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Saturday, February 26, 2005

All I want to do is print cyanotypes and cyanograms/photograms. But no. The sky is filled with poofy clouds, and the forecast is filled with rain for DAYS.

I just had to take up a sun-printing technology in winter, didn't I? I have no sense of timing. None.


For reasons I don't fully understand, February hasn't fully existed for me. I celebrated Chinese New Year (I attended a flower market and the parade, did some new year's house cleaning, bought oranges and sweets), but still otherwise believe it's January. And so the flowers I see everywhere surprise me, because I think it's too early for them.

Stints of warm weather induced wild blossoming in the trees. Much of that is over now: the lovely plum tree in my uphill neighbor's yard, happy for the first time since we moved in thanks to an expert pruning, bloomed beautiful and white for about four days, and is now displaying tender, pale green growth. The purple leaf plum trees down the street finished blossoming weeks ago, and are already thickly covered with a fresh growth of deep purple leaves. There's one vivid pink flowering cherry in bloom down the hill, beneath telephone wires, with a big parking restriction sign in front of it. (Spring in the City.) But because the calla lilies have been blooming since last november almost continuously, it feels like spring came too early and is nearly over.

Perhaps the spring rains are coming again as a seasonal reminder of sorts.


S and I want to go out and look at spring flowers, but we've done more than our share of pleasant walks in the rain recently, and could use a pleasant walk in the sun. Also, the lighting is better for flower photography that way. :-)


My stock photography agency approved the sample images I sent them, and I key worded them for the on-line database this morning. They'll begin to appear next week. I'll need to get more images to them pronto, and get my film scanner humming once again. Another good project for a rainy week!

It's such a good feeling to have agency representation. This is something I should have arranged for last fall, but I balked and kept shooting film instead. Which was great. But doesn't pay the bills on its own.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:23 AM

Oh my: 'Roadkill' sweets grind to a halt (, 02/26/05):
US food giant Kraft has decided to halt production of sweets shaped like roadkill - animals run over by cars.
As one of my girlfriends would say, "alrighty then."

The product has been out since last summer. But they've decided NOW that it's inappropriate. Which means it isn't selling as well as they'd hoped.

Ah, commerce.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:20 AM

Friday, February 25, 2005

S has a new Flower Gallery posted at his old website. And he spells out his whole name.

He's a clever one: he waited until I started testing software to satisfactorily create image galleries before he ventured forth. My suffering has translated into some good solutions. Hopefully my dear local cousin will take up the gallery publishing project next.

Not to be outdone, I will shortly roll out a new gallery page, with galleries of images I've taken over the past year, including images from my adventures in the Southwest, and other fun sabbatical travel. (It's probably wildly premature of me to report this wicked plan. But I'm determined. Especially now that I see the forecast calls for rain daily this week, and so it's unlikely I'll be able to print cyanotypes, despite my complete obsession with them...)
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:42 PM

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Look, ma, I'm an island!

My stock agency hasn't looked at my submission for 16 days. Is it not ripe yet?


Today I got a message from a friend who received one of my glossy postcards. He made a comment about not being educated enough to appreciate it, though he also complimented its retro appearance. It's just a photo of my favorite building in San Francisco, from the building he works in, done in cyanotype (Prussian Blue). It's a decent image. We both work in construction, and cyanotype is the original "blue print" process, so there's some history there - it's an appropriate medium all the way 'round.

But his comments reminded me that the vast majority of my pals really have no idea what I'm doing, or why I'm doing it. There are wonderful exceptions, of course. And you know who you are (especially R & P!). I've gotten some great emotional support. Two of my local colleagues have tried to force money on me to buy some of my work for their uses, and several colleagues and supervisors have sent nice messages or have gone out to food or drinks with me, which I appreciate a lot.

But my other pals are generally baffled.

It's nice that they want me to be happy, in a disinterested-about-the-specifics way. I don't offer to show my photos, and they don't ask. (Okay, I've forced photos on a group of friends twice, once meeting with enthusiasim (the most enthusiastic received the work), and once with blank stares.) I've been away from my office for 8 months, and got my first question from a colleague about how I spend my time last week! I was sending out 20 glossy postcards to people I used to work with periodically, and on average I heard from 1 recipient each mailing by the end of last year. (I have since heard through the grapevine that people who received them like them, but didn't say anything except to each other.) There are people I worked with for 10 years who haven't responded to postcards, e-mailed, or called since I left the office!!

And so to explain why I'm sending Prussian Blue photos... It wouldn't be an explanation, it would be a billboard. Or a Doctor Seuss book, with me shouting from on top of the hair on a giant moose's head through a tiny megaphone.

(Perhaps that's what I'm already doing, and I just can't be heard?)

So this goes out in appreciation for my pals who keep in touch, the folks who try to understand, and all the nice fanatics at the SF public darkroom, just for being there! As one of my former supervisors would say, "you rock the planet."
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:22 PM

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The wonders of the web: The web is such a great source of information! I was interested in learning about how to tone cyanotypes. I LOVE the deep blues I get with cyanotypes, but I experiment a lot, and so I have a lot of 2nd best (or 3rd best) copies of my prints that I'm keen to toy with. Searching for information on toning led me to Suzi Q. Varin's Q Photo Home, a website where she displays fabulous photograms/cyanograms, which are shadow prints made in the sun. I make these and am always scoping out transparent objects to print with, but Ms. Varin's prints are really superb. She ingeniously collects all sorts of fabulous hand tools, gears, light bulbs, and widgets to print with, and then prints with great skill.

She was also kind enough to scientifically post the results of all of her toning experiments in one place, which gives me a much better understanding of what so much text I've read is actually ABOUT.

That and she's a damned fine photographer. Go check out her site. (Yes, I should post this on one of my photo pages first/instead, but I'm neglecting this page's "eye candy" component if I omit this!)


