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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I'm getting up early to work; I'm staying up late to work; I'm delirious, and it's affecting my blogging.



At least now I know that rosemary pesto, mixed into cornbread batter, produces a very tasty cornbread.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:21 PM

Saturday, January 24, 2004

I'm keeping in short today: I feel worn out. Perhaps because of stressful work; perhaps because of all the fun I had this week at the Common Assets forum or the Bay Area Video Coaltion's showing of the third annual Media That Matters Film Festival (all of which is available for viewing on line!). Hopefully I'll have some energy to write about those things later. But in the meantime, it's tea with honey and lemon for me.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:02 PM

A short update on the situation MoveOn finds itself in.

MoveOn hosted the brilliant competition, Bush In 30 Seconds, in which amateur video makers could post a 30 second video spot of their own making to run during the Super Bowl and in key election states with swing voters. More than ONE THOUSAND videos were submitted, all of which MoveOn posted to this website, with a system for members to vote for their favorites.

While this level of effort on the part of a loose network of e-mail activists was unprecedented and impressive, MoveOn lost its cool when Republicans (who had watched all of the videos, of course) pointed out that two of the more than 1000 videos compared the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq to war crimes committed by Hitler.

Rather than defend first amendment rights, or point out that indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations has long been considered a war crime, or otherwise say that some people happen to have that opinion, they FELL OVER THEMSELVES APOLOGIZING, pulled the ads, and stirred up a cloud of embarrassment rather than pride over the submissions.

When that blew over, they picked an amazingly safe, nearly apolitical video from the finalists involving small, cute children to run during the Super Bowl.

And CBS won't run the ad on the public airwaves they lease. Because they want the FCC limits on ownership reduced (which happened this week in the omnibus spending bill), and so want to be in the Bush Administration's good graces.


There are several morals to this story. One is that the old adage that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar is STILL completely senseless: the ad was self-criticized as being 'too nice' even by its authors; if being nice was all it took, women would run the world, children would have rights, and all small fuzzy animals would be protected from harm; and we don't want to attract flies anyway!! Who the heck set that as the standard!!??

The bigger moral is that media reform and the public's access to its own airwaves is critical to every progressive effort we make. IF YOU ARE NOT YET SUPPORTING A MEDIA REFORM GROUP WITH YOUR TIME AND/OR YOUR MONEY, DO IT NOW. I can recommend some if you're interested; I can loan you a copy of Project Censored's list of media reform groups nation wide (or you can buy it from Seven Stories Press); you can do some research yourself and get subscribed to a range of extraordinarily worthy independent media publications. But we all need to be involved. These are OUR airwaves, and they are being used against our interests.
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:59 PM

Oh dear: you can test drive the George Bush Dress-Up Magnet set here. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:55 PM

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! It's monkey year, which is mine.


This morning was incredibly gorgeous. A great photography morning, though I haven't taken any photos. Going to work seems like such a waste of good light!

Traffic was a mess in front of City College again, so I decided to look for another route and headed east on Alemany out to Industrial/Third Street/Illinois instead.

I know now why many bike improvements are needed on Alemany. (I knew I should have taken Silver, which is part of the bike route system. But...)

Illinois is beautifully paved now as part of the Third Street rail detour!! And when I got past the wonderfully lit dry docks to Terry A. Francois, I looked out over the Bay, and it was all sparkly and smooth. The bridge was lit beautifully, the crumbling piers were lit well, the air smelled good... It was just amazing. I took the Embarcadero around, past joggers and other cyclists, and then very, very reluctantly came to work. Where I wasted good light for the rest of the day before biking home in well lit darkness.

I'm so glad to live here!

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:31 PM

Rosemary has found a new enchilada application for my smooth red enchilada sauce: sweet potato and black bean enchiladas!

Rosemary's sweet potato and black bean enchiladas

-2 sweet potatoes, roasted and mashed, with salt and cumin to taste
-a little sauted onion and garlic (or roasted garlic)
-2 cans (4-ish cups) of cooked black beans.
-optional: cheese on top, or goat cheese inside.

