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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year! Muni Love(s) You!

I have returned from a vacation of several nights at a rented house on the Sonoma Coast with S. It was a relaxing trip, relaxing enough that I have recovered from the cold I started Xmas Eve with.

Returning was our main effort today: S' car's malfunctioning alternator drained a new battery and made the engine go to sleep on Highway 101 just south of Cotati early this afternoon. (I have to say that this wasn't a big endorsement of car travel. My bike would NEVER do something like this to me. Shifting problems, sure, but nothing like this. :-) (We'd ridden an obscure road in from the coast: had the engine died there, we'd probably still be hiking for help.) After a ride in the tow truck and word from several sources that a replacement alternator could not be had from Santa Rosa until Friday at the earliest, we had a chain restaurant meal at one of hellish Rohnert Park's many strip malls, called Golden Gate transit to learn that escape would be possible, acquired some acetaminophen for one of my serious and inexplicably common headaches, and took at 2+ hour bus ride from "downtown" Rohnert Park to our own Civic Center, where we caught the K streetcar home.


Muni, SF's municipal transit system, is free this evening to encourage drunk people to take transit home. I was very happy to hear this, and wished the agent of Civil Center's metro station Happy New Year with great zeal. The title of this entry is the warm greeting returned to me by the agent.


We returned home to great relief, a big pile of mail, some scary Xmas card form letters from a couple of my friends, and to our deceased fighting fishie, who was in an advanced state of... non-being, but who had been fed by S' sister anyway.

Her offerings of many, many, many days worth of food were not enough to bring fighting fishie back to this world. I am burning a candle for him now. He will be missed.


I already have something to be thankful for in the new year: I will wake up in my own home in the City I love, and not in a hotel facing the Chuck E. Cheese in Rohnert Park.


Happy New Year! Muni loves you!

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:43 PM

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry 'Saturnalia festival posing as a Christian holiday'!!

May all of your lights be bright, interactions be pleasant, and food be plentiful as you try to come up for appropriate explanations as to why the desert birth of the savior is heralded by snow, holly berries, ivy, round fruitcakes, decorated fir trees, and father chimney.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:27 PM

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

It's a wet winter day, with enough rain coming down that S suggested we build an ark. The rainy season, a season I still find novel because of a drought-filled childhood, is proving its existence. Tender, bright green shoots of baby plants are popping up in every inch of exposed soil. Lush, dark mosses are appearing in every sidewalk seam. Garden plants such as calla lillies and camellias are blooming early, tricked into believing in spring rains.

I am home with a cold on the first day of my holiday vacation. S has had this cold for more than a week and I have been working very long hours, so it's not a surprise. But it's still no fun. I was hoping for a better reward for recent hard work than this. (There is a general rule that applies to my work projects: if I plan to take time off, I need to work the approximate number of hours I plan to be away as overtime prior to my departure, leaving me weary at the start of any vacation. It has held true once again.) My preparations for the holidays are incomplete, and being ill is a setback to completing them today.

First and foremost on my list of preparations is pie making. For two weeks, I have wished to make an apple cranberry pie. For two weeks, I have worked so late or been so tired that it hasn't been possible. Aging apples come out of the refridgerator, go back in, come back out, go back in... Today it must end. I MUST make pie.

Then, I must decide what to serve for my quiet, Christmas feast for two. I've been perusing the Christmas menus at, which are full of lovely ideas. I believe I want to serve a hearty soup, a vegetable gratin, a green salad, and a cranberry apple pie, and that winter squash should be involved somehow, but my cold medication is interfering with my focus. Hopefully inspiration will come during pie making.

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:08 PM

Sunday, December 21, 2003

For days I've wanted to write about how much fun the Bike Coalition's Winterfest Party was, and how wonderful the auction for dinner with Matt Gonzalez was, and how yummy the mushroom/squash/aoili and sundried tomato/goat cheese/tapenade sandwiches from Left Coast Catering were, and... and then I remember how much I've been working, and how much sleep I owe my body, and I wimp out.