I'm having one of those days where it's difficult to overcome my enthusiasm and get work done.

My day was all planned out last night: I would get up early, take a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, walk across the bridge and descend to part of the GGNRA where I've never visited to photograph some of their colonial revival buildings with my 120mm film camera, walk back, get a latte somewhere (Peets!), and then come home and print a few cyanotypes in the afternoon, during the brief window of conveniently located light on my front steps. I prepared paper for printing, I packed my camera bag...

And this morning it dawned CLOUDY. With clouds and rain predicted for the next two days.

Grrrr! Just when I had my hopes up! At the very least I could have gotten a nice, thick, low fog, which makes all sorts of lovely effects in the cypress trees near the beach, and I could have walked along Land's End and photographed the soft, soft edges of the land meeting the sea. But no.

I've been out of whack since my plans fell through. The possibility of toning some of my cyanotype experiments is just irresistable, especially now that I've seen the range of results possible. I went on a wild search for a local supplier of the required chemicals, and finally figured out who the "Mark" person is in Berkeley who people always reference so vaguely when discussing alt process chemicals: he's at Bryant Laboratories, which is just distant enough from North Berkeley BART to mean I'm not going today. They have everything I need for toning, and even for experimenting with gum bichromate. (Gum bichromate is the labor intensive alt process that S has been encouraging me to try ever since seeing a lovely gum print at the SF Bike Coaltion's Winterfest party.) My budget doesn't really have a line item to cover this, which is unfortunate. But... I really really really am eager to try this. Toning cyanotypes doesn't require any particular sort of weather! If I had the materials, I could do it TODAY!! So you see how my brain is operating.

This offers a pleasant distraction from the fact that the stock agency I am signed up with hasn't approved the materials I've sent, which have been waiting for 15 days in their offices, but HAVE sent me an e-mail asking for photos of cheetahs. Well, and other things. But cheetahs stand out as something I definitely do not have in my personal image library.

I'll go back to wallowing in my inability to sun print, now.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:14 PM

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I am a hopeless geek: So I've been building a photography database using a great tool called iView Media Pro, and I've been interested in other databases. The stock agencies all obviously have them, but I wanted to see others. So I wound up at Lomography 3.0~ World Archive ( Lomo is a company promoting plastic cameras, including novelty cameras with multiple eyes that take multiple images on each of your 35mm frames. They have a keyworded database of Lomo user's snapshots. So if you go to the World Archive page, and put in "trains" (or "rivers" or "signs" or "Berlin") all of these images come up, some of them TERRIBLE, some of them FUN and GOOD, all tiled together in a huge gallery that you can page through.

Yes, there are lots of photos of drunks in bars being flashed with their color-flash camera, looking drunk in green or pink or yellow. But there are some interesting images, too. A search for "night" reveals some surprisingly good images, for example, which is tough to achieve with limited-control cameras.

It's fun to be able to choose HOW you look at the images by theme.

Yes, I suppose I am easily amused. But you probably knew that.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:09 PM

Monday, February 21, 2005


February 22nd is "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day"

Global blogger action day called (, 02/21/05).
The month-old Committee to Protect Bloggers' is asking those with blogs to dedicate their sites on 22 February to the "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day".

Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are both in prison in Iran.
Various repressive governments, including that of Iran, are imprisoning and torturing bloggers for speaking freely about the conditions there. For more info, check out this article: The price paid for blogging [in/about] Iran (, 02/21/05)
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:14 PM

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Mediterranean lasagna

S insists this is the best lasagna he has ever tasted. It's inspired by several "Mediterranean" dishes we eat often at restaurants, including Mediterranean crepes (olives, marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, feta, artichoke hearts, cheddar, pine nuts, pesto, and onions) and Zachary's Chicago style Mediterranean pizza (green olives, red peppers, feta, artichoke hearts).

-a dozen lasagna noodles (enough to make three layers of pasta in your pan)
-720 g/25 ounces of the tomato sauce of your choice (plain is good for this)
-a pound of fresh tofu, soft or firm (but not silken)
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/4 cup of olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon of crushed, dried red pepper (the kind you sprinkle on pizza)
-1-2 teaspoons basil
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt
-16 ounces of canned artichoke hearts, non-marinated, drained and chopped
-1/2 cup of green olives with pimentos, drained and sliced or coarsely chopped
-1 pound of roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
-1 cup of fresh feta, coarsely chopped, grated, or shredded
-1 pound of skim milk mozzarella, grated.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the maker's instructions, which usually means 3 minutes for fresh noodles or 9 - 12 minutes for dried. Drain, rinse in cold water, and toss with a little olive oil to keep these from sticking.

In a food processor, blend the tofu, garlic, olive oil, red pepper, basil, and oregano until it has the texture of a spiced ricotta. This should take less than a minute. (If you use a very firm tofu, this will be the heaviest element in the dish. Consider a soft tofu for this purpose.) Put this tofu mixture into a large bowl. Add the chopped artichoke hearts, chopped green olives, chopped roasted red peppers, and feta. Mix well.

Spread just under half of the tomato sauce evenly across the bottom of your lasagna pan. Lay down 1/3 of the pasta to serve as the lasagna's base, then half of filling, 1/3 of the mozzarella, another layer of noodles, the other half of the filling, 1/3 more of the mozzarella, the last 1/3 of the pasta, sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella. Cover with tin foil, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour.

This is great with red wine, garlic bread, and green salads with zesty dressings.


You probably already have a garlic bread recipe you like. If you don't, you might try combining 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil with a couple cloves of garlic and a teaspoon or more of dried oregano (a tablespoon or more of fresh oregano) and a pinch of salt. Blend that together, and spread it over your sliced or halved loaf of bread. Wrap it in tin foil, and bake it for at least 20 minutes along with the lasagna, OR broil it when the lasagna first comes out of the oven for about 3 minutes, or until the edges of the bread turn dark brown.


