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Monday, November 28, 2005


Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Winner

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:59 AM

Friday, November 25, 2005

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Participant I just had a 12,201 word novel-writing day.

I am so tired. But my novel is coming along better than I'd expected.

39,407 words down; 10,593 to write before midnight on November 30th if I want to "win" the satisfaction of succeeding at NaNoWriMo.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:08 PM

I need to have bike photos of myself like this illustration! Holla Back New York City - If You Can't Slap 'Em, Snap 'Em!: Bike Chase! (, a site dedicated to rapid responses to street hecklers, catcallers, and stalkers).
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:37 PM


Today is International Buy Nothing Day!

Buy Nothing Day Logo
Today is an exciting day. It's a day when thoughtful people around the world examine their habits, and realize that they do not need to purchase things senselessly every day. That they are people and citizens, not just "consumers." That there is more to life than materialism.

Buy Nothing Day : Adbusters:
"Today, millions of people around the world are not participating -- in the doomsday economy, marketing mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that's subsumed our culture. Today we say: enough is enough, and build a movement to rethink our unsustainable course."
Have fun - Participate by not participating!!

What better way to spend a day catching up on my NaNoWriMo novel? (Well, it would be more fun to be walking around downtown, wearing a sheep mask in a herd of others and going through all of the big department stores, but that won't help my word count now, will it?)
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:14 PM

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Happy Thanksgiving!

I am recovering from eating:

-blue Hokkaido (winter) squash and leeks (and garlic!) baked in parchment
-mashed potatoes (made with excessive amounts of butter - for science)
-cornbread stuffing
-black bean and bell pepper salad with cumin-coriander dressing and fresh cilantro
-green olives with pimentos
-black olives
-Kalamanta olives
-apple pie
-egg nog (just a little - that stuff is too rich for me. Silk Nog is much better!).

I am also recovering from cleaning the kitchen after the mess I made cooking. I did all the cooking this morning, and hosted the feast this year for S and my folks. This gave my mom a break from the cooking marathon, and I was happy to do it because I like hosting feasts. It went well, even though I was timing my efforts using a clock with a dying battery, which was projecting a completely unrealistic time. (Why I didn't notice that it couldn't possibly still be 9:40 something when it was nearly noon, I can't tell you: all I know is that the hands were still moving.)


My nuclear family used to eat turkey at Thanksgiving and Xmas without fail each year, until a frank discussion about my vegetarianism revealed that the ONLY member of the 4-person family who even liked turkey was my kid sister - and she wouldn't cook it. So we had been doing it year after year for tradition, but secretly disliked that part of the tradition.

That's pretty funny, in retrospect. My mom still makes turkey on T-Day for my sister with the intent of sending her home with the whole bird. (I think my sister is the only one in the family who eats ham, the other traditional meat of the day, so that will never make an appearance on my parents' tables.) For Xmas, we have lasagna, something we ALL love.

So at my mom's house we have:
-a green salad with marinated artichoke hearts and iceberg lettuce
-green olives with pimentos
-black olives
-cucumbers or celery sticks

and then

-if Thanksgiving: turkey (for my sister), stuffing (cooked outside the bird), mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls
-if Xmas: lasagna and garlic bread.


One of S' relatives called up this evening, and expressed some concern about the birdlessness of S' Thanksgiving experience. You could tell from S' half of the conversation that this person was demanding justifications or assurances of some kind. Of course, the caller is a member of a religion that has strict dietary prohibitions, but THOSE make sense, whereas mine do not. :-) I can hear Buddha laughing...
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:39 PM

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Participant Okay, so as of the 21st of the month (last night) I had written just over 25,000 words for my 50,000 word novel-in-November target. Yes, it looks grim. No, it's not really so bad: I've had very productive days, just very few of them. Just two ten thousand word days would work wonders!

In the meantime, I'm not writing much about food (or much of anything else), I'm far, far behind in my e-mail (social, activist, and otherwise), and I have been too lame to send out postcards to my usual correspondents, because every time I come to my computer to choose an image, I wind up working on my novel instead.

But I am still my usual food obsessed self. I'll write all about it in DECEMBER. After the "Thank God It's Over Party" for other NaNoWriMo participants. I'll try to make it worth it! Really!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:16 PM


Easy potato pancakes

I haven't really provided recipes for many fried foods, because I don't really MAKE many fried foods. But here's a fried food I can't resist. I've tried many recipes for these, and even some fine packaged versions from the Jewish section of a supermarket and from a natural foods store, and they've nearly all been reasonably good. However, I like this one because of the texture that results from pureeing the onions and some of the potatoes.

Ingredients (to make 2 - 3 servings):
-5 large potatoes (russet work well, as do the various yellow potatoes)
-2 small to medium onions
-2 to 4 tablespoons of flour
-1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt
-canola oil for frying
-condiments: sour cream and diced green onions work very well; fresh ground pepper is wonderful, too.