I (Arlene) find that baking anything at 450^ until your home smells really good works for all recipes, and recommend it for this one as well. (Check after 45 minutes if you're in doubt.)

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:26 PM

So WRONG: The International Federation of Competitive Eating ( Look at the "records" page. Eeeuuuuwww. Yes, cow brains are mentioned. And hard boiled eggs. (65 Hard Boiled Eggs in 6.66 minutes by one woman. I don't think I've eaten that many hard boiled eggs in my entire life, and yet I still think I've consumed too many eggs. Ick.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:18 PM

For those of you who were driven to drink by the recent State of the Union Address: your choice of Will Durst's 2004 State of the Union Drinking Game ( or Adam Felber's 2003 State of the Union Drinking Game or 2004 SOTU drinking game!! ( Adam didn't really have to update his: it works just as well this year as last. Which is sad. But true.

(See also Adam's summary of the SOTU address itself. I like the last parts best.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:02 PM

Heard on Montgomery Street:
It's BIG! Big is the new small!!

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:56 PM

Monday, January 19, 2004

I'm excited: my order from Seeds of Change has arrived!! Today I used a wooden paper pot maker to make a few dozen pots, and planted seeds of yellow pear tomato, opal purple basil, lemon balm, Italian flat leaf parsley, and a lemon cucumber or two.

Mmmm. Purple basil.

We ordered other seeds, too: maroon coreopsis, ace of spades scabiosa (deeply burgandy), cornfield poppies, deep red sunflowers, great blue lobelia, garlic chives, giant strawflowers, and their lovely mesclun salad mix ("Unusual greens (Arugula, Osaka Purple Mustard Greens, Garden Cress, Red Russian Kale, Tres Fin Endive) complement our assortment of lettuces (Brune D'Hiver, Rubens Red Romaine, Pirat Butter, Formidana, Simpson's Black-Seeded).") The mix is so lovely, that the last time I planted it, I wouldn't eat the lettuces so I could instead watch them flower and go to seed.

But this time I'll eat them. Really. Truly. Mmmm.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:21 PM

Oooooh! This week's Wait! Wait!...Don't Tell Me has a special research feature on hypnotizing chickens in which a chicken is hypnotized on air!! It's really something. Really. Listen.

(It's about as good as the sneaky octopus segment on the 10/25/03 Wait! Wait!. Which is also wonderfully educational and witty.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:42 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2004

It’s nearly Chinese New Year, and my neighbors filled the trains this weekend, heading downtown to prepare for their celebrations. They returned with crinkly pink plastic bags filled with citrus fruit with green leaves still attached, small potted purple azaleas, pale fresh cabbages, and tins of sweets.

I look forward to the parade, just a few weeks away. And an excuse to buy more orchids, though I’ll have that soon enough.


There has been a lot of food in mind and mouth this week. Thursday I went to Mifune (wguides), my favorite speedy and satisfying restaurant in Japan Center (San Francisco). A bowl of edamame (boiled soybeans, chilled and salted) and a plate of zaru cha soba (buckwheat noodles containing green tea) was exactly the right, light, meal I needed. Their yasaiten donburi (vegetable tempura over rice) is also quite good. It’s amazing how quickly their kitchen works. (Fellow herbivores should avoid the soups, which employ a fish broth.)

Friday I went out with my pals and enjoyed a great performance by the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors and political comedian Will Durst at Sketchfest 2004. And after laughing so hard I cried repeatedly, we went to dinner at the wonderful Italian restaurant Ristorante Gondola (15 Columbus, very near the pyramid). I hadn’t eaten for about 8 hours, and so was ready to dedicate myself to very substantial eating. I had a tasty arugula salad with shaved parmesan, fabulous artichoke ravioli in a ‘rose colored’ tomato sauce, two glasses of yummy Sangiovese, and an affogato - vanilla gelato floating on a shot of espresso.


My pals also had delicious winter dishes: fettuccini with a mushroom and white wine sauce, spinach-ricotta ravioli in a mild tomato sauce, tirami su, a lemon-centered dessert... But I’m convinced I made the best choice. Artichoke ravioli. Mmmmm. There’s something I should make at home!