Now that I've made what S believes is the best lasagna ever, I want to make EVEN BETTER variations. I suspect that pesto sauce would work well if I use fewer or no olives. (I used to make a three cheese, pesto lasagna which was delicious, but nearly too heavy to eat). I used to make a pasta dish with eggplant sauteed in olive oil and covered until tender, which also involved green olives, which would surely work well here, though might be heavy. I might marinate and roast eggplant for this instead. Hmm. And then there are Kalamanta olives, which I might substitute for the green ones. So many great options!


I had a strange, likely authentic veggie lasagna at a local SF restaurant years ago which surprised me. It involved about TEN LAYERS OF PASTA. To make room for this in the pan, there was no real "filling" placed between the layers: instead, the tomato sauce was very chunky, nearly like a stew or a wet ratatouille, and that made the layers both moist with sauce and interesting. In summer, I may try a variation of this, heavy on eggplant and olives. I'll report here when I do. Eggplant season seems very far away...
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:31 PM

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fear of flashbacks: I'm reading an XML tutorial ( I think my cousin is incorrect when he thinks I should switch from HTML to XML, as I don't really have a lot of data that I need to manage across programs at the moment. Anyway, the tutorial has this line:

"There is nothing special about XML"

and I immediately flashed back to those darned Apple II text based games from the 1980s, where you had to type specific instructions to negotiate various puzzles. So you'd type, "I look at the babelfish machine," and you 'd get a long description of what the machine looks like, and how it has a little slot in it, and where the babelfish goes when you put something in the slot, which induces you to figure out how to catch it with the tools you have at hand. Or, "I look at Ford Prefect," and the program responds with, "There is nothing special about Ford Prefect."

So automatically, upon seeing this line in the tutorial, I thought it was the response to the command, "I look at XML."

I am appalled and amused at the things this flashback says about me.

Arlene "my memory scares me" G.

{Post Script: My cousin really thinks I should use XHTML. I hadn't been listening closely enough, I think.}
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:43 PM

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Pop up books for science fans: Science and the Artist's Book (
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:36 PM


Mrs. P’s recipe box

Today S allowed me to peruse his departed mother’s recipe box. It is a box about 6” high and about as deep, shaped like a pink cottage, complete with a window with a window box containing little straw flowers. It is packed full of recipes, which I have difficulty reading, because they are faint, handwritten, and in pencil. There are more than 200 recipes there, with many repeats.

During the 3 or so years I knew Mrs. P, she never made any of these dishes. She had tired of cooking, after having raised six children on a tight budget and home cooked meals. She'd eat my cooking, even though it was all low cholesterol and full of vegetables and sometimes even spices. Mrs. P's diet largely consisted of cheeses and store bought desserts in the last years of her life, before she died of heart failure.

I find the recipes fascinating, because as a collection the box expresses an interest in foods that I would never, ever eat. Many of these recipes are from a historic food era in which “convenience foods” - like deep fried noodles in cans, or high sodium canned creamy soups - were marketed as key shortcuts to successful, fancy, home cooking. Many of these recipes were promoting specific products, which are featured prominently as ingredients. These recipes show the Midwestern influence of S’ ancestors, who were semi-recently from Iowa, or were transplanted midwesterners who wound up in Utah with midwestern traditions.

As a 19 year vegetarian with vegan tendencies, an aversion to salty canned soups, and an abject loathing of mayonnaise, these recipes are from an alien culture. Not a distant culture, mind you - just an alien one. It may be a failure of my imagination that I can’t imagine mixing mayonnaise with sour cream and fruit as a dessert. BUT. This entire collection is a revelation that Mrs. P and I had only COOKIES in common within our routine diets.

Let me list these recipes.

