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Monday, November 29, 2004


I am SOOOO tired.

I just wrote a 50,000 word novel. In 12 sessions. Within the month of November.

So tired. So very tired. But strangely happy.

Official NaNoWriMo 2004 Winner!

posted by Arlene (Beth)1:49 AM

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Write! Write! Write!

My announcement that I'm back on-line was premature: I returned to realize that 3/4 of the month had gone by, yet I was nowhere near 3/4 of the way through my novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Upon my return from the far north, I realized my word count was hovering just over 13,000. I need to reach 50,000 by November 30th to "win." And so I've been having fiendish writing sessions to try to catch up, and am neglecting all else.

Including this blog.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, and I'll be back in December. Unless I have a 21,843 word day, in which case, I'll be in the hospital shortly. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:43 AM

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I'm back on-line! I just returned from adventures in and around Redwood National Park and its jointly managed State Parks.

These parks kick the *ss of any and all coast redwood forests I had previously seen. Completely. Totally. I feel like I've been cheated all these years, being told our local parks are "redwood forests." They're that impressive.

Yes, we even visited the forest where those Ewok scenes in Star Wars were filmed. But not for that reason.

We also took a two-day side trip to visit S' father, which I hadn't known was in the works, and so was completely unprepared to go and pining for home by the time we arrived there. Luckily my own father appears not to have been worried by our two day late 'check in' when I called him this morning.

More when I don't have a headache. Yes, it will be about food AND big trees.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:36 PM

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Two random comments: I've made the photos of myself with the fish costume smaller. Sorry for those of you dial-up folks who had a hard time opening my page.

Also, another item on my reading list is Cornel West's new book, Democracy Matters.

Speaking of books, back to my NaNoWriMo novel efforts...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:24 PM

Ofoto found the 7 rolls of film I sent in from my trip to Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks!!! I'm so relieved: I'd mailed them in October 11th, and Ofoto didn't acknowledge receiving them until November 9th. But they're there, and I have just spent a nice print credit they gave me for my trouble, so I'm a happy camper.

So now I have something like 125 photos of very large trees, most of which were in relatively uninteresting lighting. :-\

But here are two images to give you some idea of what the trip was like:
me curled up against a burn mark on a very, very, very large sequoia the sparkling water of the King River

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:59 PM

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I am so full: My favorite Vegetarian Times cookbook has a recipe for Artichoke Cannelloni With Lemon Bechamel Sauce. The lemon bechamel sauce part didn't sound too good, but the rest is so simple, I decided to try it. So I grated a cup and a half of cheese, diced the contents of a can of artichoke hearts (non-marinated), rolled them in fresh pasta, and baked the resulting 10 cannelloni in a tomato-spinach-mushroom sauce for 20 minutes.

The results are delicious, but very heavy. I suppose it doesn't help that I ate four of them right after eating an enormous pear. :-\ In smaller amounts, with a side salad, garlic bread, and some other snacks, I suppose it would be part of a more reasonable meal.


Speaking of enormous pears, Rainbow Grocery is selling huge, gold-colored, "brown Asian" pears which are WONDERFUL. They almost taste like a liqueur, but are crisp, beautifully spotted with paler gold dots, and perfectly sweet. Try some!


Pomegranates are also fabulous right now. In case your house is too clean, and your white shirts are too unstained.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:12 PM

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I look forward to Joseph Connelly's biweekly column, "GREEN / News and information for the eco-conscious" ( Reviewing a few articles I missed, I realize now that he's a fellow herbivore!

Check out the first section of this article, and read the review he links to for Ken Midkiff's book The Meat You Eat: How Corporate Farming Has Endangered America's Food Supply. (I like the line from the review, "If you are that concerned about your place on the food chain, you wouldn't be shopping for meat in the first place." :-))
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:59 PM

Natural Pesticide Recipes: A chili pepper pesticide recipe I might try, loathe though I am to use pepper sauce for non-food purposes: 08/04 Pest Control without Risks ( "Make your own non-toxic pesticides, such as a spray bottle filled with a mix of liquid soap, hot pepper sauce, garlic, and water. A dish of beer will attract snails and slugs."