Puree two of the potatoes and both of the onions in a blender or food processor. When smooth, mix in the flour and salt.

Grate the remaining potatoes. Mix them into the batter.

Heat oil in a large, flat-bottomed frying pan, to a depth adequate to cover the entire bottom of the pan. When it is nearly smoking hot (use your psychic powers here), spoon 1/4 cup or so of the batter into the pan for each pancake. Try to make the pancakes relatively flat (less than 2 cm or half an inch), so they will cook more quickly. Smaller diameter pancakes are easiest to rearrange and flip over. Wear glasses if you can: if the potatoes are very wet, they might spatter. Keep the pan relatively full, so the oil is cooking your food, rather than just making your kitchen smell oily.

After a minute or so, slip your spatula under each pancake, to make sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan, and to expose them to the hot oil. They will turn "golden brown" in under five minutes: don't wander away! Carefully turn them over to cook thoroughly on the other side. As soon as they are done, remove them from the pan and drain them on paper bags or paper towels that you've stacked up on a plate. Use the paper to separate the layers, as more pancakes are done.

If you need to add more oil, give it time to get really hot before adding additional pancakes. (However, if the oil is really hot enough, the pancakes won't absorb so much of it, and so this step will be unnecessary.) If you prepare many small batches, know that you can microwave the entire stack, paper and all, for about two minutes, so that they're all evenly hot: it won't affect the texture.


This is one of two dishes I'm trying to get S to make for me regularly. He's only tried this recipe once, but it came out very well, and he was quite pleased with himself, so it's likely he'll make them again.

I made it a few days ago, and want to say that if you're not sure how much onion to add, err on the side of adding more than appears sensible. It really adds a wonderful flavor to the batter, and even with strong onions it never becomes excessively powerful.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:00 PM

Monday, November 21, 2005

Heavenly Himalayan Food. So before seeing the 4th Harry Potter film, our birthday group went out to dinner at Little Nepal on Courtland Avenue near Folsom, on the south side of Bernal Heights. Courtland has turned into a very cute little neighborhood street, and this small, unassuming restaurant happened to be open at the right time and able to accommodate our party without notice.

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. It was so good. I could have happily eaten myself unconscious. I had the Bharta Tarkari (this his how I remember it, not necessarily how it is spelled), which I could describe as the best bhaigan bharta in the world, served with rice, naan, a dark lentil dal (which was also brainspinningly good), a mixed vegetable dish (colorful! tasty! and simple, to offset the others), and a red chutney that was delightful (which others said was hot). Everything was perfectly delicious, looked as good as it smelled, and tasted even better.

I plan to go back and have the mustard green tarkari, the tofu tarkari... Oh, and just about everything else in the vegetarian section of the menu. It was an amazing meal.

You may say, It sounds like Indian food. Well yes: India and Nepal share a border and a lot of people, and the way the dishes were presented on a platter with lots of smaller containers was very Indian. Also, the format of the meal and its side dishes was very Indian. But the spice combinations were subtly different: a bit more intense in some of the dishes, a bit more smoky in others. This was more Indian than the food I had in Nepal, but also very special. Really, for science, try it and compare the two. They're both wonderful cuisines, but they have stylistic differences that make them both worth exploring.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:04 PM

Look at all the wizard hats! This weekend, a friend of S' had a birthday party, and at the end we went to go see the 4th installment of the Harry Potter film series. I've never had any real interest in Pottermania, but I believe in 'being prepared.' So a few days before the event, we rented the first two films in the series. After seeing the 4th, we also went out and watched the 3rd, which wasn't actually essential, and so seeing it out of sequence didn't really affect anything important.

Seeing all four films in a short period of time is pleasant. It gives a sense of continuity that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and the films are all expensive and well done. It really engaged me, because I didn't expect it to be so well produced and so darned PRETTY.

I do have the same complaints I have about so many films: namely, that the hero has to put up with a lot of ridiculous, preventable situations that wouldn't occur if anyone around was paying the slightest bit of attention to what was going on, and that all of the attention he gets relative to his abilities and identify is silly. (It's not as bad as Tenchi Muyo! But what is!? (This comment is inserted just to annoy a certain Bob, should he ever find this page. That is the sole purpose of this parenthetical comment. The rest of you, please pardon the inconvenience.)) The inevitable doom of any of the teachers assigned to Defense Against the Dark Arts is a riot. Contrary to what I thought, S and I have actually stood around, discussing the films and which actors we liked in them - and there are some very good actors involved. (Emma Thompson! Alan Rickman! I only recently showed S Sense and Sensibility, in which Rickman plays a romantic, older love interest for one of the younger characters, and it so funny to see him in this wildly contrasting role.)