  • 24 hour salad - egg yolks, whipping cream, marshmallows...
  • a simple way to make a hot, wholesome cereal - this involves buying cereal and cooking it in milk. Who knew you could BUY cereal and then HEAT IT?
  • A1 steak sauce chili - ground beef
  • Anna rice - cooked rice baked with eggs, parsley, cheese and garlic
  • apple cake - no ham!
  • applesauce cake
  • applesauce fruit cake
  • apricot almond chews
  • autumn harvest pearberry tart
  • Avon sugar cookie recipe
  • baked cheese omelet or Betty's easy brunch - how could it be a cheese omelet if it has BACON in it??
  • barley beef stew - beef
  • basic oatmeal cookies
  • bean soup - ham
  • beef and rice stuffed peppers - OH! My mother made these! I HATED these!
  • beef bourguignon - a way to serve tough stew meat by baking it in broth for 8 hours
  • Bisquick cheese biscuits - modification of purchased mix
  • black bottom cheesecake
  • broccoli bake - broccoli, plus cream of mushroom soup, American cheese (an oxymoron), egg, MAYONNAISE, milk, butter, and bread crumbs.
  • buttermilk pineapple sherbert - here in the U.S., it's sherbert. Really.
  • butterscotch bars
  • butterscotch krackels - butterscotch, peanut butter, and Frosted Flakes!
  • caramel
  • carmel ice cream - no ham!
  • carrot cake
  • casserole - sour cream, jack cheese, and tiny amounts of roasted red and green peppers.
  • chamomile tea - steeping instructions for dried chamomile
  • cherry cookies - illegible
  • chewy crisps - some sort of baked peanut butter dish
  • chewy oatmeal cookies
  • chicken a la king - condensed chicken soup, condensed milk
  • chicken caciatore
  • chicken lickin good pork chops - condensed chicken soup dish
  • chicken noodle soup
  • chicken tortilla casserole - cream of mushroom AND cream of chicken soup. The salt is HURTING ME, and I'm just typing this.
  • chicken with rice
  • chili and beans - hamburger
  • chili con carne - hamburger
  • chili potato soup - bacon
  • Chinese hambuger casserole - because the Chinese are known for their casseroles involving cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups
  • chocolate crackles
  • coconut oatmeal drops
  • cola steak - I've never heard of this, but apparently you bake steak in, yes, cola, for 8 to 10 hours
  • corn chowder - bacon
  • corn meal thins - Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, you know.
  • cozy hot cocoa - spice company. This involves modifying purchased hot cocoa.
  • cracked wheat cereal - instructions on how to cook purchased cereal
  • cranberry delight - THIS ONE has cream cheese AND mayonnaise AND whipped cream!
  • cranberry fruit nut bread
  • cranberry nut coffee cake
  • cranberry orange bread - butter substitute recipe
  • cranberry, orange, and apricot bread
  • cream cheese frosting
  • crock pot information/bouquet garni/basil dumplings - since when is celery in a bouquet garni? don't ask about the dumplings.
  • divinity - egg whites, sugar, etc.
  • doughnuts - I do not believe doughnuts are really made with Bisquick.
  • dream drops - cookies
  • easy chicken devan - mayo!
  • easy vegetable quiche - while I don't like eggs, and this has plenty of them, this may be THE ONLY ENTREE RECIPE I could theoretically eat from this entire collection
  • english muffin loaves - hey! I could eat these!
  • English toffee - no ground beef!
  • Erin's carrot cake
  • ever so easy fruitcake - according to, mince meat is "a mixture, as of finely chopped apples, raisins, spices, meat, and sometimes rum or brandy, used especially as a pie filling [or] finely chopped meat."
  • festive quick breads (cranberry, apple, pumpkin) - spice co.
  • fruit cocktail dessert - don't trust anything that has dessert in the title. This has eggs and canned fruit in it.
  • fruit salad - Jell-O and canned fruit.
  • fudge
  • gingerbread cookies
  • gingerbread trees - I thought these trees had all been logged.
  • good apple crisp - I couldn't find the bad apple crisp recipe
  • good carrot cake - I kept an eye out for the bad carrot cake recipe, to no avail
  • Good Housekeeping page, with gelatin recipe, fruit/cream cheese recipe, etc.
  • ground beef pie
  • ground beef stroganoff - optional MSG; canned cream of chicken soup
  • ham and cheese brunch - brunch isn't very specific, is it?
  • Ham vegetable soup
  • heartland spice cake with caramel frosting
  • hearty meatball stew and dumplings - refrigerated, purchased biscuits are simmered in the stew as dumplings. Sketchy.
  • heavenly hash - marshmallows (gelatin), sour cream, canned fruits...
  • heavy walnut squares
  • Herman cake - this is some kind of joke
  • holiday flank steak - since I don't eat red meat, I'm always amazed at how long these dishes take to cook.
  • holiday fruitcake - mincemeat
  • holiday quick breads - this is a variation of the festive quick breads recipe
  • hot cider - one of the ingredients is actually cider
  • hot fruit compote
  • how to make yogurt - with a Salton yogurt maker. My parents had one of these. I think they used it ONCE.
  • illegible, involves frosting and sugar
  • impossible taco pie - ground beef, Bisquick, eggs, cheese, milk, taco seasoning. But is it really impossible?
  • Irish bread - eggs, buttermilk
  • Irish soda bread with currants
  • irresistable peanut butter cookies
  • Italian anise cookies - spice company
  • Italian dressing - This suspiciously involves catsup.
  • Italian spaghetti sauce - Italian sausage. Although I wonder what Spanish or Nepali spaghetti sauce would be.
  • Jerry's cheesecake
  • Joe's Special - beef, frozen spinach, eggs, etc.
  • Karen's banana loaf
  • kdiney bean salad - hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise... I've never seen a bean salad involving mayo before.
  • lemon bars
  • lemon cake
  • lemon cake dessert - If you have to put dessert in the name, it must contain gelatin. Yes, it does.
  • lemon chicken elegante - spice co., heavy cream, lemon extract (not real lemons)
  • lemon cookies
  • lemon dessert - be suspicious of anything which needs to put "dessert" in the title - if you can't tell, it isn't. Jell-O, fruit cocktail, non-dairy whipped topping.
  • lemon freeze - Kellogs corn flakes as a crust, and eggy dairy things as a filling
  • lemon ice box pie - condensed milk AND non dairy whipped topping
  • lemon icebox pudding - sugar, eggs, lemons, whipped cream
  • lemony meat sauce with spaghetti - euww
  • Linda's basic butter cookies
  • Linda's peanut butter cookies
  • macaroni tuna soup - I have never heard of a tuna soup. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Canned tuna; canned mushrooms.
  • manhattan meatballs - pork and beef. The scary thing about this one is the 10 ounces of apricot preserves mixed with 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce.
  • marshmallow treats (Rice Crisipes) - marshmallows are made with gelatin, a meat by product, and have always freaked me out.
  • mini cheese cakes - the ingredient list omits the vanilla wafer that serves as a crust
  • molasses oatmeal cookies'
  • Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies
  • Mrs. Greer's oatmeal cookies
  • Mrs. Sara's chili - ground beef
  • Mrs. Smith's snow ball cookies
  • nachos - this explains how to broil cheese and canned green chilies over chips. Does this count as a recipe?
  • Nancy's ginger snaps
  • Neste's Toll House pan cookies
  • Nestle oatmeal scotchie pan cookies
  • New Orleans prailine candies
  • no bake cookies - a boiled Ovaltine recipe. No, really.
  • no cook strawberry jam - you freeze this.
  • nutty graham picnic cake
  • oatmeal raisin bread - no ham!
  • old fashioned fudge - a recipe from a nun
  • old fashioned vegetable soup - ground beef, beef bouillon
  • oriental meat and vegetable stew - "Oriental" is still a pretty funny word in these parts. This involves pork.
  • patio lickin chicken - Lipton onion soup, cream of chicken soup, and a scary scary name
  • peanut blossoms - this appears to be some kind of cookie
  • peanut brittle
  • peanut butter cookies
  • peanut butter cups
  • peanut butter drops - Ham. Just kidding!
  • peanut butter fudge
  • pie crust
  • popcorn balls
  • pork adobo - because it's been too long since I mentioned pork
  • pork chop vegetable supper - not dinner? Why not?
  • potatoes anna - potatoes, butter, and margarine, baked like a gratin. I could eat this. But I don't.
  • pudding cookies - instant pudding, Bisquick, oil, eggs.
  • quesadilla Salvadorena - eggs, sugar, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, margarine, and buttermilk pancake mix. I don't believe this one.
  • quick caramel coffee ring - caramel drizzled over bought refrigerator biscuits
  • ragout de veau (veal stew) - this requires boneless veal AND requires a veal bone. Go figure.
  • raisin celebration cookies - I'm already singing 'heard it through the grapevine'
  • raisin pie - I suspect a dentist invented this to drum up business.
  • raspberriy Jell-O salad I - sour cream. No, really.
  • raspberry Jell-O salad II - WARNING: midwesterners offer you salad, but they really mean gelatin
  • ratatouille - Mrs. P wasn't a ratatoille kind of person, so this is surprising. No ham! I eat a version of this dish a few times annually! But I never saw Mrs. P eat it. I think she disliked eggplant, actually.
  • raw apple cake - you bake this. The apples aren't cooked beforehand.
  • reese balls - peanut butter, "cake wax," Oleo (which is now a spreadsheet program, rather than a fat), and more.
  • rice and ham vegetable salad - cooked ham, rice, pineapple chunks? No way.
  • Ritz cracker pie
  • roast stuffed turkey
  • saucy dogs - hot dog topping: sour cream, mustard, onion, etc. Eeeuuuwww.
  • sausage and cheese stratta - pork sausage and longhorn cheese
  • savory pot roast - this is one of those recipes that calls for unspecified "fat"
  • scalloped potatoes - no ham!
  • secret chocolate sensation - MAYONNAISE! MAYONNAISE!! Water, eggs, pudding mix, and mayo! Eeuuwww!
  • sesame circle cookies - S says these are good
  • Sister Titus' carrot cake
  • sliced baked potatoes - this recipe bemoans the blandness of potatoes, which can be corrected with butter and cheese.
  • sloppy joe turnovers - sour cream and catsup are friends
  • soup kettle supper - bacon, ham, beef broth
  • soup with meatballs
  • sour cream sugar cookies
  • spaezle
  • spaghetti sauce - ground beef
  • Spanish rice - ground beef
  • spinach dip in French bread - sour cream, mayo, frozen spinach, powdered leek soup mix... possibly the only recipe here involving water chesnuts.
  • steamed holiday pudding
  • stir and bake pie crust - this is an oil based crust, rather than a solid butter/shortening/fat crust. It can't be handled normally - you spread it on waxed paper and then peel it off.
  • strawberry gelatin salad - at least this title warns you about the gelatin
  • strawberry ice cream pie - this is a Jell-O dish.
  • sugar cookies
  • Swiss meat ring - just the name disturbs S. This involves "ham or luncheon meat."
  • tamale pie - ground beef, corn meal... S HATES this dish.
  • Toll House Pie - no ham! It's a chocolate pie.
  • tuna divan - MAYO! and milk and cheddar and margarine.
  • tuna tetrazzini - mayonnaise and tuna on spaghetti. My stomach turns.
  • ultimate chocolate chip cookie
  • untitled - mayonnaise, buttermilk, cream cheese, garlic salt, onion, pepper, MSG stirred together. Euww.
  • untitled - ground beef in dough dish
  • untitled crab mold dish - crab, canned mushroom soup, cream cheese, gelatin
  • untitled recipe involving lecithin
  • untitled with raisin filling
  • vegetable soup Italiene - beef bouillon
  • versatile tomato celery stew - this involves a pound of canned ham
  • very crisp oatmeal cookies
  • whipped cheese mold - gelatin, cream cheese, cottage cheese, whipped topic, etc.
  • white bread, cinnamon bread, misc. hard rolls
  • zinis tag - ground beef, fried with peppers
  • zucchini bread - dessert
  • zucchini soup - chicken broth, half and half
There is NOTHING vegan here. It is just amazing - anything with fruit HAS to involve canned fruit PLUS sour cream, mayo, cream, or ham!!