Saturday I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Diane Arbus photography exhibit, “Revelations.” It was the best photography exhibit I have ever seen. The photographs were incredible (her own prints!), the archival materials were great (her letters! Her notebooks! Her cameras! Her library!), and the interpretive information, especially the time line associated with her life, was really informative. And then, of course, I went to lunch. Café Museo, the great museum cafeteria (still serving yummy gnocchi) was overflowing with people, so we went to Clouds, a restaurant in Yerba Buena Gardens. We sat outside in the January sunshine under large umbrellas. I had an unseasonal roasted eggplant/tomato sandwich with cole slaw and thin-cut fries, which was very fresh and tasty. But sitting in the sun, with a view of the Gardens, red-shouldered birds flying around us, chatting with my friend was the best part.


More from me later in the week, when I recover from the sticker shock that comes from grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 PM

Let me get the icky food news out of the way first:

Mad salmon: farmed salmon contain much higher levels of carcinogens than wild salmon because they’re fed… other farmed salmon. (BBC) Most of us animals with fatty tissues store any contaminants we absorb there, and these fish are fed ground-up salmon chow. So they absorb contaminants from their environment, and then from the chow that contains other fish that did the same. And then they’re ground up, and fed to another fish that absorbs contaminants, and so on, and so on…



Salmon farming came up during my visit to Vancouver, Canada, where the locals clearly supported the wild salmon fisheries. I also discussed this last year with some colleagues, one of whom will eat whatever salmon is cheap, and the other who preferred wild salmon AND provided me some good information about the problems farmed salmon cause.

Salmon farms are a very odd industry: you half to feed a farmed salmon three pounds of ground up fish for every pound of salmon you get. ( One step forward, three steps back!!! Those big salmon that my friends eat from the store because they’re cheap cost a lot environmentally. ( The Mother Jones article, ‘Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest’, about the diseases that fish farms spread and the pollution they make is rather vile, as is the threat that these diseases and pollution pose to wild fish. Farmed salmon have twice the unhealthy saturated fat of wild salmon and are only pink if artificial coloring is added to their food!! (New York Times, subscription required.)

It’s yet another great reminder that vegetarianism is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:55 PM


Big ick: do not read if you have a sensitive stomach: photos (yes! photos!) of a deep-fried cow brain sandwich. (Yahoo!) Better still, there is a slideshow. With captions. Such as: “The brains, battered with egg, seasoning and flour, puff up when cooked. They are served hot, heaping outside the bun."

Well then.


The last ick is a kindler, gentler ick. Starbucks is opening a store in Paris. ( The elevator advertising screen noted that Starbucks would like to introduce ‘to-go coffee culture’ to the French. As if there is such a thing as to-go coffee culture outside the twisted imaginations of advertising executives.

Why a Starbucks in Paris? Because Parisians have been relaxing too much? Have too many friends? Need to spend less time sitting down and chatting and more time rushing around and paying too much for oversweetened, overpriced coffee?

I can’t imagine what American entrepreneurs will think of next to offer the French. Unless it’s deep fried and involves Indiana, somehow…

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:54 PM

Monday, January 12, 2004

[My apologies I'm keeping this short here: my partner is encouraging me to stop writing, since I've already spent a long time on my anti-war, pro-peace blog. This is why attached women don't write books... :-)]
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:09 PM

We still have food plants!! Have I mentioned how gorgeous my golden chard is? I'm still completely impressed to see it growing happily in the garden near the leeks. Mmmm. Leeks. I'll have to make a soup sometime soon...
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:07 PM

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Where food comes from: the best part of gardening

My kitchen, my house, and the sweater I am wearing are all exuding a powerful herbal rosemary smell. A wooden basket on the dining room table is filled with trimmings from my oldest rosemary bush, once a 7” tall seedling I’d purchased three years ago, which S kindly transplanted for me when we moved here from San Bruno. It’s now a leggy, 3’ high, nearly as wide bush, displaying tiny purple flowers. Any time I garden anywhere near it, the smell surrounds me.



The main reason I garden is for food. (Of course.) While my partner, S, designs gardens filled with showy flowers all times of the year, I’m in it for the scents and tastes of herbs, fruits, and veggies. Moving to San Francisco, to a house on an extra-long lot with a sandy and overgrown backyard, finally provided me with an opportunity to grow plants of my own choosing.