I've heard that snails and slugs even like really bad brands of American beer.

I also have a very successful recipe for getting rid of pincher bugs: vegetable oil and soy sauce (4:1 parts or so), in a lidded plastic container with small holes in the sides for bugs to crawl in, partially buried in the garden. This is wildly successful, but I've learned that it also attracts nearby possums, who like to eat their bugs with fancy dressings.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:38 PM

Earthjustice: Take Action: "The Bush administration has proposed a policy to count hatchery-raised salmon as equivalent to wild salmon when deciding which species should be protected as endangered. "

This is so ridiculous, I can hardly stand it. And I don't even EAT salmon. But it's plainly an effort to mislead consumers, as well as dodge protections for wild salmon.

Click on the link to object to this practice (before November 12, 2004).
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:18 PM

Why I eat organic foods: - Newsflash "Pesticides Found In 100 Percent of People Tested":
A report released in May by the Pesticides Action Network North America, Washington Toxics Coalition and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found unsafe levels of pesticides in over 2,000 people tested. Pesticides were found in 100-percent of people having both blood and urine tests. The average person had 13 out of the 23 total pesticides analyzed found in their bodies. Many of the pesticides found have been linked to serious short- and long-term health effects including infertility, birth defects, and childhood and adult cancers.
Of course, when I eat in restaurants, I'm eating whatever the restaurant chooses to serve me, so I'm sure tests on me would reveal similar results. Sadly.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:47 PM

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bell pepper, onion, and mushroom tart (eggless quiche)

Ingredients, from bottom to top:
-a prepared, uncooked pie crust (1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of non-hydrogenated shortening, and 1/4 cup of cold water, cut together, mixed by hand until just blended, and rolled out with extra flour to prevent sticking), in a pie pan
-1 cup of mozzarella, grated
-1 large green bell pepper, deseeded, thinly sliced
-1 large onion, diced
-4-6 large mushrooms, sliced thinly
-1 cup of fresh feta cheese, diced
-3 1/3 tablespoons of egg replacer powder
-1/2 cup soymilk
-fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sprinkle the grated mozzarella across the bottom of your pie crust.

Sauté the bell pepper, onion, and mushroom in a little oil for six to ten minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Remove from heat.

Blend the egg replacer and soymilk for 3-4 minutes (it will double in volume). Mix this in a bowl with the sauté and the feta: mix thoroughly. Spread this over the cheese, and bake for about 40 minutes. The crust will turn golden, the feta on top will brown a bit at the corners, and it will smell and look MAHVELOUS.


Yes, I'm on an eggless quiche bender. S is loving all of these, and it's a great excuse to eat lots of fresh feta. I'm pondering a roasted red pepper-ricotta mixture next week...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:56 PM

NaNoWriMo update: I have had uninvited guests, first aid traumas, fun festivals, and a trip to a childhood favroite place, but I'm ALMOST on schedule for writing.

November 5th: 592 new words only.
November 6th: 1,880 new words.
Running total: 11,365 words. So I'm officially behind, but hope to get more in when I'm home alone tomorrow. I'm not due anywhere until after 6, so there's some hope...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:02 PM

I have posted a collection of links relating to 2004 presidential election irregularities on my other blog. If our democracy isn't transparent enough to withstand some scrutiny, something is wrong. If our democracy rests entirely in the hands of partisan officials with motivation to engage in fraud, we need a major overhaul to our system. I'm convinced we can do better.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:56 PM

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Green Festival!

On Saturday I attended the fabulous, 3rd Annual Green Festival, put on by Co-Op America and the especially fabulous Global Exchange. The festival's mission statement:
The Green Festival is a two-day party with a serious purpose: to accelerate the emergence of a new economic paradigm that is life-affirming and life-restoring. Together we are cultivating a culture of sustainability and social equity that honors our interdependence with all life. Green Festival unites green businesses, social and environmental groups, visionary thinkers and thousands of community members in a lively exchange of ideas, commerce and movement building fun.
It's enormously fun, enormously educational, and a balm to the election results which suggest that most voters choose a culture of violence and fear over one of peace, prosperity, and progress (as shoddily represented through an inadequate candidate, but....).

