fault in the relationship because one party will be unable to give.

Anyway, her talk brought to mind a couple of other scenarios, one years-old and one recent. I think I've written about this guy I kind-of dated many years ago who really, really wanted to help me carry my groceries. Even though I was the one with the car. And was otherwise quite happy to carry my groceries on my own. Now that I think about it in the context of what this woman is saying, other elements of that 'relationship' make sense--there were other times where he was very insistent in offering to do things that were very unappealing to me (such as drive my car back to my house the next day so I could drink more at the party we were at), and his insistence would just infuriate me, because I felt that he wasn't listening.

On a less intense note, I've continued to collect fence-building estimates, and the range is actually impressive--the two highest are twice as high as the lowest. But I digress. The very professional gentleman who provided the highest bid emphatically informed me that the foreman of his crew speaks English. Which is not a bad thing to figure your customers might care about; it just happens that I don't. Similarly, there's nothing inherently good or bad about the specifics of what any person might want to give (well, the pearl earrings that RM tried to give me were inappropriate, but that's a bad example). It's more an issue of being open to the fact that what one sees as a wonderful gift may not be what another wants (conversely, one may be utterly blind to simpler things that another really wants). And pushing for the other person to appreciate something just because you're giving it--and I'm not talking here about one-time, material gifts, in which case you should just appreciate them, provided they are appropriate, because they are given. On the level of the Gifts that one brings to a relationship--home-cooked meals, housework, financial security, etc.--it's so important to make sure that both people in that relationship are happy to receive what the other is willing and able to give.

Phone call

My mother is hilarious

Mom: What were you doing?
A.: Just now?
Mom: You let the phone ring!
A.: I was scooping out the litter box. I just switched to flushable litter...
Mom: What a waste of water!
A.: It's much more sustainable than throwing all that clay in the trash!
Mom: No! It uses too much water.
A.: To be clear, I don't scoop it out and flush it every time she goes. Not that it matters.
Mom: You should feed her differently.
A.: She would still poop, mom.
Dad: Unless you stopped feeding her ;).
A.: That is an option. Except it's not, because I couldn't handle any more whining.
Mom: You could compost it.
A.: I'm not sure cat poop is best for one's garden.
Dad: No, but you could bury it once the ground softens. Not necessarily all in one place.
A.: Could we talk about something else now, please?
Dad: Do you have Monday off? I just found out that I have Monday off.
A.: I suggested a while ago that you come visit this weekend. It's my first non-headless-chicken weekend in ages.
Mom: We'll visit another weekend.
A.: When's your knee operation?
Mom: End of March. But we could come before then.
A.: Well, let's wait until you can walk easily.
Mom: When are you traveling? April?
Dad: May. She'll be away for her birthday.

[Expect the 'when are you traveling?' conversation to repeat regularly over the next couple of months]

Mom: It's going to be hot.
A.: Of course it is. That's why the cost of the trip fell within my price range.
Mom: How long are you going for?
A.: Nine days.
Mom: That doesn't make sense.
Dad: It's really not a good use of travel time.
A.: I realize that, but it's what's feasible in terms of finances and taking time off work.
Mom: No. You should travel the way Sasha travels.
A.: Sasha is retired. And his house is paid off. I'm traveling the way I can, now.
Mom: Suit yourself.

Sunday morning roundup

Riyadh is nervous.

What revolution means for women in the Middle East, what democracy might mean for Al Qaida, and what social media does not mean for revolution.

Trade between India and Pakistan, as well as confidence-building, could be better.

Wow. Debbie Schlussel somehow managed to be more despicable than Nir Rosen. Wait, it gets even worse.

Frances Kissling writes that advocates of choice need to change course.

Frank Rich on CPAC and other politics of the week.

Wait, some conservatives are just now wondering whether Glenn Beck's gone off the deep end?

Are fewer males are actually becoming men? BTW, did you all catch the Tracy McMillan Valentine's Day piece?

Out of context, this might be the saddest statement ever:
"KFC is certainly doing better than McDonald's at becoming more Chinese," says Su Yi, 28, a lawyer, as he pauses between spoonfuls of mushroom, bacon and rice at lunch in a packed KFC opposite Beijing's Jishuitan subway station. "I have lunch at KFC twice a week because there's always one close by. And when I'm out on a date and want to impress a girl, I take her to Pizza Hut."
The article does clarify, however, that
Pizza Huts in China bear even less resemblance to their Western counterparts. While a KFC in the People's Republic still looks like a Western-style fast-food restaurant, Chinese Pizza Huts are marketed as sophisticated venues for the legion of increasingly affluent and status-conscious Chinese. Seated in cushioned booths, customers can choose from a 106-item menu that includes wine and Chinese-influenced dishes, such as scallop croquettes with crushed seaweed and even French-inspired escargot.
. Yesterday's fierce winds took down the National Christmas Tree.

Someone please tell my multilingual-yet-easily-distracted brain that foreign language learning is found to thwart ADD.

"His Eye Is on the Sparrow" was phenomenal. Not for the first time, watching a one-woman show, I found myself "seeing" the people she was talking to.

Gael Garcia Bernal is so hot... ahem... my point is, "Even the Rain" looks really interesting.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Activism matters! Japan cut short its whale hunt.