S’ garden in San Bruno was well established by the time I arrived. Even though he’d created a deep floral border around the edges of the lawn, it was already packed with four seasons of flowering plants. Squeezing in a cymbidium and a green grape tomato were about all I could manage. A bit of container gardening appeased me, but I really wanted to plant a lot more. And now, I can.


I’ve always planted things. When I lived with my parents in the Mission, I collected plastic juice bottles, cut the tops off, and grew chili peppers and other small plants indoors on my south-facing windowsill. I still have one of my first peppers, which I carefully dried in the sun, turning it regularly. (Our previously productive ‘side yard,’ a strip of 3 feet of dirt beside three feet of walkway, was shady all the time after we raised our house by one story, so I didn’t garden there.) When I lived in the Castro, I did the same, growing cucumbers and peppers in a light well. They were tiny, but VERY cute. In the Richmond, within the fog belt, I tried to expand my repertoire, but the tomatoes I grew in my overheated apartment grew too tall and spindly to be content when I had to move them outdoors, though the cherry fruit they bore was very sweet. (One of the last things I did before catching the plane for my trek in Nepal was to taste the tomatoes I had grown in the yard, so I would remember the taste of food grown in my home soil, and carry it with me.)


Once we settled into this house more than a year ago, we set about clearing the jungle. There were ivy vines so complete growing over the trees in the yard, that we hadn’t realized we had acquired a shed until after we owned this house. The trees covered by the ivy were sickly and spindly, covered with moss, and shocked by the sun when they were exposed to it again. One of the trees, an apple, may never fully recover, though it threw a half dozen sweet, Macintosh-like fruit to us on a windy day.

Once the jungle was pulled down, we had a massive mound of cuttings filling the center of the yard. Every week, we filled the yard waste/compost bin; every week, the pile became smaller and smaller. Finally, we could see the clover, could permanently plant the 50+ plants and tubers S had brought with us from San Bruno, buy seeds, and start experimenting with our sandy soil.

I ordered seeds from the wonderful organic source, Seeds of Change. They photograph plants the way I do: with enthusiasm and love for each gorgeous plant. They use no pesticides, and provide rare varieties of herbs and foods that you just won’t see in stores.

Though we had poor soil and made only modest amendments (some potting mix here, some steer manure there), I made an ambitious plan. With some windows purchased from Building Resources, the non-profit salvage yard, S built me a small greenhouse for tomatoes and a small cold frame for starting seeds. And so I started seeds in our sandy soil here on the edge of San Francisco’s fog line, with mixed results due to the soil and our location. (All of these seeds can be purchased from Seeds of Change.)

Basil: Greek, lettuce leaf, and opal purple variegated: none of these were happy in the poor soil. The purple variegated leaves were beautiful in the warmth of the tomato house, but not very prolific because of the sand. I’ll have to grow them in potting mix next time.

Chard, golden: THIS is so happy! There are three plants right now, spreading slowly across the soil in the garden. I hadn’t realized the are biennial: they live for two years, getting bigger and better looking all the time. They are happier now than when they first grew last spring, with their deep yellow stems and leafy green leaves. And they taste WONDERFUL.

Chili, Hungarian hot wax: I bought these seeds, but realized there wasn’t enough room in the greenhouse for these, the purple basil, AND all the tomato seedlings. So these are still waiting patiently for their chance.

Cilantro, slow bolt: I have long loved cilantro, but I had never realized how great cilantro tastes until I began growing my own. In the mornings, making a Thai coconut milk soup, I’d run out to the garden in my bathrobe, snipping fresh cilantro and using it within minutes. Somehow, it tastes much better than the cilantro I buy, which has to sit in the refrigerator waiting days to be used. I am going to plant a ton of this. I learned that spacing out the plantings over the summer doesn’t help much if you don’t trim ALL the plants: the little ones I started in late summer bloomed at the same time as the older, early-spring planted cilantro did.