Working long hours is no fun.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:15 PM

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Mayonnaise inspires evil. (SFGate) Of course it does.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:58 PM

Oooh, the Guardian has another good article on the positive potential for Gonzalez' newfound respect and support in this town ( Perhaps I should compile my fave Gonzalez articles? If I can get a break from work, I'll try it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:15 AM

Last night, after returning, starving, from the final LotR film, and being bummed because I've been working too late to grocery shop, only to discover that my beloved partner had done shopping for some key foods:

S: Do you love me more because I went to the store for [foods]?
Me: Yes.
S: [sounding slightly discouraged] I figured.
[long pause while I wolf down food]
Me: But you know, it's really just a technicality, because I love you soooo much already!
S: [looks at me, slightly disgusted about my food-related glee]


So, after dragging S to various volunteer and community functions, and plying him with political magazines, having him read pro-bike/anti-car books, and luring him into political conversation, he not only volunteered completely of his own accord for the Gonzalez campaign more hours than I did, but he now rants at the end of popular movies the way I do!!

Sample, at the end of LotR:

S: So, war is glorious, and solves all problems? And great men are born to be kings? And... [list of sociopolitical problems and anti-democratic ideas brought up in pro-monarchy, pro-violence film.]
Me: [shocked and happy to not be the one ranting for once].

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:12 AM

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A friend of mine at work was talking about playing in the snow, and mentioned that there are actually snow recipes!! ( She said she knows folks who made ice cream with snow, using sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and snow.

[When I do a google search for snow recipe, I get lots of fatty whipped cream resources and this vile-sounding recipe involving maple syrup, pickles, snow, and donuts. ( It MUST be a joke. Or, alternatively, there's a specific reason there are no 'New England Style' restaurants here in SF...]

To think I've never explored the potential for using snow in desserts. Hmmmm...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:32 PM

Working long days is cramping my cooking style. I've been eating out. I feel very lazy for eating out, but I need to eat, and have been amazingly tired.

Last night S and I went to El Torreador, a Mexican restaurant half a block from West Portal metro station. It's a sit down dinner place with alarmingly vivid colors on the walls, and a huge selection of beer bottles (Rogue yellow snow ale??) on display. Vegetarian selections are designated in the large menu with a heart, and come with white rice and black beans instead of the 'other' rice and refritos, which are apparently not suited for us herbivores. (This means that certain standards, like cheese enchiladas, can be either veggie or not veggie, depending on whether or not you specify which version of the side dishes you want. So order carefully!)

Last night I had the spinach enchiladas, in a lovely green sauce. They were pretty good, though I was pleasantly distracted by the blueness of my blue curacao margarita and didn't give the enchiladas my undivided attention. In the past I've also tried their eggplant enchiladas, which were very simple (baked eggplant with some cheese and a dark red sauce) and satisfying.

Eating was much more pleasant this time: last time we ate there, a manager/owner-type was rambling to the table next to us about a new car he bought. For the Entire Meal!!! Apparently, that car defines everything in this man's life, his entire identity, his leather-interior-like character. It was rather disturbing. [See the Washington Post article below on this topic.] Without the deranged self-identification-with-inanimate-objects, dinner was more relaxed and pleasant.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:24 PM

Follow up on my comments about kitchen porn: April Witt, a writer for the Washington Post, wrote a lengthy article about well-off people who find their reason to exist in shopping - a new religion. It's interesting in a creepy way. She initially planned for the article intended for the article to be themed, 'why they hate us,' but portrays these rich folks in a surprisingly sympathetic light, even if they come across as unusually needy of the attentions of sales clerks. The article notes that we need very little to survive, but with the gaping chasm between rich and poor ever widening, and the media telling us that only the rich have happy lives through property... Things get out of hand. And now it's so out of hand, people can't even see it:
Over the course of the century the culture of consumption and American life became "so closely intertwined that it is difficult for Americans to see consumerism as an ideology or to consider any serious alternatives or modifications to it," historian Gary Cross writes in An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America.
Living in the U.S. isn't about surviving: it's about having things, and buying them from people who offer you affection and friendship and praise so long as you keep buying.

And to think I was alarmed when one of my hiking buddies asked a mutual friend which MODEL OF JACKET he was wearing, by model number, during a hike. It was the tip of a surreal and alien iceberg.

It's just amazing.

Ms. Witt hosted an on-line exchange about her article, which sheds some light on how readers received it.

I suppose this means that kitchen porn is working on someone. I feel sorry for whoever that someone is!!

It's not the gadgets that lead to a happy food life. It's fresh food and love! Which is really cheap, though it means your green grocer won't kiss your rear. You'll live. Trust me.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:11 PM

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Now that I've updated several of my webpages, I will write just briefly about kitchen porn.