Will Egyptian women be able to leverage their role in the revolution into lasting social and political power?

In writing about India's wishy-washy position on the Middle East protests, this journalist pushed the 'on the fence' cliche/metaphor to a new level of cringe.

By now you know that Big Bird has lost out to NASCAR, at least for now. While we're on the topic of what to invest in, Charles Blow has some more indices for us. According to Bowles and Simpson, there's still hope for budgetary sanity.

Ooh! A metaconspiracy! Karl Rove suggests birtherism is a White House plot to make the right look bad.

Spending bills, and the issues they prioritize or diminish, are often theoretical to us as individuals (I, personally, don't watch Sesame Street anymore, which is not to say I don't think it's important). Here's an issue with practical implications for me on both sides of the issue: I definitely hear the traffic coming in and out of National. And I definitely love not trekking to Dulles to be able to travel across the country.

Grist kindly requests that journalists quit manufacturing a vegan/manliness dichotomy.

Is this expose really that outlandish? I sort of sympathize, since most of the time I spend with my cat, I'm either ignoring her or telling her to shut up.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday morning roundup

A segment of Bahrainis are content with the status quo. One war-weary Yemeni argues that any change would an improvement.

The Belgians are so creative and self-sacrificing with their protests.

I don't understand why Michelle Obama's breastfeeding campaign is either a partisan or bipartisan spat. Do people on both sides, including hipster Brooklyn mom, understand that the First Lady doesn't actually have any authority? She's not forcing or even pressuring anyone to breastfeed. She's *promoting* it, and research shows that promoting through informational campaigns actually helps.

In other working mom issues: Tina Fey in the New Yorker.

I really enjoyed "On the Razzle". Even though I appreciate what the reviewer means by "minor Stoppard is better than no Stoppard," and we both liked the play, I couldn't find (minor) fault where she did and found slight annoyances elsewhere. All this to say, theater, like any art form, is somewhat personal--is it worth focusing on the details that worked for you personally?

Someone's fiance infuriates Carolyn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quick note on recipes (in response to comment)

It wasn't the ice cream that was purple--it was the ube truffles, which I'll discuss below. I don't actually have the ice cream recipe--it came with the ice cream maker (which was not mine). Apparently, both KitchenAid and Cuisinart ice cream makers come with vegan ice cream recipes; for green tea, just use green tea powder instead of cocoa powder (but use less, because it's STRONG)l; for azuki, make vanilla ice cream and mix in a cup or so of azuki paste (azuki beans, lemon juice, sweetener).

For the truffles (I made up this recipe as I went along, so adjust the proportions and ingredients for taste and texture as you see fit):


Approximately 3 lbs ube (purple yam), washed/scrubbed, but not peeled
1/2 can or more coconut milk (lite is fine)
1/4 cup high-quality, unsweetened soy milk (optional, but helps cut the sweetness--make sure you don't get one with an aftertaste)
1/2 lb to 1 lb pressed, pitted dates (these add to the flavor but also to the sweetness, so go with more or less depending on your taste)
1/2 cup to 1 cup oats, finely ground (for texture and also to cut the sweetness)
1-2 tbsp bourbon, optional

1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened ground coconut
1/3 -1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted and ground (not too finely)


Roast ube until really, really soft (maybe 375-450 degrees, for an hour or so). Let cool and remove skin; mash up or blend in a large bowl.

While the ube is roasting, mash up/separate the dates so that they blend more easily with the ube. Maybe mix them up with the coconut milk to get them separated.

Add the dates, coconut milk, soy milk, oats, and bourbon to the ube mixture and blend until smooth. Cover and chill for an hour or so.

Mix the ground coconut and hazelnuts in a bowl. Scoop out the chilled ube and roll into balls, and then roll in the coconut and hazelnuts. Stick on a plate and stick in the freezer until they're ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thursday morning roundup

This is so f*ed up I have nothing to say about it. Not even, 'think before you tweet,' because the bigger issue is, why would you even think such things? And that makes you part of the problem.

The foreign aid budget is not the problem. Besides, the ag and shipping industries are going to lobby to restore it, because it means demand for their goods and services.

Corporations haggle with government agencies over the value of a human life.

Carolyn Hax tells women to be weary of charming, charismatic people.

Not RSVPing--and I feel especially strongly about this, having just hosted a party, is extremely rude.

Female celebrities continue to find virtue or at least PR advantage, in perpetuating an image of themselves as carefree, even gluttonous, eaters.

The Onion sees the Times as offering an equivalent to Colbert Platinum.

Wednesday morning roundup

Wen Jiabao is trying out the role of reformer, but the level of substance is unclear.

Dr. Rice on Egypt's future.

For our reading list: "A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear."

Pearlstein makes a compelling case for raising the gas tax.

Room for Debate takes on the food crisis. It kind of makes me feel bad about having switched to wheat-based kitty litter, even though it is more sustainable.

Sarah Palin is birthers' candidate of choice.

This is why I don't complain about customer service unless it's really, really warranted. I nearly complained about Trader Joe's the other day--I had a few things, including sweet potatoes and heirloom tomatoes, and the cashier put them out of my reach but didn't start bagging them--waited for the bag guy to get back. Then the bag guy *put the tomatoes in first* and was about to put the potatoes in over them. Is not putting tomatoes in a bag first not the first thing they teach you in bag training, and even if it isn't, isn't it common sense?