The exhibition hall was packed with environmentally screened products ranging from cosmetics to exotic paper goods to clothing to building materials. Magazines promoting the stylishness of natural goods and political left views filled an aisle. A phone company with a dedicated program of philanthropy promoted their services. People milled around, holding veggie sushi rolls and plates of Greek salad. And fabulous lectures were echoing through the hall from multiple halls.

S had limited mobility due to his leg injury, and so walked through the crowded halls with a cane, but we took in several fabulous lectures.

George Lakoff ( of UC Berkeley and the Rockridge Institute spoke on the use of language to express philosophical concepts that can be at odds with specific facts. Conservatives and liberals use different language which reflects different world views: by modifying language, we can be understood by all and express our philosophies in ways which are appealing and address fundamental emotional needs. His explanations of this are much better than mine - he's a linguist. I just purchased his book, "Don't Think of An Elephant," and will report back on it once I've gotten a chance to read it.

Van Jones, Esq. of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights ( was supposed to speak about 'Green jobs, not jails,' but instead launched into an impassioned speech about the need for understanding toward our peers in the so-called red states, and how we need to avoid elitism when frustrated with how they vote, because it merely creates another barrier to the bridges we need to build to ensure our shared needs are met. There was actual hugging and hand holding in the audience: he got us all worked up. He's a really great advocate for social justice.

Peter Camejo ( spoke about the crisis that the end of the oil economy will provoke. He got in lots of great, catty comments about the Democrats that had the audience "ooo!" ing and laughing over. It was a fun rant!

Kevin Danaher (, co-founder of Global Exchange and author of many books on the social and corporate globalization movements, gave a presentation on facilitating the green economy through facilities owned by umbrella non-profits to take care of their own. I was polled on this topic earlier in the year, and I think it's a good idea: one stop shopping for all of your non-profit meetings, green retail needs, and inspirational events.

Julia Butterfly Hill (, famous Luna treesitter and founder of the Circle of Life Foundation, led us in a group grounding exercise (a sort of thanksgiving prayer), which made me think we'd get way too new age, but then gave a great speech about how fabulous it is to come to a place where everyone is fully able to articulate a positive vision of the world we want to live in, and solutions on how to get the world where it needs to be. It was a pleasant and positive speech.

The only press we saw attending the event was only interested in a white guy with dreadlocks, so it appeared they were trying to give the impression that only people with an 'earth-freak' look were in attendance. Which is bogus. Regardless of how the corporate media attempts to paint people who care about the future, it was a GREAT event, and I recommend it heartily.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:20 PM

Thursday, November 04, 2004

NaNoWriMo update: NO new words today, as my evening was spent at the Urgent Care ward of the hospital, waiting for S.

Yesterday, S took a fall into a drain hole with a metal grate (which he'd removed for some reason), and gouged a one inch long, at least 1/8" deep section out of his shin. It didn't bleed much, considering, and so when he asked me to I just applied some anti-bacterial cream and bandaged it up so he wouldn't disturb it the following work day (today). Today, however, when he returned from after work errands and we removed the dressing, he was limping and his leg was swollen above the wound. So onto the advice hotline and then off to the hospital we went. Where it was discovered that his wound is, in fact, deeper than the head of the average medical Q-tip.


So, even though we picked up antibiotics, I'm a bit distressed. No writing in the morning, either: we need to return to the hospital for a follow up with the "injury" department. (Was the other option was the "gaping wound" department?) I did learn that S is far too hairy for the liberal use of waterproof "medical" tape I applied to the first night's dressing. We wound up shaving part of his leg for the replacement dressing, and now he has an adhesive-free, fully around the leg, stretchy gauze dressing. I'll need to buy a few of those for hairy first aid.


There was no writing this morning for me, because I was at the dentist. It was a general love fest - I enjoy being told how great I look now that I don't work with attorneys daily - but then I admitted that the small, plastic mouthpiece I sleep with at night recently broke, and I needed a replacement.