Conversation while I was typing this up:

S: I think my mother liked collecting recipes.
Me: I like to collect recipes, too.
S: Yes, but you collect recipes you actually USE. Just like you bought a computer based on what you planned to USE it for. Freak!


One of S' sisters wants these recipes (we just got it from another sister), and I imagine we will pass it on. Perhaps with some sort of health warning label, though, about how you shouldn't eat more than one of these dishes in any given week, for fear of sodium and fat overdoses.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:05 PM

Yesterday, feeling flush with cash because my federal tax refund arrived, I ordered a pizza from a local (SF-based) chain of pizza restaurants called EXTREME PIZZA. There is now a franchise in my neighborhood, just over the hill. You can order on-line, which is sometimes easier than shouting through the phone at someone standing inside a large kitchen.

I've eaten at several locations of this chain here in the City, and decided to order one for home delivery. It all went well. We had the "Pandora's Box," which is topped with baby spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, fresh garlic, fresh basil, oregano and mozzarella. I didn't order it with the tomato sauce option. The pizza was tasty and was delivered in about 45 minutes. The crust wasn't quite as good as it was at other locations - it was a little bland, but impressively thin and structurally sound.

I perused their website, to read about their "philosophy." This is a marketing concept for the franchisees, so they don't have to come up with their own theme. The overall theme of the chain is extreme sports, and many of the people working in the store locations could plausibly be skateboarders or bike messengers. I like bike messengers and people who like to play outside, so this is a theme that works for me.