Computerized Monopoly?? Why mess with a classic?

Only the Post would recommend some local area living blogs without linking to them or providing URLs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Yemen's best-known and hardest-charging democracy activist is a woman.

Michael Gerson points out that defunding mosquito nets is not going to solve our budget crisis (but it will solve the malaria crisis from the perspective of the mosquitoes). Tina Rosenberg points out that solutions for enhancing children's health in developing countries can be simple (and inexpensive).

A former Congressional candidate gets a year in prison for lying about a letter his campaign sent to registered Democrats with Latino surnames that warned them, as immigrants, not to vote.

Scott Turow argues that copyright protection fosters creativity.

More research shows that meditation is really good for you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday evening roundup and rant

It's ironic that I even bothered to celebrate AVD, given that, where I live and where I work, today is known as the eagerly anticipated day that Cupid hits us with his funding request for the year to come. Let's drink to that! (Let's just not drink that much).

I trust you all will ignore National Snack Food Month anyway, so there's no need to entreat you to boycott whatever the f* it is.

It's hard for me to believe that so many people view healthy food as inherently not tasty, but it's sort of depressing that we (the Economist, for example) turn to Big Food to make "good" food healthier. How about this: stop. eating. processed. food. Put as much oil and salt on your real food as you want--it'll still be better for you than reduced fat/reduced sodium processed $hit.

The other night, I hosted a party at which I served lots of healthy food. At no point did anyone say, "actually, could I have some Doritos?" Don't get me wrong--I thought Doritos' Superbowl ads were hilarious, but also hilariously ironic, because that's exactly what's not going to bring you (or your plants, or your fish) back to life. Although you could do a lot worse. But I digress. All I'm saying is, people at the party were eating their vegetables without making a big deal out of eating their vegetables. A couple of coworkers who came to the party told me today how amazingly good the food was (yay!), and one person commented on the originality of a number of the dishes. I've made food for other occasions where I heard one or two people way, in a much less complimentary tone, that they couldn't tell what anything was, to which I rolled my eyes and refrained from saying, 'don't let me stop you from eating cheese puffs instead.' It's just that, as you know, I'm attracted to irony and absurdity, and both come into play when people--not my friends, but some people--say things like, "I could never eat the way you do: I like food too much," when so little of what they eat is actually food. I love food--love it. That's why I eat food.

Monday morning roundup

A very interesting look at how the Egyptian revolution unfolded. Meanwhile, the White House studies recent revolutions and transitions. Over in Tunisia, elation has turned to figuring out how to get from here to there. There being, good governance, employment opportunities, etc.

Infrastructure is a priority for Americans, but paying for it is not.

My personal perspective aside, Petula Dvorak's anti-Valentine's Day column is much more convincing and better written than this defense of Valentine's Day. I bring this up partly, well, because it's the seasonal thing to do, but it's also a reflection on Slate. I could barely get through that second column (admittedly, she lost me at how buying organic is smug--really? you see no genuine benefits to buying organic?? but even that aside...) there are so many people writing out there that don't merit the column space. I'm just saying.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In case you were wondering

Anti-Valentine's Day was a blast, as always. There's no way around that, since I have great friends, and great friends make for fun parties. Mom did call this morning to ask, among other things, whether I'd celebrate AVD this year, and, upon hearing that I already did, asked, in not so many words, whether people had had enough to eat, given that there were no, you know, animal products.

It's kind of funny that mom thinks I'd starve my guests (particularly given the food situation at my parties, including last night's). Actually, one of the guests confessed that she'd eaten a bit before coming, since she wasn't sure about the whole vegan thing (she understood afterward that that was not a good strategy). That's not how it works: when vegans go to parties, they should eat ahead of time, because there might not be much for them to eat. At vegan parties, everyone (but celiacs) can eat.

Last night, there were quite a few "I can't believe that's vegan!" comments (and one "I don't know what any of this is, but it's all really good"). By no means did I set out to make a statement, i.e. prove that vegan food could be good. I mean, if I'm serving food, it better be good, and the food I'm serving these days happens to be vegan. If it leaves people in awe of what one can do without animal products, that's great, but my guiding principle is to create a fun party environment--in part through tasty food. That said, I'm quite happy, after the fact, to have gotten people to appreciate how good vegan food can be.

The food did mostly turn out well, but I didn't get a chance to take pictures. The falafel came out a bit dry, but it was tasty (and the tahini sauce [really, Blogger? you don't recognize "tahini"? really?] mitigated the dryness). The pea dumplings were no worse for containing tofu "ricotta"; the kabocha dumplings came out okay, but next year there will be more kabocha and less miso (same amount of ginger). Chef Chloe's black bean sliders were phenomenal, and went well with both sauces in the recipe, but I think the spicy mango sauce scared people. Which foods really fly off the platters tend to surprise me, and this year it was the endive boats and the edemame (how easy is edemame?) Spring rolls were good (new ingredient: jicama) and involtini were good (new filling: the one actually specified in the cookbook; new kitchen tool: mandolin to get the eggplant slices 1/4 inch thick--huge difference). The ube balls were a huge hit (totally improvised!), although I should have rolled them smaller. I thought the brownie bites were very tasty, but they did not fly (one mistake was using extra dark cocoa powder--makes them look kind of burnt). The green tea and azuki ice cream was really, really tasty.