You know what I mean. All those glossy catalogs full of $300 kitchen appliances that you've managed to live your entire life without, yet which are so shiny! And bright! And on a $2,000 table, surrounded by pretty candles, like they've just been worshipped!

You don't need those things. Really. If you're having some sort of gift shower and you've registered for every single item in the store on the basis of those photos, you may get a few of them. But it will make your friends laugh in the store. They will have to pretend that you're not the person they've known all these years, because the person they've known all these years would NEVER spend enough time in the kitchen to use that stuff. You have never made a souffle in your life, they will laugh, while purchasing little matching souffle cups that you will never use. They will giggle at the gravy boats when trying to associate them with anything you will ever do in your home.

Toss the porn away. You only need enough bowls, plates, utensils, and cups for the small numbers of people you'll actually eat with at your house. You need a soup pot if you make soup, and a few frying pans. Ladles, spatulas, mixing bowls, cookie sheets, cooling racks, pie pans and a rolling pin only if you're in the habit of making pie. 'Not much else. The Queen is not coming for dinner. You will not be eating take out pizza on china, drinking root beer from crystal goblets. Unless you want to, which is fine. I'm just saying the porn is misleading you, and you really don't need any more junk in your house. Not even shiny junk.

posted by Arlene (Beth)2:37 PM

Pasta Salad Variations (food for a crowd)

Pasta salad is a healthy, tasty, easy to prepare food that's great for parties or other large gatherings. When I recently wished to prepare a dish to feed more than 20 people, the bulk bins in my health food store and the oversized jars in a non-member party supply store gave me all I needed to feed a crowd and provide utensils and dishes.

I think it's a great thing that marinated artichoke hearts come in five pound jars.

So here are some pasta salad variations for use at a party:

-a big pot of squiggly pasta, cooked until firm but not chewy
-diced marinated artichoke hearts (lots)
-halved or whole olives (whichever kind you like)(lots)
-roasted peppers in whatever colors look good (lots)
-any other steamed veggies you might like (I didn't, but I was exhausted)(plenty)
-enough olive oil to keep everything moist (use more than you think you should)
-some red wine or cider vinegar (not much)
-salt and pepper.

Mix together well, and let sit for an hour or overnight for the flavors to meld.

Variations: If you like pesto pasta salads best, you might try:
-a cup or more of pesto sauce (a cup of basil leaves, 3/4 cup of parsley leaves, a handful of garlic, optional grated parmesan, optional cream, and enough olive oil to make your blender work; all blended together)
-your firm, cooked squiggly pasta
-lightly steamed fresh green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
-roasted red peppers
-whatever else you like that works well with pesto (black olives, green peas, cooked firm potatoes (!), feta, grated carrots, diced fresh mozzarella).

You can also do a ratatouille (garlic/eggplant/tomatoes/peppers/onions) and mix that with pasta salad, since it also tastes good cold. Be sure to add plenty of olive oil to keep the pasta and other ingredients from drying out.

posted by Arlene (Beth)1:18 PM

Green beans with tomatoes, tofu, and garlic

-a few tablespoons of canola oil
-2 cloves of garlic, diced
-3 cups of washed fresh green beans, with the stringy ends tossed out, in bite-sized pieces
-4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
-half a package of firm tofu, diced
-2-3 cups of cooked rice (to serve this on top of).

Sautee the garlic in the oil until your kitchen starts to smell really good, 2-3 minutes. Add the green beans, and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tofu, turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes and tofu will both make the stir fry very moist, so you'll have a garlicky tomato sauce over the beans.

Serve over steamed rice with soy sauce.

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:53 PM

Potato and leek soup

-about three cups of potatoes, diced
-three cups of thoroughly washed leeks (it helps to split them vertically and wash between the layers), diced
-a few tablespoons of olive oil
-3 cups of water or veggie broth
-2 cups of soy milk
-dashes of salt, pepper, thyme.

Heat the oil and saute the potatoes and leeks for about 5 minutes. Add the water or broth and thyme and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the soy milk and puree (either with a hand blender or by turning off the heat and using your regular blender). Add salt and freshly ground pepper, heat until the soup is hot all through, and enjoy.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:30 PM

I fell asleep instead of posting last night, wondering how Democrat Al Gore was tricked into endorsing a man who donated to the Republicans for our local elections (, instead of having visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Partly because I don't know what sugarplums are. (From searches of the web, apparently no one else does, either.)