No problem, they set me up with the dental assistant who always works on my procedures, and she complimented me on my weight loss (last year, mostly; she hasn't seen me in more than a year) and how relaxed I look, and took a mold. And then I went to the counter to pay.

$500+ dollars just for the little mouthpiece that keeps me from grating my teeth. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I've been stunned ever since. It's just a little piece of plastic!?!? I really can't afford it. But onto a charge card it went.

That's 100 rolls of my favorite pro film right there... But without any of the fun or learning things. :-(


Canadians are taking pity on us, and have started a program to marry Americans so we can move up north. The comments provided (aside from a bigoted freak rant from -- of course -- the US) are very entertaining, and can be found at Marry An American -- View Pledges. Samples:
I want to do my part in helping any sane American escape their soon to be absolute theocracy. Don't forget free Abortions for all oh and flu shots!!

Don't like Bush? You'll like mine!

Not a good time to be on the left in America! Come up north, we've got more liberals than we know what to do with!! Must like hockey.
It's a charming campaign.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:55 PM

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NaNoWriMo update: I wrote a whopping 5,311 new words of my novel today. I did some work before dinner today, which helped a lot. So my new cumulative total is 8,893. Which is amazing!

Just 41,107 words to go! :-0
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 PM

I love this so much: The Believer - Ideashare.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:41 PM

Yes, I'm still reading The Believer - Interview with Jack Black (November 2003). If there's anything I don't need, it's to subscribe to more magazines - I'm behind with my subscription periodicals as it is. But this interview is really funny. I was going to excerpt the discussion of wedding cakes (for its food theme), but by the time you get down to the part about Jesus being able to shoot lasers out of his eyes... Oh, go read it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:17 PM

Very long, and rather entertaining for Smiths fans" The Passion of the Morrissey (
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:04 PM

Blogger is so overwhelmed today, it's almost funny.

I'm so glad I'm not trying to blog my novel for NaNoWriMo. Being blocked by the server is much more frustrating than writer's block.


For those of you I have previously recommended the on-line film service Ofoto to, I take it all back. All of the film I shot in Sequoia and King's Canyon National parks is missing, even though it was sent in two separate packages. All seven rolls of it.

I recently logged on and discovered that they'd located a roll I'd mailed in back in July. They found it some time after September 10th. So just over two months. Isn't that comforting? Their record was stellar prior to their buy out, after which they started losing my film. Even then their rate wasn't too bad - they lost something like 4 out of 400 rolls - and when pressured, they eventually let me look through their catalog of misassigned film, where I was able to identify mine. But I have lost faith - I could have gotten these rolls developed anywhere, and had them safely in my file with prints mailed to my friends by now.

I'll likely need to keep logging in to check for my missing seven rolls for a few months. But it could be ages before someone reports that they've been mistakenly assigned to their account, and before they thus appear in the 'missing' film file.

Sadly, I'd say to entrust your film to someone else.


I love the food related portion of Why is My Baby Crying? by Eric Silver, in McSweeney's ( Sample reason a baby might cry, with a response:
"The food you are feeding me has been contaminated by artificial preservatives and flavors, not to mention its role in keeping smaller organic farms from competing practically in the economy!"

This is a common complaint among many infants, and understandably so. They've just received their body for life, so naturally they will be a little overprotective about what they put into it.... Their concerns about the little guy in an agricultural battle stem from an entirely different reason: an innate sense of fairness and ethics that infants are born with, but, thankfully, it atrophies with age.
Cute stuff!


There's a good interview with George Lakoff in the Believer ( on the subject of "framing" reality. I think I first really absorbed the concept of framing at the first annual Green Festival, where author Starhawk explained that you can't win an argument if the question is framed in a hopeless way. She didn't use this example, but the question, "Are you still beating your wife - yes or no?" is an example of framing in which you can't win (either answer proves you a wife-beater). The same sort of framing is used all the time in politics, and Professor Lakoff has been studying this. Sample:
However, the problem is the conscious understanding. And that comes out of the Enlightenment. So, liberals are taught that they are bringing down Enlightenment values with them. They include separation of church and state -- the Enlightenment was about getting rid of the Pope and the king and having a civil society -- and reason. The idea is that reason is what defines people and makes them what they are, and therefore if you just give people the facts, the facts will set you free. People will reason to the correct conclusion. And that's the disaster. Because what it means is liberals always try to fight frames with facts, and that doesn't work.
I'd like to read his book, Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate -- The Essential Guide for Progressives once I'm done with NaNoWriMo.