Cucumber, lemon: I only planted one of these, and wound up burning it in my first ever cold frame. I’ll try again this year. S doesn’t think this is meant for our climate: the morning fog will likely make it moldy. Hmmm.

Echinacea, purple coneflower: this has also waited until this year to be tried.

Lamb’s ears: this isn’t culinary, but it’s very fuzzy! I planted about 20 seeds, and was rewarded with just one plant, which is now three or four plants. I’ll try again, and weed a bit more rigorously so it isn’t overgrown by alyssum like last time.

Morning glory, Grandpa Ott’s: this is the most beautiful morning glory I’ve ever seen. The flowers are purple with deep red-purple veins. Absolutely gorgeous. We need to plant more of it this year.

Nigella, Love-In-A-Mist: also not culinary, but very pretty: pale purple flowers that could be a fairy outfit. If I weren’t so political, I might be one of these flowers for Halloween, rather than genetically engineered corn, a skeleton underwear model, etc.

Poppy, purple gleam: pink-purple poppies with cream centers!

Tomatoes: red currant, tigerella, and yellow pear cherry. The tigerellas dominated our greenhouse, and were our pride and joy. The striped, 2 inch tomatoes are DELICIOUS, perfect in everything. They taste like larger tomatoes than they are (they’re not excessively sweet the way cherry tomatoes sometimes can be.) The red currants made a GORGEOUS bush which sprawled over about 30 square feet of the garden, growing over our path, the rosemary, the oregano, the chard… The plant was lovely, though the fruit was too tart: it was more ornamental than edible. The yellow pears were delicious, but unhappy where I put them: they wound up moldy, producing very few fruits, though those that made it were tasty. I’ll try an all yellow-pear crop this year, in the greenhouse and out, and see how they do there.

Zucchini, black beauty: this is another one that cooked in the cold frame. This year, I’ll either purchase a vent control for the frame (at about $50, more than 5 times the cost of the frame itself, so I’ve been reluctant), or leave it propped open all the time.


A proposed garden layout sketch and the plants above are my main contributions to the garden, along with rosemary, Greek oregano, and cymbidiums. Soon I’ll make some additions: Greek mountain oregano (seedling from HMB, less furry than the kind I’m growing now), lemon verbena (also a seedling, though the rest on the list are SoC seeds), garlic chives (“Chinese leeks”), lemon balm, royal burgundy bush beans, SoC’s mesclun salad mix (arugula, Osaka purple mustard greens, Persian garden cress, red Russian kale, and tres fin endive), and Italian flat leaf parsley.


I will be competing for space, however: S is currently growing more than 120 types of plants, and plans to add about a dozen more over the coming days. (It turns out that giving him birthday credits at Half Moon Bay Nursery, in addition to some plant gifts for a nursery-owning relative, inspire him to branch out quite a bit.)

There are so many kinds of plants that I can’t keep track of them. I followed him with a pad of paper recently, and made him identify each and every plant in the garden. That didn’t cover it, since many of the flowers are annuals which weren’t visible, so we also had to go through his collection of plant tags to expand the list. I have since taken him to spend some of his Xmas credit at HMB nursery, and so there are flats of plants downstairs, just waiting to compete with me for space!!

I’ll be publishing the list on an upcoming section of my beauty page, which is currently devoted to others’ images of teahouses and orchids. I also have photographs of at least 100 of the plants, but I’ll leave that project for the distant future. I will put up before and after photos of the yard-turned-garden which has inspired amazement in all of our neighbors. (A party for our uphill neighbors was a hoot: nearly all the guests hung over our fence to make exclamations about how fabulous our garden is.)

And now, I’ll go back to pondering whether to make rosemary pesto, rosemary roasted potatoes, tomato sauce with rosemary…

posted by Arlene (Beth)3:44 PM

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Instead of blogging last night, I read Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken. It’s entertaining and very educational. In addition to being witty and calling various right-wing freaks names, Franken provides one of the more concise explanations as to how the Clinton Administration tried to warn the Bush Administration about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, and was rebuffed through a brilliant Bush plan Franken refers to as “Project Ignore.”

I recommend it.


I read all of the book last night, to the abject disgust of my partner S, who read it over the course of many weeks. Reading isn’t a competitive sport, but I’m very entertained that he’s pretending to be disgusted.