Every year, there's one menu item that makes me thing, "why am I doing this? It is so not worth it." This year, I don't know why I messed with trying to make bread. The mini-pitas turned out okay--and the whole wheat slider buns had a good flavor, even though they didn't rise--but they were both unnecessary. There's really no reason to serve bread of any sort at a party, even with sliders and falafel.

Some years, that menu item--the one that you don't ever want to make again--is a huge hit, and you're stuck making it. Actually, dumplings have traditionally been a bigger hit, but they were funny looking this year so they didn't really fly. But I digress. Last year, it was the Roquefort grapes. In fact, this year, several people brought up last year's grapes (mercifully, I didn't feel the need to make them again, since they contain Roquefort). But now I feel like I need to find a vegan ingredient that will simulate the pungency of Roquefort, and then I'll make the grapes again.

It's also funny to think about, now, how different people's everyday eating habits are. I'm glad I didn't think about it before the party, as it might have stressed me out. It occurred to me, as it does hours before every party, that the food might turn out disastrous, but it really didn't occur to me that, provided the food would turn out alright, one guest or another--perhaps a friend of a friend, etc.--wouldn't like it because it wasn't what they knew, what they were used to. In other words, the thought of cooking for the Susans of the world didn't cross my mind. That said, people--including my friends and their friends--do have vastly different eating habits. The friend who'd eaten a bit beforehand had brought along her neighbor, who was a vegan. One friend, who had previously been a vegetarian, started eating poultry recently, upon getting married. Her husband said something at one point that reminded me how different my food world is from what might be standard.

A., to Allen: When I was at your house the other day--was it yesterday? Whenever I came by to get the soy milk...
Paul: It's a sign of the times. You went around the corner to see if your neighbors had a cup of soy milk.
Allen: Well, she knew we had it--it wasn't a random request.

But still. It is a sign of the times.

Sunday roundup

Egypt hits home for Eastern Europeans.

When is ethnic identity pertinent to a news story?

Pepco pays its investors at the expense of its customers.

It's lonely to be a DC Tea Partier. Also in Tea Party news: they have a glossy publication.

The suburbs have really changed.

Is the DC theater scene saturated?

Chocolate is really, really good for you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Egypt's revolution is a big. f*ing. deal. Watching things unfold across the region feels like watching the Soviet Union collapse all over again, only, in my case, with much better appreciation for what it all means. But there's just as much hope, uncertainty, awe, potential (including potential pitfalls), and emotion. Speaking of emotion, Hank Stuever talks about that a bit here. I tend to cringe when someone tries to word-play by using "revolution" and "televised" in the same sentence, but it's subtle enough here that you can side-step the cliche. He also ends with an excellent question:
It's times like this that you both appreciate and pity ABC's Christiane Amanpour, who has patiently described the intricate nature of the Arab world to television audiences for how many years now. In return, most of us still pronounce "Iraq" like the Aflac duck. We love revolutions and giant parties, but will we have the patience to pay close attention to what happens next?

India's food crisis worsens; experts cite neglect of agriculture.

Charles Blow outlines which demographics stand to lose (hint: all but one). Also getting screwed: the District of Columbia. To understand the reasoning (note: I did not use the word "logic") behind the screwing, those of you in LA might have suited up and gone to the screening of "Atlas Shrugged".

Gail Collins on upstate New York's latest sex scandals.

Gifts do help relationships work, but it's not the kind of gifts you see advertised.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Phone call

Mom: So, we're having TV issues.
A.: Did it come with a warranty?
Mom: It's not the TV; it's RCN.
A.: Oh.
Mom: So, my question for you is, what do you call that, when the TV... you know... when the picture comes in and out, but very quickly.
A.: Um... I'm not sure...
Mom: Sure you are.
A.: I'd probably say that the picture was cutting out.
Mom: No, that's not it.
A.: Well, that's what you'd say if you were on the phone with someone. If the connection went in and it, you'd say they were "cutting out."
Mom: Really? That's weird. I don't think that's right. How would you say it when a person does it--like, if someone has a speech impediment.
A.: You'd say they "stuttered," but you'd never use that to describe a television picture.
Mom: "Studded"?
A.: "Stuttered."
Mom: Spell it for me.
A.: Why don't I just e-mail it to you. Honestly, though, it's not the word you're looking for. You can tell them that the picture cuts out... maybe that it flickers in and out.
Mom: Okay. Anyway, what else is up? What's the cat up to?
A.: She's looking out the back door. I'll let her out... and then she'll want to come back in two seconds later.
Mom: Have you thought about getting her a cat door?
A.: I don't want her going out when I'm not here. And I wouldn't put it past her to stand half-in, half-out while she's thinking about where she wants to be, for minutes at a time.
Mom: We could give you ours. Maybe not, though. We might get another cat one day.

I've been encouraging my parents to get a cat, but they insist that it wouldn't be fair to the cat because they'd only compare it to C., the cat I grew up with, who died years ago. We all miss her, but it's not like the new cat is going to care about being compared to a legend--it'll just be happy to be adopted.

A.: Okay. Sounds good. I'll e-mail you the words.