I'm developing a long list of must-reads or must-have books this fall. These include, but are not limited to:

Must own:

-Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (read sfgate's interview with Ms. Satrapi about the book here (; and click here for Slate's review, with illustrations (

-Golden Gate, by Richard Misrach. This photography book, a collection of photographs of the Golden Gate from the same spot in the Berkeley hills at different times of day/year/weather, is scheduled to be reprinted by Aperture this fall.

-Voices of a People?s History of the United States, edited by Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn. I suppose I need to read the original People's History also, though I've had much of it read to me after I bought it for S.

-An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire by Arundhati Roy. I think I've already read these essays, but I'm sure they are worth reading again.

-Public Power in the Age of Empire, also by Roy. I had skipped, but may reconsider, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile: Interviews with Arundhati Roy, edited by David Barsamian, but I hope there isn't too much of Barsamian in it: he was fawning wallpaper at a public event with Roy.

Must read:
-What's The Matter With Kansas?, by Thomas Frank

-Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World,, ed. by David Solnit. Starhawk contributes to it, and it's published by the ever fabulous City Lights Books.
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:55 PM

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


The lesser of two obstacles

Sure, I've been telling people who are unenthusiastic about the Democratic presidential nominee that voting for him is not a great sacrifice. A sign once described him as "the lesser of two warmongers," but I choose to think of both of the presidential candidates and their corporate-owned parties as obstacles. Both parties put profit before the people of our country, before the purity of our air and water, before our right to healthcare, before our right to employment, and before our freedoms and civil liberties. Money is our nation's one true religion, and the well being of people and the things we need to live has been a lower priority year by year.

Regardless of who is declared the winner (and it looks like it will be the less pleasant, more monosyllabic obstacle), people who want the world to be a better place for all of us will still have to struggle. Every good thing we enjoy in this country, from civil rights to weekends to minimum wage to national parks, weren't given to us by our political leaders, but were demanded by caring citizens who demanded positive change. It's going to remain that way after this election, and after every election.

Sure, I would personally would prefer political leadership for this country that can speak in complete sentences in a common local language and which isn't hoping for the prompt arrival of Armageddon. But as famous perceptive Betty Bethards once said when asked to predict the results of an election, 'the American people get what they deserve.' (Sadly, it looks like 48% of us may get what 52% of us deserve, but since we're a sharing nation, we'll all have to suffer the consequences of the non-proportional, winner-take-all system established for us long ago.) And while a variety of forces can change the outcome of the election, my personal preferences cannot.


There are some irrational subtexts to our elections. Misdirected fear of the world. The 'culture war' between people who want everyone to choose their own path and people who want to choose everyone else's path for them. Ignorance. Nationalism that leads to ambitions for empires. A belief that violence prevents violence. Bigotry. A moral relativity which judges the same crimes differently, depending on who commits them. Materialism, greed, and a lack of compassion for other people.

Our nation has been afflicted with these problems since its inception. Both of the current dominant political parties are afflicted as well, to varying degrees and in different ways, and use these afflictions as tools for their own gain. The way these problems manifest now seems especially unfortunate to me, perhaps because of my bias of being alive to witness how they play out. But I accept that the ways in which I want the world to be better will be difficult to achieve regardless of who is in power. And that I need to work at it, regardless of the odds.

And the odds are terrible. But, really, they have always been. And look how far we managed to come in the past, despite all the fools.