So now I'll get back on it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:25 PM

Friday, December 12, 2003

I still haven't caught up on my rest enough to write with my usual zeal about food. Volunteering for the campaign and attending campaign-related events was exhausting enough that I didn't really think about food very much. I went to a benefit and just had a handful of corn chips and a glass of wine. I volunteered for four hours powered by a single slice of pizza. I stood waving my sign for six hours powered by a single red apple, and had a green apple and 3/4 of a bruised banana for dinner. Yet somehow, operating on willpower, it was enough.


Tomorrow I'll resume large servings of food writing.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:31 PM

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


OUR City

For the past few weeks, I've put my time to some of its best purposes ever. I have called registered voters, stood in the rain waving a campaign sign, walked through my neighborhood and met my neighbors, talked to complete strangers who are passionate about politics on public transit, and gone to fabulous house parties and concerts. I have worked alongside people in business suits, people with elaborate tattoos, people of all skin colors, people with facial piercings, people too young to vote, people of great age, people with cool accents, people who approached me on the street and thanked me for volunteering even though they had no idea who I am.

Today I used my vacation time to stand in the rain and wave a Matt Gonzalez for Mayor sign with a bunch of friendly, enthusiastic people. Tonight I spent hours bonding with complete strangers, chatting and stressing out over the election returns as more and more precincts turned in their results.

It took outspending Matt ten-to-one and the endorsement of a past U.S. President (flown in on the private jet of an anonymous wealthy supporter), a past Vice President, and a flock of local and national politicians for the Democratic Party's choice to beat a rumpled Green from the Haight by 5.2%.

It cost the Democrats nearly $34 per vote in a city where just 3% of residents are registered in the Green party.


Nearly everyone whose political opinion I respect in this town has been at Matt HQ or volunteering elsewhere for the campaign in the past few weeks. Especially people from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Transportation for a Livable City, and the San Francisco Independent Media Center. There were also tons of people I should know, because they care about the same things that I do and see the City I love the same way that I do.


In between the beautiful speeches that were given tonight, a chant went up: "Whose City? OUR CITY." Three and a half dollars a vote, and we nearly beat out thirty four dollars a vote and the entire local AND NATIONAL Democratic machine. No wonder the first people to harass us early this afternoon while we were waving our signs were an old white couple in an SUV. (And the next vehicle to harass us was a big pickup truck with two heavyset white guys in it. And so onů)

It cost them a lot to maintain their edge over the rest of us.

And not all of that cost was in money.

Now we know how many of us there are. We can't unlearn that.


In this non-partisan race about who could best lead SF, the election was all about party politics. National party politics was invoked again and again. It was implied that the fate of the national Democratic Party was somehow threatened by a loss of a single, non-partisan, local race.

I have friends who are going to vote for the Democrats no matter how many $87 billion dollar war spending packages those Dems approve, under the theory that they are saving us from $87.000001 billion dollar war spending packages. I have friends who are going to vote Democratic no matter how many Dems sign anti-choice legislation limiting our own reproductive rights, because maybe they'll protect the rights that are left over next time. I have friends who are going to vote Democratic because they're pretending the Dems didn't pass resolutions praising Bush and his war effort (seriously). I have friends who are going to vote Democratic because Dems don't see the world in black or white, but if you don't vote for us then you're aiding the enemy. Well, yes, that same enemy that the Dems are voting with - pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

If you don't demand anything from your representatives, you get whatever they want to give you.

How destructive it would be if we demanded something of our representatives, and they gave us what we wanted, willingly. How frightening to all those who benefit from the status quo.


I am SO PROUD of Matt Gonzalez and everyone who worked on his campaign. This has been the single best political experience of my life. I've never loved so many of my fellow San Franciscans so much.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:57 PM

Monday, December 08, 2003

Have I ever discussed the medicinal purposes of coffee? Coffee is a tasty brew that is to blame for many problems: sleeplessness, tummy trouble, tension problems (people with repetitive strain injuries are sometimes asked to cut back), appetite problems... But it also has a valuable medicinal feature: it's a sort of biological drain cleaner. For someone like me, if something disagrees with my digestive system and the discomfort seems to linger, a few cups of coffee takes care of it all within about two hours.

It's GREAT!! Why buy expensive over-the-counter medications when you can just have two lumps of sugar and coffee?
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:49 PM

Sunday, December 07, 2003

We have a Christmas tree. It's green and very full. Steven picked it out while I napped Saturday afternoon after preparing and delivering five trays of pasta salad for the volunteers for the Matt Gonzalez for Mayor campaign.