But this makes no sense:
Chasing your kids around the house…pulling all nighters studying for midterms …..winning the world series…..launching a forward loop on your windsurfer …..balancing debits and credits….jumping off a 50 footer…..whatever you do, do it to the EXTREME!

Anyway. They make a good pizza, and have lots of good vegetarian specials. Generally, their crusts are good, though yesterday's crust was average. So that's my review.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:03 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Recipe box: S' mother, who died two and a half years ago during the week we had planned to move into this house, left behind a recipe box. The box contains handwritten recipes on little cards, in pencil, in handwriting, some of which are enclosed in little plastic sleeves. Most of the recipes were copied from packages for products, like the Toll House cookie recipe (Nestle), or the Avon sugar cookie recipe. One of S' sisters wound up with the box, but she recently dumped all of her worldly possessions on her siblings to flee in pursuit of an internet romance, and S received the box.

It is full of amazing things. Things that invoke all of the midwestern food ideals which I have never managed to absorb, like fondness for sour cream and mayonnaise mixed together.

Actual comment from S: "Hey! The 'cranberry delight' has mayonnaise in it! It's a DESSERT!"

This should be fascinating.

I would be writing about the other contents even now, but I can't easily read the faded pencil handwriting. But if there are any gems (or untold horrors), I'll let you know.


S' mother had a very extensive cookbook collection, but by the time I met her she had tired of cooking. The cookbooks were stored in a cabinet in the basement of the house that S rented in San Bruno. I had been in charge of packing the cookbooks. I was the one that learned that the tightly packed books contained a warren of termite tunnels. I found this out with my bare hands, by inadvertently inserting my hand through a large termite living area.

I was very dutiful. Unfortunately, many of the old cookbooks could not be saved, being only slightly more organized than sawdust.

S did find a few small cookbook-brochures for me, which contained gelatin-meat-sour cream-mayonnaise-salt dishes. These produced great hilarity, but nothing I would be willing to touch, let alone cook. But this recipe card box holds more promise.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:14 PM

New beginnings: After 37 years of contention and acrimony, my parents are finally going to divorce.

Here is a line that all of you reading should make a note to NEVER use, allegedly (and likely) spoken by my father: "If you had any self esteem at all, you would have divorced me years ago."

After receiving this news, I began poring over an atlas. Yes, maps. Because my mother is living in a small, central valley town on the SAME BLOCK as my father, and only moved out there because he wanted to move out there. And separate houses are not enough: the neighbors will not stop speaking about my father's female guests, whom they report on with a combination of concern and glee over being the ones to supply the report.

So where should my mother live? The choice is complicated by the outrageous California real estate market, and by the fact that she provides so much childcare to my two nieces, who live in Modesto. But my sister isn't happy out there, either. So perhaps they should all move.

Lists of towns fly around my head. San Anselmo? Yes, but too expensive. Fairfax? Maybe, though I still think of that 4th grade field trip where a classmate wound up being scarred because a cruel classmate put a handful of poison oak on her face when she was sunbathing. Pismo Beach? The beach is nice, but I don't remember seeing any signs of economic life the last time I was there. Morro Bay? Well, fitness guru Jack La Lane likes it. Though no one has explained what it is that comes out of those towers at the power plant, which mar an othewise lovely view of the town and its large rock.

There are many possibilities, but all are a long way off. And she may not want to move, though I know she also doesn't want to stay where she is. It's... complicated.


Looking at the atlas just reminds me of all the places S and I would like to visit. If I had any income, which I currently do not, I would be planning trips this year to Glacier National Park, Montana; Sante Fe and Taos in New Mexico (and possibly the White Sands National Monument in southern NM); Montreal, Canada; New York City, NY; and possibly even Germany. But I don't have any income at the moment, so this is all just dreaming.

But it's fun to dream!
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:10 PM

Friday, February 11, 2005

Cookies!! TrueMajority's Oreo cookie-themed animation of Ben Cohen is on the web!
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:03 PM


I scream, you scream, we all scream for... what is this crap?

I have had a big influence on S and his food purchasing decisions. Although he periodically buys odd, mainstream products at conventional supermarkets, he primarily drifts toward the health food stores and organic products he is in the habit of eating. He buys soy milk routinely, and is very unhappy when we run out. He has stated that it is cruel to addict him to my fresh, generally organic home cooking, because he can't make these things on his own, and thinks no one else can either. (This can only work to my advantage.) He cannot believe he ever used to eat artifically flavored boxed rice when Basmati rice exists.

But every so often, there is a lapse.

He went to a mainstream grocery chain on his way home from work recently, and was shocked at ice cream prices. So shocked, he bought the cheapest brand there, a brand he had never heard of before, but which he was willing to try for economic reasons.

It isn't quite ice cream.

Those of you who have made ice cream at home, with either a blender or a fancy ice cream making machine, know that all ingredients in good ice cream can be pronounced and are things you would be willing to eat ordinarily. There is a national brand of ice cream that bills itself as "all natural," and its vanilla flavor of ice cream contains four ingredients: cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. That's it. THAT is what ice cream is.

This stuff that S brought home is something else entirely. It purports to be "peanut butter toffee crunch ice cream with artificial flavors." But the ice cream part seems like an exaggeration. Let me type in the ingredient list here.

Milk cream, skim milk, sugar, corn syrup, caramel ribbon (high fructose corn syrup, water, sweetened condensed skim milk [condensed skim milk, sugar], butter [cream, salt], modified cornstarch, sugar, salt, artificial flavor [proplylene glycol, water, artificial flavors, glycerin and caramel color], disodium phosphate, carrageenan), toffee pieces (peanut butter coating [powdered sugar (sugar, cornstarch), coconut oil, peanuts (roasted in peanut oil), salt, soy lecithin], toffee [sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cornstarch, salt, artificial flavor, soy lecithin, caramel color, molasses, sodium bicarbonate], brown sugar, salt, natural flavors, caramel color, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, carob bean gum, carrageenan, citric acid.