So I'll keep at it. And you should, too.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:42 PM

NaNoWriMo: 2,061 new words today. 3,582 in two days. I'll need to write a lot more to make up for scheduled computer down time and holiday adventures, but I can burn those proverbial bridges when I write about coming to them. Or something.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:39 PM

An observation: my partner, S, is a bit disturbed that Bush is currently scoring better in the vote tallies than exit polls suggest. It doesn't appear to be random: he is consistently several points ahead of the way people are reporting to the news media that they are voting as they leave their voting places.

In the 2000 elections, Florida was called for Gore on the basis of similar exit polls. And then the election debacle occurred, and then the Supreme Court intervened, and the media apologized for their "hasty" rush to predict Gore was the winner. The catch, of course, was that Gore had more votes, but thousands of those votes were disqualified. The pollsters had no way of knowing that so many ballots would be either disqualified or otherwise not counted, but their projections were basically sound.

While it's early in the counting, this raises the question for the results tabulated so far: if the exit polling is as thorough as the mainstream media claims it is, why aren't the votes people say and believe cast matching the count?
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:20 PM

NaNoWriMo update: last night, I went to bed with 1,521 words written. I'd planned to write today, but S had a day off, and so I only did social things (I coerced him into cyanotype printing with me). If I manage to get some writing in between vodka drinks (to comfort me through the election returns), I'll post a more current update.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:39 PM

Despite the distractions of my developing NaNoWriMo plot, experiments with internegatives in cyanotype printing, and the cliffhanger, nailbiter, oh-god-make-me-another-greyhound-with-extra-vodka election, I made a FABULOUS quiche for dinner tonight. S had wanted a spinach quiche, and I decided that spinach alone wouldn't be enough to thrill me. So I worked up a great combination, it went over VERY well. So I have to share the recipe right now, just in case the greyhounds get too strong as the ballot counting progresses.

Spinach, feta & artichoke eggless quiche

Ingredients, from bottom to top:
-a prepared, uncooked pie crust (1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of non-hydrogenated shortening, and 1/4 cup of cold water, cut together, mixed by hand until just blended, and rolled out with extra flour to prevent sticking), in a pie pan
-1 cup of mozzarella, grated
-1 bunch of spinach leaves, thoroughly washed and chopped
-1 large onion, diced
-1 can of non-marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
-1 cup of fresh feta cheese, diced
-3 1/3 tablespoons of egg replacer powder
-1/2 cup soymilk
-fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sprinkle the grated mozzarella across the bottom of your pie crust.

Sauté the onions in a little oil until translucent, then add the spinach and stir frequently, until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.

Blend the egg replacer and soymilk for 3-4 minutes (it will become frothy, doubling in volume). Mix this with the onions, spinach, artichoke hearts, and feta. Spread this mixture over the cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the pie crust and surface feta are both browning. Serve with just a little freshly ground pepper. It shouldn't need salt - the feta should take care of that.

This is really great! Even if I say so myself.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:23 PM

Monday, November 01, 2004


The Other Turkey Day

Yes, election day, when we get to play democracy by choosing between two corporate-owned turkeys. Luckily, we also get to vote for some significant state and local elections.

No, I couldn't resist the turkey comment. Yes, you really should get out and vote.

Turkeys and any November feast-oriented associations you may have aside, election day will likely be more stomach-clenching than anything else. Especially because the election is likely to showcase more heinously undemocratic fraud designed to disenfranchise voters, especially non-white voters.

Even if I were completely white, which I'm not, I can't believe that a democratic nation would tolerate what happened in Florida to black voters in 2000, and what is poised to happen again in a more widespread fashion.


Most people I know don't have the greatest faith in the election procedures currently in place. For the best compilation I've seen of voting machine disasters, read Sum of a Glitch: Evidence shows that machines might be the real swing voters this November, by Bev Harris (, 08/24/04). Harris' article is full of harrowing examples of voting machines changing the results of elections in which they were used, such as these:
# In the 2002 general election, a computer miscount overturned the House District 11 result in Wayne County, North Carolina. Incorrect programming caused machines to skip several thousand party-line votes, both Republican and Democratic. Fixing the error turned up 5,500 more votes and reversed the election for state representative.