Friday morning roundup

Some DC metro area denizens are less than thrilled about the burbs' increasing diversity. Who can blame them: I can't deny that my foreign-born ass has done little for my own neighborhood's overall appearance or property values--although those continue to go up, along with the real-estate taxes.

Oh, someone should so make these lines into local Valentine's Day candy.

If you've noticed more dust around the house, you're in good company. I will be dusting this afternoon (took two afternoons off for party prep instead of a full day).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Alright, before we get to the food stuff and fun stuff, here's something that should infuriate you whether or not you give a rat's ass about the nation's food system.

How parenting fosters righteous indignation in just about everyone.

The potemkin slaughterhouse that Cargill showed Oprah and her viewers.

The government has come out with aquaculture guidelines.

I'd previously seen the Colbert video on Wyngz (maybe I even posted it?) but I also love Grist's framing here.

Lord Gaga is coming out with a cookbook (I told Jay it was perfect for him).

I also told Jay he was ahead of the trend on talking in Twitter speak. The Express actually spells out some of the acronyms on pg.11. I hope Jay knows to be worried now that I've learned "IWBAPTAKYAIYSTA!"

BTW, when Jay was here I learned all this gay terminology, and when we went to look up some terms in a gay glossary, even he learned something new--disco related injury (DRI). We both found that one very amusing.

I am such a child, because--with all due respect to Fort Wayne, Indiana's former mayor, as I do hope the city he served finds a way to honor him--I think this is hilarious.

Thursday morning roundup

WTF? Someone with a history of violent crime managed to get a job where he had keys to people's apartments (and used them to bludgeon a resident to death)? How does this $hit happen?

I suppose I should read the book (Bill Bryson's book) before making comments, but I can tell you know there's some very selective information here. Please, please, please don't try the paleo diet. See my previous (response to comment) post. That much meat--even grass fed meat--is just gross.

Wow--I've never before heard nursing in public places described as "narcissistic exhibitionism". Wow.

Gail Collins reminds us of what we don't need to worry about.

Response to comments

Well, if we want to talk about "yuck" factor, many foods out there would beat out fake meat (starting with factory-farmed real meat, and ending with, say, cheese puffs or even veggie puffs for that matter). I think fake meat can have the same range of processing, additives, etc.

Remember how, over the holidays, mom harped on how she never should have driven me to "that conference"? What I might have told her was, had I not decided to become a vegetarian then, I'd have come across plenty of other other inspiration along the way. Check out Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," which is as much about the food supply in general as it is about fast food, or Michael Pollan's "Power Steer" and tell me that real meat is less gross than fake. A friend/coworker of mine who was recently staffed to an animal antibiotics job said she didn't want to do it because she was afraid of what she'd learn; she liked meat and wanted to keep eating it. Which is her call. But if we're going to talk about food being 'yuck,' you've got to consider what's in your meat.

See also (and again) the Grist column on how factory farmed salmon really is gross.

Back to the topic of binders: I think tofu has its place. It's not something I want to eat every day, but I quite like it (and I'm not afraid of soy--of which, by the way, you get much more through eating soy-fed meat than you do by consuming actual soy products). I'm serving edemame as a snack, and the ice cream is soy based (but really, how much ice cream are people going to have). I'm just going to put maybe a tablespoon of tofu/olive oil/herb in each endive to hold everything together.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oh and response to comment

Can't really use banana or applesauce for a savory dish (I mean, I want it to taste like roasted vegetables, not like banana). In fact, the brownies I'm making call for banana, but I'm substituting frozen raspberries, because when I first made them according to the recipe, the banana flavor was overwhelming. The silken tofu is a gamble--I'm aiming to simulate the texture and, to some extent, flavor of goat cheese--but it should be pretty cohesive once blended with olive oil.

On that note, I am *in love* with Olave. I really liked Colavita organic, but I switched to Spectrum to try it (a Grist review of organic olive oils recommended it)--it's not awful, but it's not great. Just switched to Olave, and it is amazingly flavorful. So I think I'll blend that with some silken tofu, rosemary, and basil. I don't need the veggies drowning in the mixture--just a little something to anchor them in the endive leaf.

Here's another substitution question: my falafel recipe calls for a couple tablespoons of flour. I don't want to use white flour--maybe I can use chickpea flour?

For the ube pie, I decide to make ube truffles instead. I'll mix the ube with coconut milk and soy milk, maybe with some arrowroot, and then roll in dry coconut and crushed hazelnut. The nice thing about non-bake desserts is that you can experiment as you go--if the first one comes out gross, I can adjust the recipe.

Wednesday evening roundup and ramble

A rambling but interesting look at Egypt's military.

I hope I'm not addicted to anxiety.

Mark Bittman's post on real food is very timely--not just in response to the new nutritional guidelines--but also in terms of my own food journey. I haven't been following Oprah's vegan week, but I was disappointed to read about the role of fake meat in her vegan exploration. I don't have a problem with fake meat as a sometimes food or as a gateway food, but it's not something I want to or can eat regularly, and--unless you're getting organic soy, etc.--it's not especially sustainable. I bring this up now because I've decided to reintroduce small amounts of seafood into my diet. I really, really wanted to give up animal products entirely, at least as part of my regular, at-home diet, but it just didn't work. I realized this because I felt like crap right before leaving for California a few weeks ago, and I'd gained weight (I don't weigh myself, but I could tell). In California, seafood was the best non-meat, non-dairy option, so I ended up ordering it for dinner... and I immediately felt better. Yes, I'm taking B12 supplements, but something was missing, and it might have been extra protein. Which I might have gotten from a boca burger... but I'd rather get it from some wild-caught Gulf shrimp.