After realizing that there were house parties for Matt, comedy shows for Matt, lap dances for Matt, and poetry readings for Matt, I realized that the most enthusiastic supporters were doing what they do best for this race. And I love them for it. And so I should cook, because it's one of the things I'm decent at.

S. and I went to the Rainbow Grocery Co-Op to buy huge volumes of wholesome pasta. We also went to Smart & Final, the party supply warehouse, to pick up deep foil pans, plastic forks, paper trays (this violates the shared dishes ethic currently dominating Matt HQ, but there aren't as many plates as volunteers), and improbably large jars of marinated artichoke hearts, green olives, and diced red peppers. I already had plenty of olive oil, black olives, and black pepper at home. And so we took it all home, and S. cooked with me for an hour or two, did a little taste testing, and then hauled our food and utensils down to Matt HQ to share.

Even though lunch had just been donated by other volunteers who apparently run a great catering business, people who weren't up for Indian food immediately dug into the first trays we put out. [Note to myself: label everything! The vegans were all asking before they ate until I found a sheet of paper and listed the ingredients.] We ate, and then I started to feel exhausted, and begged to go home for a nap. When I woke up, Steven was home with the tree.


A Christmas Tree means that it's time for more Xmas foods. (Well, the tree, holly, and many other aspects of the holiday are Roman Saturnalia traditions (, but you know what I mean.) Xmas foods here in the U.S. tend to be the same as Thanksgiving foods: variations on turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, side dish veggies, and fruitcake.

There are different foods eaten elsewhere. In Japan, they have something called a 'Christmas Cake,' a white and fluffy Western-style concoction. Just looking at photos make me feel full. Europe has other traditional feast foods (epicurious), including cheese crepes with apricot sauce, potato croquettes, panettone, Spanish variations of what Americans call 'French toast,' 13 desserts...


Desserts. I need to find a colleague's mom's gingerbread recipe. Mmmm. Gingerbread. I also need to find my gingerbread woman cookie cutter. (Of COURSE I have a gingerbread woman cookie cutter. Who do you think you're dealing with here?)

Mmmmm. Cookies.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:35 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2003

As the mayoral race heats up in S.F., I was shocked to hear that one of my colleagues has decided to vote for the sucky Democratic candidate in order to help the Dems maintain power here in SF's non-partisan mayoral election. She said that she was reminded that a Green had cost Al Gore the election, that she feels very strongly about that, and so she had to oppose the Green candidate for mayor.

(For the purposes of this discussion, it is not relevant that Al Gore received more votes than his Republican opponent, nor that Ralph Nader has never been a registered Green, nor that Al ran a really lousy campaign. Just suspend disbelief for a few minutes.)

She's usually a bit more clear-thinking than this conversation would suggest. But I understand she's emotional: it's tough when your country is being ruled by a despot who was declared victor through extraordinary legal intervention that embarassed all involved, and the party you expected to protect you from the despot's worst excesses sways wildly between supporting his agenda and timidly opposing it. That would be hard on anyone.

So, to help her overcome at least the traumas associated with Nader (even though I, an ACTUAL Green who didn't vote for Nader since he wasn't one, have no actual responsibility for this situation) I have decided to make an effort to heal the wounds that still scar my colleague's soul. I sent her a short version of this:

An apology, on behalf of a real, non-Nader Green, for what happened in 2000

I'm sooooo sorry:

That Nader controls the Supreme Court.

That Nader made all those dems switch sides and vote for Bush, including all those demoralized Tennessee'ns who gave Gore's home state to Bush.

That Nader forced so many Democrats to stay home and not vote at all.

That Nader somehow tricked Florida Democrats into approving the 'butterfly ballot' design.

That Nader made Gore look so bad in all those debates they had.

That Nader persuaded the Democratic National Committee to encourage Al to run 'on the right.'

That Nader ran Gore's campaign, and made Al seem so stiff.

I'm also very very very sorry that Nader is forcing the Dems in the legislature to approve billions in war spending and sign statements praising Bush. Damn him! If only he wasn't all-powerful, the Dem's would stop signing every Patriot Act and other freak proposal Bush's party signs.

So I'm TERRIBLY sorry for Nader's very existence. If only he didn't exist, the Democrats would be PERFECT.

(I hope that this makes her feel much, much better.)

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:57 PM

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Mmmmm. pumpkin and egg nog ice cream from Mitchell's Ice Cream.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:38 PM

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