S does enjoy competitive sports, so perhaps he has reframed reading to be more competitive. S can actually beat me at Scrabble, which is exotic, but I don’t play it with him anymore, not so much because of losing, but because he spends a lot of time doing variations of a touchdown end zone dance, physically and/or verbally gloating for long periods of time. Which is ‘bad sportsmanship.’

The way I was brought up, that sort of behavior is inappropriate: the point of playing is the social aspect of playing, not just winning. For example, when my family gets together to play Uno and someone has a card that punishes the person next to them, we tell each other to **** off, and we all laugh maniacally. THAT is what playing family games is about!

Anyway, LatLLWTT is a good book about media control issues, among other things.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:36 PM

Friday, January 09, 2004

[And no, I'm not writing about food, because I'm too full. I had a burrito at about 9:30 p.m., after getting home from viewing an exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and I'm waiting patiently for my stomach to settle so I can have peaceful dreams with no digestion-induced distress...]
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:33 AM

Any day now, I'll catch up on my sleep and be able to write about food some more, and not just about how job stress is causing my brain to dredge up odd commercial jingles from games I used to play as a kid, like the wind-up game Perfection:
When you're into Perfection (keep on your toes)
You have to be quick ('cause here's how it goes)
Push the plunger down
Set the timer
Put the pieces in place
Don't be slow
With perfection, you've got to move on fast, move on fast
Before the pieces pop out
Before you've put in the last! *pop!*
And that's Perfection!
There was nothing about the smell of my soap that should have brought that to the surface of my mind, and yet there it is. I have even more sympathy for my father, whose strokes ("brain events") brought about by years of fast food and smoking have had a similar, random-access-old-song effect on him...

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:29 AM

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It's been cold. Cold enough for my chin to hurt from the cold air rushing past it as I biked to work yesterday. Brrrr. My fingers were cozy in my new, full-fingered bicycling gloves. My torso was cozy in my new rainjacket/windbreaker, the bright, safety-yellow one I bought at SFBC Winterfest. My legs were pumping hard in my tights, and were neither cozy nor chilled. But my chin was COLD.

It also hurt to inhale the 43 degree air a bit, but I'm not sure that I could fix that by wrapping myself up in a big scarf before I head out.

Sometimes, I'm something of a wimp. Fanatic, but also wimp.


The mad cow scare here in the U.S. has been grossing me out, even though I don't eat cows. Just the news about it is vile. According to this NPR news item (audio file here), calves are fed baby formula containing cow blood.

No, really.

Little vampire baby cows. No WONDER they get freak diseases!! If baby cows were supposed to drink blood, they'd have fangs.

Every item about the mad cow scare in the news appears to have some industry representative explaining that the beef industry isn't interested in changing their practices.



Let's talk about something else.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM


I've been drinking a lot of tea lately. Especially one of the tasty jasmine/green teas from Peet's. It's one of those teas that smells like it would also make a wonderful scented bath.

For someone who drinks as much tea as I do, it's surprising I don't write about it much. I'll work on that. I'll also try to attend a tea ceremony, since that's something I've read about often, but never witnessed. (What with this being the teahousehome and all, I should remedy this. Even though it is a reference to the 'teahouse for the contemplation of enchiladas.' Still.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM


On today's edition of the radio show The World, they had the audio version of an eye candy feature: a story of the Courtald Institute of Art's search for the A59 mystery photographer. The organization received a collection of gorgeous black and white negatives of historical architectural subjects, which appear to all have been taken and dated by the same photographer. But they don't know WHO the photographer is, and they're quite curious to know.

The gorgeous images are organized very well by the Courtald Institute: each image is reviewed, and every object appearing in the image is cross referenced with the item. So this cool photo of St. Basil's in Moscow is cross referenced to many categories, including onion domes, which takes you to 62 other images of onion domes, including this one. It's neat to be able to search so precisely by subject! Very clever. I'm rather impressed.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:09 PM

Sunday, January 04, 2004

It's amazing how quickly vacations come to an end. Especially when you and your partner spend the vacation trading the same head cold back and forth.