This may also explain why my past attempts at going vegan went nowhere (they preceded my pescetarianism, so I was already a vegetarian). I'm committed to a plant-based diet, but I'm also committed to real, unprocessed, and unrefined food. Some vegans make it work by consuming TVP (and/or crap). Even in PCRM's Kickstart, it was hard to find recipes without processed soy or refined grains.

There may be other unprocessed, plant-based foods I'm not thinking of that could help me get that extra protein, but for the time being, eating a little bit of seafood makes me feel a lot better, so I'm going to keep doing it.

All that said, check out Mark Bittman's vegetarian sushi guide. He says brown rice won't work, but I think black rice just might.

Wednesday morning roundup

Y'all know how I feel (well, think) about Tom Friedman (more often than not recycles the same handful of ideas, but occasionally really hits the spot)... but do pay attention when he writes about the Middle East, because his understanding is deep. "Beirut and Jerusalem" was his "Omnivore's Dilemma," i.e. an actually researched, profound, informative book. The analogy being that both he and Michael Pollan have gone on to right fluff that an eighth grader could put together (I mean, food rules? really?). But I digress. I take no issues with what Tom Friedman says here about Egypt, but I'm wary of the qualified analogy to China, i.e. China restricts political freedom but at least offers young people an economic future. Yes and no. China has more educated young people that it can employ outside of factories and farms, and they don't want to work at factories or farms like their parents did (or still do). I keep reading these one-sentence references to the China contrast, and I ask you to take it with a grain of salt, because it's not really substantiated.

Michael Gerson explores the potential politics of Catholicism. On more personal aspects of Catholicism: an iPhone app for your sins.

Don't mess with nursing mothers. I see this as a win-win: maybe people will stay and check out the Hirshhorn's collections, which are awesome. And, as suggested at the end of the article, let's hope we get some inspired art out of the situation.

You're not imagining things: metro escalators are malfunctioning in record proportions.

I watched the extraordinary and thought-provoking docudrama, "Endgame," yesterday (it was shown at work). A young(er) Thabo Mbeke was a central figure in the theme (as he was a central figure in the negotiations to end Apartheid), and I'm not sure whether it was sad or inspiring to revisit that heroic side of him, after his shot at governing. I mean, nobody's perfect, and revolutionary leaders often do not make good political leaders, but what's striking about Mbeke's case--let's move this closer to home, away from potential Egypt parallels--is how his denial of basic science was disastrous for his country. Would it have made a difference in South Africa if he'd embraced the link between HIV and AIDS? How can a leader deny that, all while watching a disease devastate his country? And yet, check out the climate denialism in our country. The consequences could be even more tragic, irreversible. Doesn't it infuriate you?

Notes on vegan party planning (suggestions welcome)

Have you noticed--and I'm not sure how this is possible--that Evite has gotten a lot less user-friendly?

Food planning for the first vegan/quasi-macrobiotic AVD party is coming along, albeit a few decisions remain:

-I've always done endive boats--they make a fantastic appetizer--but they almost inevitably involve cheese or mayo to hold the contents together. I don't do vegannaise, and that flavor doesn't go with the taste I'm trying to crate. The filling will be roasted vegetables (red peppers, artichokes, kalamata olives, mushrooms)... and now I need a binder and a topping. In the past, I've topped with hazelnuts, but I don't know that those will work with this. I'm already using pecans for the eggplant involtini. Anyway, don't want to use anything too starchy or fishy (i.e. ground flax) for the binder. Any suggestions? Might just do some silken tofu blended with olive oil and herbs.
-seasonings for the kabocha dumplings? maybe a drop of miso, but not a lot.
-ube tarts with coconut frosting, or ube-coconut tarts?
-what to use in the pea dumplings in lieu of parmesan. can't use nutritional yeast--it'll turn people's stomachs upside down if they're not used to it (and I imagine they're not).
-are the pie and brownies going to clash with rather than complement the already strongly flavored ice "cream"?

I don't usually do this (it hasn't occurred to me, and I'm often scrambling come party time) but I'll take pictures of what will be the awesome vegan party food. I'll take some pictures of the food in progress--spring rolls look cooler before they're wrapped, after all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday morning roundup

Masha Lipman's column on Russia's seeking an identity and coming to terms with history--here's an excerpt:
The latest initiative to remove Lenin's body may be an attempt by Kremlin loyalists to actually appear to do something progressive while not shifting the fundamental state order nor greatly stirring public passions. Most Russians favor removing Lenin, but the anti-communist ardor of the late '80s and early '90s is gone. Increasingly, the mausoleum, housing a mummy in the heart of a bustling commercial metropolis, looks like a curiosity. Indeed, if the government were interested in stripping Lenin of his last vestiges of sainthood, it might capitalize on the mausoleum as a tourist attraction.
--made me think of the Mercedes commercial during the Superbowl (which, in turn, made me think of Che Guevara t-shirts). How horrified do you think Janis Joplin is at Mercedes Benz using her song to sell cars?