# This crushing defeat never happened: Voting machines failed to tally ?yes? votes on the 2002 school bond issue in Gretna, Nebraska. This error gave the false impression that the measure had failed miserably, but it actually passed by a 2-to-1 margin. Responsibility for the errors was attributed to ES&S, the Omaha company that had provided the ballots and the machines.
# An Orange County, California, election computer made a 100 percent error during the April 1998 school bond referendum. The Registrar of Voters Office initially announced that the bond issue had lost by a wide margin; in fact, it was supported by a majority of the ballots cast. The error was attributed to a programmer?s reversing the ?yes? and ?no? answers in the software used to count the votes.
Yes, there's a lot more. Yes, it is interesting that you haven't been hearing about these incidents in the mainstream press. Go read it.


By the middle of this week's fabulous episode of the radio program This American Life, which was devoted to undecided voters and is titled "Swing Set," my hair was already standing on end. An undecided, well-educated, Bush-loathing Republican kept flying back to Bush on the flimsiest of whims based on the propagandistic ads on TV. (At one point, he asks why the Bush ads keep saying things about Kerry if they're not true. And I wondered where he thinks he's living. They are ADS. They are as accurate as those advertising light beer, and worthy of similar consideration.) But then they reached their special report on voter fraud (Real audio file), and my hair almost fell out.

Listen to it. Listen to it now.

I had been mystified by general radio reports on voter fraud. For some reason, when the Dems have pointed out efforts by the Republican Party in Florida, with the help and knowledge of its elected governor, to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters by falsely labeling them as felons, the Reps have come back with a recorded radio confession of some old Democrat guy who registered to vote 35 times. And the media reporters have been treating these crimes as if they are equal.

This audio report explores that issue in more detail. I HIGHLY recommend the entire program. It's extremely informative.


By allowing people to speak for themselves, the program manages to illustrate that Americans are often irrational actors in their decision making. They want something to be true, and so they pretend it is with sincerity, leaving those of us in 'the reality based community' to marvel at their delusion. This allows all sorts of odd behavior, from preachers in wild sex scandals, to soldiers insisting that women and children they bombed were complicit in distant violent political crime, to anti-abortion protesters getting abortions at the same clinics they picket (they consider their own situation to be 'special' and 'different'), to people who clearly are self-serving and wicked being defended and prayed for by people who are very nice.

And it all seems like such a shame, because we'll never be able to make the world better if we're not acknowledging the world that we're actually in.


Denial of reality has its uses. Denial can be useful in personal politics, when actively applied. You never hear Americans bragging about the high rates of child poverty, the high number of working poor, or the vast numbers of uninsured. Because no one wants to acknowledge responsibility within the 'richest nation on earth' for caring for its people. If you say everything is fine, than you don't need to act - nothing needs to be done. I hear people all the time saying everything is fine. Which means they are preventing the situation from improving. If something isn't broken, it can't be fixed. People trying to help improve care for children can't get far when the official word is that kids are all fine.


This denial also applies to social politics. I know a few Republicans. They have friends who are gay and wish to marry, but feel no shame at supporting a party that wishes to deny them even domestic partnership rights. They have friends who have had much needed abortions, yet feel fine supporting a party that would outlaw them. (This especially riles me, as that someone dear to me would have hemorrhaged to death without an abortion. Yet many who oppose abortion happily approve surgery for vain things, like getting fat liposuctioned off or getting a chest enhancement, because that surgery is acceptable within their view of religion. Which suggests some very poor values.) They don't make enough to benefit from tax cuts for the wealthy, but continue to support a party that benefits those richer than their own friends and family. And, awkwardly, they're supporting a party that is attempting to disenfranchise people of my own ethnic background in a variety of states.

Yet it would be awkward to have an honest discussion on the topic.

R: So, it's a shame my party is screwing over your people this month, isn't it? Don't worry, we're not being racist -- we just figure you won't fight back.
Me: Gee, thanks for your honesty.
R: What should I wear to our girlfriends' wedding? Oh, wait, my party will outlaw legal recognition of their relationship. Does that mean I shouldn't bring a gift?
Me: [falls down and pretends to be unconscious, hoping R will leave.]