Any ingredient list with that many nested parenthesis and brackets should be for something you oil your bike chain with. Heck, the stuff I oil my bike chain with is simpler!!!

Keep in mind that even home made toffee is just butter, sugar, and nuts. So, if this were an actual FOOD, the ingredient list would be cream, milk, sugar, butter, nuts. Maybe more than one kind of sugar, maybe more than one kind of nut. That could make the list a little longer. BUT the list would then consist of actual FOOD components.

I tried this supposed ice cream, and the texture was... wrong. It's the gums, I think. The gums and all those chemicals like glycerin, which change the way the milk freezes, giving it a strange texture. It's a texture you get used to if you buy this stuff, I'm sure, but I couldn't eat more than a few spoonfuls of it. Because I KNOW WHAT ICE CREAM FEELS LIKE. And this is NOT it.

If you're going to 'treat' yourself, buy the real thing. It's worth the extra 50 cents (or whatever) to actually eat something you can identify. If you're craving ice cream, BUY ICE CREAM. (Or a good soy cream, also with few ingredients. Or a nice sorbet... Regardless, go with foods made up of food ingredients.)

This message was brought to you by Those People Who Won't Eat Things They Could Only Make in a Chemistry Lab.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:47 PM

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Recipe Index Updated: For those of you who enjoy the recipes I post here and wonder what else I've posted, I have updated my list of original recipes and links thereto on my main "Food" page.

I also have updated "Expression," and have added new pages entitled "Words About Pictures" and "Bookmarks." For more updates, check my home page.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:20 PM

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

No new foods? It's true - I haven't been experimenting with my usual zeal in the area of cooking lately. I've been slaving away over my film scanner and various archival storage products, organizing my entire 'back catalog' of negatives, and it has been very tedious work. It's tedious to read about, so I won't make you suffer through it.

Suffice to say I've been making easy meals: pastas with sauces, spreads for bread, quesadillas, and a few elaborate winter soups. But nothing "new." I haven't even tried the honey baked pears recipe, because pears have been so good, we've been eating them all before I have a chance to bake any.

I may go to the farmer's market on Wednesday, and come home with some new inspiration. I've been daydreaming about greens of various kinds, but my treatment of them tends to be simple: stir fried with garlic; stir fried with garlic, ginger, and chili peppers; with black bean sauce; with Vietnam-style chili garlic sauce; with ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onions... They taste so GOOD simply prepared and over rice, it's hard for me to get too wild.

I'll report back if I do anything new and novel.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:48 AM

Cloudy. It’s one of those gray and quiet mornings that holds little hope for high contrast photography, so I’m here at home, sipping a soy Ghiradelli “white mocha” and thinking clearly for the first time since S turned down the loud music he’s been playing this morning. He is always eager to share music, and we have extremely similar tastes in bands, but he forgets that I can’t think and listen to loud music at the same time. (Partners with days off from work offer many surprise challenges for those of us who work from home.)

The first piece he played for me this morning was David Bowie’s Let’s Dance version of Cat People, the lively version with Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar. There was a period of time when I was completely addicted to that song, and would listen to it nearly every morning before going to class back in college (the first time). I was dating a guy who wanted to know about what I did daily, what my life when he wasn’t around was like. And so I told him I listened to this song every morning. He wasn’t paying attention to the album/version specifics, and so he wound up getting the slow, creepy, soundtrack version of the song. (Cat People was one of the worst movies ever, about some people who would have sex and turn into panthers who would hunt all night and kill people and sheep. Spoiler: The hot female character tires of killing, and asks some guy to have sex with her and then lock her in a zoo. I cannot warn you away from this film enough.) And so there he was, being sweetly romantic, listening to a version of the song I didn’t like while seeking insights on me as a person. Ah, the magic of misguided young love.


I’ve watched some GOOD movies recently. Dirty Pretty Things is a brilliant film about immigrants in England trying to survive, and the criminal underworld and unscrupulous business owners who exploit them. The film is very tense, something of a thriller; the characters are extraordinarily likable; I was surprised by the ending, which is a rare thing. I enjoyed the film thoroughly and recommend it enthusiastically.

S made a brilliant application of POSIWID when discussing the film afterward. The purpose of immigration regulation systems, which grant legality to some workers and deny it to others, creates a system by which people MUST work in the underworld, in which employers have inappropriate control to exploit them, in which people are pushed to extremes to live. If everyone was “legal” and had full rights to work, sweatshop owners, pimps, and other exploiters would have a hard time finding anyone to work for them. So perhaps the actual purpose of the system is to ensure that there are always exploitable people around.


A film that surprised me by not sucking is I, Robot, a Will Smith vehicle. Though the story is kind of obvious, it’s pretty to watch, and I always like Smith. It reminded me of how my father wanted me to like science fiction, and so kept loaning me Asimov books. But Asimov couldn’t relate to women very well, and that made it hard for me to project myself into his stories. With a great book, there’s usually someone you sympathize with and would want to BE if you were there. But I couldn’t manage that with his books, because the men were weird about women, and the women were... Well, there was one book with two named female characters. One had big boobs and was sleeping with the main character, who wasn’t very nice to women; the other, who was technically competent, was a butch lesbian with no distinguishing human characteristics or personality. As if to be technically competent, you had to be a superficial version of a heterosexual man. It was more than I could stand.

Anyway, the film was pretty. And it inspired an interesting conversation. S remarked that it would be very easy to have robots enforce a martial law over people. I observed that such technology would be wholly unnecessary: there are ALWAYS police forces who are willing to go along with any repressive regime to do such things, and they are cheap - all they want is to be heavily armed and above the law themselves, and they will do ANYTHING. History is filled with examples of special or secret police committing atrocities for the state.