Ross Douthat's column on the Obama administration's foreign policy so oversimplifies things and is so misguided in so many ways that it just makes me angry.

Do see Fareed Zakaria's column on what's going on in Egypt.

There are most definitely things in this country that make for a struggle for working class people. Definitely. That said, it's infuriating when people wield the "it's not fair to poor/working people" argument broadly, on completely unrelated issues, like reusable grocery bags and cleaning the snow off one's car so as not to endanger other drivers. That kind of thing does nothing for "working people."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

It's time to let go of Southern Sudan. That means everyone.

Frank Rich very passionately points out that the revolution in Egypt is about human dignity, not social media. Here are some less articulate thoughts on said revolution. David Broder is not nearly as inarticulate here, but his point is a good one, so I wish he'd made it more clearly.

You know something's up when Saudis are protesting.

Colombia is returning land seized during the conflict.

Here, some returning veterans are turning to organic farming as a productive form of therapy.

DC residents, sick of Pepco's $hit, are investing in home generators.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Is Kerala's pluralistic society under threat?

Charles Blow looks at the Middle East through data--food prices, income inequality, etc.--and social and governance factors. The trends are eye-opening.

Variations on this theme never get old.

The war on Planned Parenthood.

Virginia, bucking a trend, has managed to get whiter.

E-books have young people reading. And that cat in the picture looks a bit like Gracie.

Wait, you expect me to drive down to Richmond and pay $20 to see a Picasso exhibit? No offense to Richmond, but there'd be more value added by just going to Paris (or Barcelona).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday evening roundup

That's f*ed up.

I've actually seen this on both sides, right and left: discredit an idea or initiative by pointing to the worst-case scenario or a problem with the implementation.

I find this article on why most Americans don't travel abroad somewhat condescending. That said--since they specifically mention Nicaragua as a place people are wary of based on misconceptions--when I was about to leave for Nicaragua, numerous people--people who themselves traveled abroad--said things like, "isn't there a war there??" [no, hadn't been for over a decade] and other such things. I traveled there largely alone (mind you, I got stalked by a crack dealer at one point, but even that wasn't that scary), and it was fine. I found it even more amusing that Nicaraguans had similar reactions to DC ("You shouldn't leave your hotel after 6pm!"), so there are interesting ideas everywhere.

Friday morning roundup

Why the lack of burning flags and effigies may not entirely be a good thing. Although I'm not convinced that's a bad thing.

Experts--and I use that word very carefully--are thinking the Indonesia model is the most likely.

Cuba's nascent private sector is showing signs of life.

Paying for health care in the aftermath of the Tuscon shooting.

It's everyone's Constitution.

Chef Rene Verdon has passed away. A note from his obituary:
...Mr. Verdon championed seasonal, local food long before it became fashionable. He grew vegetables on the White House roof and herbs in the East Garden.

"I cooked everything fresh," he told the New York Times in 2009. "If the ingredients are superb, then the cooking can be, and must be, simple."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stuff from the Express that I'd forgotten to blog about

Some very unusual in-air requests to flight attendants.

How cool-looking are these monkeys?

The RM in "the Roommate" makes my RM look good (i.e., normal, with a grasp of boundaries).

Phone call

I just had one of those mildly infuriating conversations with my parents, throughout the course of which I actively made a point to, and succeeded in, keeping a level tone, even when mom started to raise her voice.

Dad: We're still digging out, but it's nice to have had a couple of days without snowfall. How is it where you are?
A.: Not bad at all. It hasn't snowed since last Friday.
Dad: Still snow on the ground?
A.: Yeah, but it's manageable.
Dad: When did we last talk?
A.: Saturday.
Dad: Oh, yeah--the fence guy was outside. Did he come in with an estimate?
A.: Yup: $2,200.
Dad: What was the first one again?
A.: $1,670.
Dad: What are you going to do?
A.: Take a couple of weeks to think about whether I live without a fence in my front yard and go from there. I really, really don't want to spend the money.
Dad: And yet, it's gotten to the point where you're clearly thinking about it.
A.: It's a functional thing: if I have a fence, people feel less free to walk into my yard. When I got back from Boston, I found wrapping paper in my recycling bin, which is to the side of my house. I'm just not thrilled with people walking through the yard.
Dad: Makes sense. You don't want to just by the panels?
A.: No, we've been over this: I can't use pre-fab panels because they don't fit my yard, which is 14'+3'+12.5'. There's no way to make panels that come in 5' or 6' segments work with that. I mean, there is on the 12.5' side, but not on the 14' side, even with an asymmetrical gate.
Mom: You should get more than one estimate.
A.: I've gotten two. I'm ready to either get this done or let it go.
Mom: And then it will just fall down like the back fence.
A.: Totally different situation, mom. It's aluminum, and it's short.
Mom: That doesn't mean it won't fall down! You'll pay all that and it can still fall down!
A.: It's guaranteed. It's just still expensive.
Mom: How much are the panels?
A.: The panels are not the point. Did you hear what I just told dad?
Mom: I picked up in the middle of that.
A.: [repeats the symmetry issue].
Dad: So the $1600 includes labor?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: It may still fall down.
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: Don't you have people you can ask about this stuff?
A.: No. Whom am I supposed to ask about this stuff? That would be the subset of people in this area who have houses that didn't already come with fences, who have had them installed. Actually, I was talking to one of my colleagues about this, and he said he was surprised the first estimate, which was the only one I'd had at the time, hadn't come in for more. The second guy told me they charge an additional $650 if you require less than 75' of fencing.
Mom: Well, can't you find someone handy to help?
A.: Help with what?? Welding the metal? Because that's the alternative to buying it and getting it installed.
Mom: Well, consider all your options.
A.: I will.