The best fantasy for this particular situation is to claim to be a 'fiscal conservative,' and to be voting for candidates solely based on nonexistent fiscal policies which will never manifest. That way you can pretend the well being of you immediate friends and large groups of other people isn't really working into your personal calculation. It also helps not to discuss politics with the friends you are screwing over. But unless we're all participating in the denial, it doesn't really work.

I'm not a Democrat, but it seems the list of crimes by Democrats against others generally involve putting corporate priorities ahead of the nation's good, and they seem to do that best in bipartisan efforts. Democrats have never tried to deny anyone I know life saving surgery or prevent anyone I know from having a legally recognized relationship. So my criticisms have more to do with mismanagement and corporate coziness than the social persecution I perceive with their opponents.

If Catholics can denounce child abuse in their institution without denouncing the religion itself, surely partisans can denounce the shameful "values" of their parties when it matters? I suppose that remains to be seen...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 AM

Let them eat quiche: I have historically kind of liked quiche, but have taken issue with the eggs in it. I really don't like eggs, and there's just no graceful way to disguise the eggs with tons of some fabulous pepper sauce when they're in the form of a quiche. So I've been avoiding quiches for a while, while pining for a simple mushroom version as good as Mollie Katzen's simple recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook.

I was unpacking my groceries, and looked at my box of vegan Ener-G Egg Replacer, which I use in baking, and lo and behold, it has a quiche recipe. Basically, you beat 3 and 1/3 tablespoons of egg replacer in a half cup of soymilk until it's smooth and frothy, and use that to replace the eggs. So I tried it. And... it works!! They recommend a cup of cheddar and whatever veggies you like, but I had something particular in mind. So here's a recipe:

Eggless mushroom quiche

Ingredients, from bottom to top:
-a prepared, uncooked pie crust (1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of non-hydrogenated shortening, and 1/4 cup of cold water, cut together, mixed by hand until just blended, and rolled out with extra flour to prevent sticking), in a pie pan
-1 cup of the mild white cheese of your choice (fontina, jack, mild cheddar, etc.), grated
-three cups of sliced mushrooms
-1 large onion, diced
-a pinch of thyme
-3.33 tablespoons of egg replacer powder
-1/2 cup soymilk
-a few dashes of paprika

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sprinkle your cheese across the bottom of your pie crust. Sauté the mushrooms and onions with the thyme in a little oil, until the onions are tender. Spread the sauté over the cheese. Blend the egg replacer and soymilk for 3-4 minutes. Pour that over the top of the sauté, and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for about half an hour, or until the pie crust is browning. The egg replacer will still be rather pale -- don't be alarmed. It will taste quite nice, and hold in the moistness of the mushrooms and cheese quite well. You can keep this refrigerated, and microwave it to reheat: the egg replacer doesn't behave as strangely when microwaved as actual eggs do.

Next version I'll try: spinach. I might also beat a few herbs into the egg replacer, to give it more presence. We'll see.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:55 AM

Sweet potato heaven: I've now tried THREE of the BBC's sweet potato recipes, and two of them are winners that I'll be gushing about to everyone.

The easiest and most satisfying is easily the sweet potato and spinach salad. It is amazingly easy to prepare, and surprisingly good. The serving size is very small, so feel free to increase it in all respects. (At the very least, use an entire, large sweet potato.) We'll be having this again very soon.

The other is the sweet potato ravioli with sage and rocket (arugula). I cheated, using a locally made, fresh, spinach pasta as the ravioli wrappers. But it was great!! The filling is amazingly sweet -- roasting the potatoes gives it a great flavor -- and the arugula provides fresh crunch. I hadn't realized how good pine nuts smell and taste when browned in olive oil. This is a fancy restaurant-caliber recipe. Very luxurious. If you want to impress someone, try this!

I've already written about the gratin, which was too dominated by garlic for my garlic-loving tastes, just because the subtleties of the sweet potatoes are lost. So that one could use some modifications, but is a good base recipe regardless -- I'll try it again.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:48 AM

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