Also of concern is the fact that the U.S. government is working on ways to oppress populations without needing a lot of police. Wikipedia’s entry for ‘Non lethal force’ lists all kinds of weapons which are meant to control populations while killing relatively few of them. Generally, this involves weapons that cause pain in large crowds. The examples used by governments always involve "rioters" or "insurgents," but if you were the government of Communist China, that has a different meaning than it does here.

All governments can feel threatened by crowds. Crowds like the people who demanded new elections in the Ukraine, or who demanded peace around the world, or who protected pro-democracy leaders during the Russian government's transition, or who led the Civil Rights movement. Any crowds opposing something a government, legitimate or not, is doing. I like this part of the entry:
A report prepared for the European Parliament classified non-lethal weapons as techniques of political control. In an appraisal of those techniques, the Omega Foundation recognized non-lethal crowd control weapons, prisoner control technology, interrogation technologies and surveillance technologies, including human recognition and tracking devices and global police and military telecommunications interceptions networks, as elements of a growing arsenal of non-lethal political technology that can pose a threat to civil liberties.
Political control is a brilliant way of describing it. Because that is what it is for. The long range acoustic device, a deafening sound projection, was used where? At the 2004 Republican National Convention protests. The Active Denial System, a system of microwave dishes aimed at people which raises the temperature of water in their skin to 130 degrees, will be employed in Iraq this year, apparently regardless of the outcome of the election (though one imagines they will be used against people of one political/economic persuasion exclusively - namely, anyone who wants the U.S. out of the Iraqi oil business.)

This led to a discussion of Kate Bush’s song, Experiment IV, which has always fascinated me for its unusual subject matter (sonic weapons).

We also discussed electromagnetic pulses, and their use in science fiction movies.

Wikipedia contributed greatly to each of these discussions. And then to a discussion about David Bowie, for which Wikipedia again provided truly excellent information.

This whole World Wide Web thing really IS turning out well!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:36 AM

Monday, February 07, 2005

Daily Kos :: GOP proposes bill that would suspend ALL laws. ( Go read this. It is very... odd that a supposedly democratic government would give individual officials exemptions from ALL LAWS to build barriers at the borders. ALL laws? ALL LAWS?
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:04 PM

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Still no to GMOs. I still haven't found the article about how contamination of human food crops with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) not approved for human use may be intentional, since U.S. regulatory schemes tend to be accepting of whatever pro-business situation they find, and may be more likely to "approve" a crop or characteristic which cannot be contained, and whose contamination would otherwise cost agriculture billions. But I did find another interesting article.

The winter 2005 issue of On Earth Magazine ( has an book review/article by Richard Manning about Nina Fedoroff and Nancy Marie Brown's book Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods. The book suggests that genetic engineering is required to clean up the mess we've already made of the earth, and of agriculture in particular. Manning's position is that agriculture has been the problem for a long time, and the GMOs can fix it.

It's a good article, definitely worth reading. There is something interesting Manning does, and that is to compare people who are opposed to the technology versus people who are opposed to corporate control of the technology. It's interesting for several reasons, and one of those is that for practical purposes, there currently is no difference.

What I mean is, every practical application of GMOs in the public sphere has been against humanity's interest: efforts to make more durable (rather than more nutritious) tomatoes; efforts to force Indian cotton farmers to pay annual royalties to Monsanto; distribution of GMO canola that contaminated neighboring farms, allowing Monsanto to sue the contaminated farms for patent infringement; efforts to develop "terminator" sterile-seeded crops to make farmers dependent upon corporations rather than millenia-old seed saving traditions; patenting of traditional plant DNA as a way to prevent local people from benefitting from genetic material they've used for centuries; inclusion of genes which have plants exude pesticides which kill a wider range of animals than ordinarily plague the crop -- ALL of those examples demonstrate that the technology is being misused. So while well intentioned scientists may be trying to breed more nutritious foods for developing nations which may or may not want 'em, AND their goodnik efforts are being tied up in corporate patent litigation, we're supposed to remain neutral on the entire idea.

It's awkward to advocate for something which is only being used against your own interests. Until a mechanism exists to wrest the underlying technology from corporate patents so that these scientists can prove that the technology can be used for good (a problem raised in the article), it's hard for me to get excited about GMOs.


Have I mentioned that GMOs in the U.S. are within a majority of the processed food supply, but that is kept secret because the public sees no benefit? I'm sure I've mentioned it before.


Meanwhile, no one has convinced me that human food, the GMO topic closest to my heart (and stomach), needs to be "improved." The social problems that are invoked to promote superfoods always avoid dealing with underlying causation. If people are suffering from famine because they can't farm due to wars, droughts, contamination, oppression, or a lack of infrastructure to distribute food, superfoods won't change a darned thing. And those conditions still abound. Superfoods, in this context, appear to be a solution for a non-existent problem.


Should a problem that superfoods are an answer for arrive, we then are faced with the usual financial barriers. All of this "developed world" research is supposed to help people AND be profitable by "developed world" standards, and that's hard to achieve for the people who could theoretically benefit the most under this hypothetical situation. To me, anything that could help the developing world should really be given away for something akin to free. I haven't seen that happen.

SO. Until I can see the technology benefitting humanity in a reasonable fashion, without causing more problems than it solves, I see no reason to support applications of GMOs.

Research is fine, if it's completely unlike the infamous research we've seen, in which corporations conduct open air trials and contaminate human crops across multiple states. Science should at least play by its OWN rules of proper controls and containment.

I'm just doing my part to bring up a topic about things you may be eating every day, but which you're not supposed to know about.
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:24 PM

I wish I'd noticed this before Rachel stopped publishing, but the back issues are fun to explore: 28MM: a photography magazine. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:18 PM

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