I don't know why people feel the need to repeat platitudes when you're in the process of making a complicated decision. It's just not helpful. At least they're kind of supportive.

All-over-the-place roundup

I find Richard Cohen's suggestion overly simplistic and short-sighted. See here for a more nuanced perspective.

This review of Stanley Fish's new book is awesome and timely. I was just having this conversation with Mirella either before 'Alvin Ailey' or during one of the intermissions.

Mirella: Alexa [her daughter], upon seeing an amazing dance performance, criticized me for not putting her in dance lessons. I told her 'you either have it or you don't.'
A.: I couldn't disagree with you more.
M.: Really?
A.: Absolutely.
M.: It's natural talent.
A.: And a lot of practice.
M.: Practice will get you nowhere if you don't have talent.
A.: You can discover talent if you practice.
M.: I've seen amazing technical dancers who lack soul.
A.: That's true... soul matters. But technical skill helps you find your soul when you have something to say.
M.: If you were to seek artistic expression, what medium would you use?
A.: Writing.
M.: Can't be taught. [Her father was a renowned writer and poet].
A.: Of course it can!
M.: Maybe prose, but not poetry.
A.: Perhaps; but prose can also be art.

Mirella also took a good five minutes telling me how good my skin looked. She said I looked years younger. To be honest, I can't really tell the difference anymore, but hearing it doesn't get old. I don't know if it's an absence of animal products or a surge in winter vegetables, or a combination of both, but I guess it's working. But here's how I really know my ship has come in: undone hair is in.

Thursday morning roundup

Diaspora Egyptians are as worried as they are excited. There are a lot of unknowns, and a lot to lose. Things have turned violent and journalists are getting attacked. On a more positive note, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the threat some people think it is. And I'm not confounding the MB with AQ, but keep this very important reality in mind:
“There’s part of this that’s dangerous to Al Qaeda,” said Juan Zarate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was a top counterterrorism official during George W. Bush’s administration. “If the street protests lead to a peaceful, pluralistic transition, that does huge damage to the Al Qaeda narrative,” he said. That narrative holds that authoritarian pro-American governments should be deposed by violent jihad.
Oh, and does anyone else think that the level of complexity of what's happening in Egypt is best addressed in forums other than Twitter?

Lobbying may no longer be a growth industry.

Actually, I thought "the Anointed" was quite memorable, but I agree: the Alvin Ailey performance I saw this week was very good, but not the best.

I don't think anyone should have to defend their food choices, and I'm certainly sick of defending mine. Which is why I think this woman's response to her mother-in-law's inane comment was spot on. As for the mother-in-law: don't dish it out if you can't take it. The take-away is on the second page: let's make food a comment-free zone (well, when people are eating; obviously I'm not saying we shouldn't discuss food in the abstract).

What's remarkable about Mark Bittman's first official food column (i.e., first one officially on food politics, rather than food preparation) is that none of those points are the least bit revolutionary in theory, which only serves to emphasize how revolutionary they are in reality, because none of that is happening.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

First of all, bless the groundhog.

Alright, let's talk about Egypt: On secular governments; a revolution absent of ideology; why there's little room or role for jihadists; and why repression never means stability (some excellent points in that one).

Stromberg defends himself--well, his analysis of SP's SOTU response--against slams from what he calls the conspirosphere.

You're not imagining things; lots of medical research is wrong.

The Post finds itself jumping on the vegetarian bandwagon, even when writing about Superbowl party snack ideas. You know the times are changing when a mainstream paper pushes plant-based food for Superbowl parties. Just don't tell some people.

By now you know what's in your taco, but are you also aware of the antibiotics in your milk?

You do know that I'm the first to roll my eyes at the idea that healthy food is elitist, but I also roll my eyes at these people and their plastic-free month. Do any of them bring a lunch to work? Glass, you say? Do you take public transportation to work?

Science tells women not to settle.
I'm more with Dowd than Halevi here. More on Israeli concerns here. Meanwhile, in DC, lobbyists are gearing up.

It's a good week to not be in the Midwest.

What does the President's emphasis on science mean for the humanities? And by humanities, we also mean critical thinking skills. Which brings me to another review--Elizabeth Kolbert's--of "Tiger Mother". This excerpt begins with an excerpt from the book:
I didn’t care about the rights of criminals the way others did, and I froze whenever a professor called on me. I also wasn’t naturally skeptical and questioning; I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it.

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” exhibits much the same lack of interest in critical thinking. It’s breezily written, at times entertaining, and devoid of anything approaching introspection.
Yeah, no offense to Barbara Bush or anything, but I was wondering who the f* cared about her endorsement. Then again, maybe it matters more than one might have thought.

On the topic of other celebrity endorsements that hopefully matter more than I think they will: it's vegan week on Oprah.