Food highlights of our vacation: the best part of the past 11 days was our time renting a house on the Sonoma Coast and exploring the tidepools. The advantage of renting a house was that it came with a full kitchen. Unsure of what would be supplied, I packed up my favorite lasagne pan (of course I have a favorite lasagne pan), knives, a cutting board, the spices I was sure I'd use, and a few sacks of groceries, including gourmet treats, from Rainbow. Fussy eaters (and especially fussy vegetarian eaters) are easy to please with bringing organic, veggie items that they supply.

Roasted pumpkin and sharp white cheddar tamales (made my Primavera in Somona) served with a salsa roja and guacamole (both from Casa Sanchez) were our first, delicious, easy to prepare dinner. The tamales come fully cooked, and can be simply heated in the microwave. (They are lard-free.) Other foods I made during our stay included a mushroom and chard lasagne, a vegetable noodle soup, black refried bean and pepper jack cheese quesadillas, fresh bread with a purchased artichoke antipasto spread, tasty organic granola with Silk soymilk, fresh pineapple, fresh oranges, and pepper jack and green pepper enchiladas. The wet weather provided me with lots of time indoors, and all this cooking made eating between naps very pleasant.

We also dined out one afternoon at the pricey Sea Ranch Lodge's restaurant, where I had a vegetarian omelette containing kalamanta olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and a touch of goat cheese. The omelette, which tasty very fresh and non-eggy, was served with grilled peppers and squash. S had an orchiette pasta with a roasted artichoke-tomato sauce, which was also quite tasty. The dining room offered superb views of the sea off the coast (which I suspect is part of why it's pricey), and it was from there that we saw the pod of whales puffing offshore.


Reading highlights from this vacation: The rainy weather helped me catch up on much of my reading, which had been neglected during my long days in the office near the end of the year. Highlights:

Media Control: the Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (2nd Ed.) by Noam Chomsky. This verbose essay sets out the premise that those running our democracy use a very different definition of democracy than the one we learn in school: one in which the elites must run our affairs in favor of wealthy interests while giving the illusion of some public participation through such devices as presidential elections (in which we pick from among pre-selected elites acceptable to wealthy interests who REALLY run things). The system is set up to protect the wealthy interests from we commoners, who are controlled through propaganda to act against what is best for ourselves. Actual propaganda is discussed, but takes a backseat to an explanationas to how the media reinforces the power structure. A worthwhile read.

Carbusters #18 by the World Carfree Network. More sanity from people who breathe and use their legs around the world; great car-toons from Andy Singer; scary and insane car fetish advertising.

Adbusters #51 by the Adbusters Media Foundation. This issue is entitled "Systematically Distorted Information." Media control is a major theme. Unable to purchase airtime for public service campaigns, Adbusters points to the corruption and privatization of public airwaves, and announces plans to fight a legal battle for access.

The Nation's 12/29/03 issue (Vol. 277, No. 22). Every item in this issue is great, from the editorial recapping how the Geneva Accords (for Israel and Palestine) came to be, to interviews with Iraqi women worse off under U.S. occupation, to the scary article the Redistricting Wars (by Sasha Abramsky) about how the Republicans could steal elections for national legislative seats through gerrymandering rather than through winning a majority of votes. (Though many of us found the Texas Legislature's escape from Texas to block these plans entertaining, the Republicans succeeded, and are trying the same tactics around the nation, exploring a new way to keep votes from fully counting.) That's an important topic that deserves greater attention. The essay I'll be copying and mailing the most is likely Renana Brooks' the Character Myth, a psychiatrist's view on Bush's use of imagery in place of inconvenient facts.

There's more, but breakfast calls.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:47 AM

Friday, January 02, 2004

Mmmmm. Fresh grapefruit.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:54 PM

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year once again. It’s been pouring rain and very cold much of the day, an I have been content to stay indoors. I haven’t been very adventurous about food, since I desperately need to go grocery shopping and because many of my favorite spices are two counties away, but didn’t wish to be washed away by the streams of water washing down the hill to buy more supplies. So I worked with what I have on hand, and made a slow-cooked bean ‘soup’ redolent of onions and garlic, which is quite charming and simple, and some potatoes baked in a milk-free gratin style (if that is technically possible).


My 2003 Christmas Feast for Two was pleasant, cozy, and tasty: a potato leek soup, made with leeks we grew ourselves; a fabulous winter squash gratin (, which I topped with some grated fontina; a tossed green salad; and some homemade apple-cranberry pie. It was a romantic Christmas feast for two, surrounded by little colored lights and holiday music, which was very festive. I enjoyed it tremendously.


Also, there was a course of cold medication, to keep the symptoms of the cold my partner had given to me a few days before in check, which was not festive but needed. The medicine was not enough to provide me with a functioning voice for a compulsory visit to some of my partner’s relatives in the evening, but I was able to stay more or less upright and not burst into tears with head cold-induced misery while we were out, so I suppose that was a victory. Though the better victory would have been to stay home, enjoying a honey-lemon beverage and some sleep. The next time I am ill, I will purchase a sharp stick, so I can defend myself from compulsory trips of any kind, and take care of myself as I should.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:03 PM

[I'll have some short food reports from my vacation, and perhaps some reading notes, once we retrieve my notebooks from S' car, which is still resting in the town of Cotati.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:02 PM

Flashback: Even very ill and on unconsciousness-inducing medication, this Christmas was less surreal than last. Have I ever divulged the details of the 2002 holiday events?

In 2002, my first Christmas in our new home, I hosted a feast and a gathering for both my family and my partner’s. I planned out an elaborate vegan meal (a roasted squash and tomato soup, olive oil mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing…), tested foods in advance to see if they were good enough, got up early and slaved in the kitchen to prepare enough food for about 15 people… and found myself hosting something of a circus.

My parents arrived a bit early, but my partner’s next arriving family group were more than 3 hours late. The food got colder, colder, colder, my parents got hungrier… We ate after waiting more than 2 hours, and then reheat and serve again when the first group of S’ family members finally arrived.

Then there was another wait until some real strangeness began. Due to a loss of a beloved family member just over 3 months prior, two of S’ siblings decided that I should not be permitted to have my parents at my own house for the holiday meal that I was hosting. They decided this with some zeal. And so they elected to boycott the meal, and prevent their families from attending until evening, when my parents were scheduled to depart, and when they could bring their own foods. (They hasn’t explained this to their families, and so one of the spouses expressed shock that my parents were departing so early, not realizing that they’d been at my house for more than 6 hours, just as everyone else should have…) Another sibling casually decided she’d rather stay home that morning with the half dozen or so family members she planned on bringing. And so, after preparing the feast and eating with my parents and 4 of S’ relations, another event occurred at my home: a potluck by the sisters who were angry at me for… whatever they’d dreamed up, and their families. They arrived, tried to avoid speaking to me, ate their own foods, and acted strangely sulky and busy.

It was completely surreal!! While they haven't all apologized, they have provided some great entertainment to my social circle, who have marveled while recounting my unique adventure that day to others. I think my favorite review of the tale was, ‘this would be completely hysterical if it wasn’t happening to you!’ Which is about right.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:56 PM

The revenge of cows, from the forces of nature that designed them to eat grass: mad cow disease has come to the US. (BBC) While the US produces a quarter of the world’s supply of cow meat, it hasn’t been so concerned about the prospect of brain wasting diseases that it’s been willing to feed naturally vegetarian cows plants. Rather, the U.S., like many other nations, has been in the practice of feeding cows other ground up bits of animals, some of which carry diseases which can sicken the cows and pass fatal, brain-wasting diseases on to the humans who eat them.

As soon as this process was understood, all such feeding practices should have stopped immediately, around the world. But no, there’s money involved, so all common sense had to fly out the window, and cows are forced to eat feed that contains other animals, and the risk of brain wasting diseases is created where nature would naturally have prevented it. And now, because people weren’t very bright, a 40 billion industry is threatened with total loss.

Will they wise up and start feeding cows and other herbivores their nature-intended diets again? It’s unlikely, but stay tuned. In the meantime, I heartily recommend vegetarianism. For people AND cows!

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:54 PM

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