SO. I recommend the entire, currently 4-film series. If you're going to skip one for lack of time, let it be 3. IF you are going to perform any research on the stories - but don't want to actually bother reading them - your source for all substantive information and spoilers for those who want more details abound at Wikipedia's Harry Potter pages (, which are amazingly substantive, AND can tell you where you've seen all of the other actors before. (I can't believe I first saw Rickman as the über-baddie in Die Hard. I mean, holy cow. "Schiess das Fenster! Schiess das Fenster!" How improbable.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Another thing I've been doing instead of working on my novel. I've also been trying out vandyke toning with gold and selenium toners. It has been a lot of fun. More samples are up at

reddish vandyke print of the bow of a shipyellow-brown vandyke print of a the bow of a shipaeg_vdselone005web
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:15 PM

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Participant Do I have to admit that I'm only in the 16,000s in my novel's word count?

Would you believe it's because the weather has been great, and I've been spending time out of doors and away from my computer? Please?
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:13 PM

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Everything is actually about food

An excerpt from a lengthy e-mail conversation which, ultimately, was about food. Which was my doing, but it was easy, so it was really heading that way. Trust me on that.
Mo- (who is traveling abroad): Well, if it was not for all of you, I would have totally forgotten it was Halloween and about the time change. None of that going on in Borneo.

Today was Indian New Year, so it was a public holiday. Thursday will end Ramadan, so there will be huge festival everywhere.

You guys celebrate any of that?

D- (who is pregnant and Catholic): Wow, lots going on!! Are you kidding me celebrate Ramadan? That seems even more tortuous than some of the Catholic celebrations/requirements, besides which, I don't think it is advisable to not let anything pass a pregnant woman's lips between sunup and sundown. I would sure hope they make exceptions to that rule for the prego people, they are grumpy enough as it is during Ramadan!!!

Me (neither pregnant, Catholic, nor abroad): I don't celebrate Ramadan, but I DO eat the soup that's the traditional evening meal. It's called harissa, and it is mind-bogglingly good. It's a soup of onions, lentils, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, celery (?), and a few other tasty things, served with lemon. (Yes, I have a great recipe. Maybe I'll just print up all my favorite recipes, bind them in a cute book, and mail them out at Xmas.) You gals don't come over for dinner often enough (okay, at all) so I can show off my repertoire.

D, observant Muslims don't fast if they're pregnant, on the rag, under a certain age, traveling, elderly, sick, or under a bunch of other conditions. Even forgetting is okay (but cheating intentionally is not). It makes me think of Lent. Observant, Orthodox Catholics are supposed to go vegan during the 40 days of Lent and eat just 1 meal daily; western Catholics have lax rules, and just give up something they shouldn't be eating anyway. In Catholic school they suggested we give up candy, which I wasn't in the habit of eating, so it was really easy. Western Catholicism lacks many of the Italian regional specialties that would make the holidays more fun - clearly, every saint should have a special cookie!! Elect me Pope, and I'll be certain to institute a special dessert for each saint's feast day! (And legalize birth control, gay clergy, and female priests!!)

I'm not Hindu or Jain, but Diwali would be fun to celebrate. I was in Katmandu for Diwali, and the little candles everywhere were really pretty.

D-: Wow!! Who knew you were such a fountain of information on religious practices!! I studied some of it in college and experienced some of it first hand when I was working at [nonprofit organization] a while back, but did not really have the detail that you have obviously. Of Course the Catholic part I knew most of seeing as my mother always tries to do the guilt thing around lent since [husband] and I have not really followed the whole dietary restriction thing. That's pretty amusing!!

Me: I'm all about the food, D. ALL the words I know in Spanish relate to food; I can explain my dietary requirements in Japanese (positively by saying I'm veg, or more specifically by listing the animals I cannot eat); I can tell you the names of the spices in most Indian dishes, some by their Hindi names; I used to know fine distinctions between different sorts of Jewish kosher/parve rules... Food food food.

The Ramadan stuff I got from Wikipedia, because I couldn't remember whether or not kids had to fast (they don't). But that, also, is about food.

Ma-: Just fyi: I've mistakenly eaten sea turtle while in Mexico. (I have no information on whether it was friendly or not). It tasted like beef.... not chicken. But I guess it depends on the spices.

Me: Trivia consistent with your experience that they taste like beef: the Catholic Church declared that sea turtle is not a fish, and therefore cannot be eaten on Fridays in those regions in Central America where it is a popular dish (and where Catholics don't eat land animals on Fridays); environmentalists publicized the decision in the media; this has resulted in decreased turtle consumption, saving turtles and aiding the environmental cause. All news is about food!
[Editor's note: I can't find this story on the web now. I can find Pope Asked to Help Save Sea Turtles, by Cat Lazaroff 3/15/02, Environmental News Service. Most of the subsequent articles are dire. There was an NPR item in October on the topic, which must have been my source, but I'm having trouble with my sound card, and so can't listen to the reference to the news on the NPR site.]
Ma-: Was it really necessary that the Catholic church "declare" sea turtles as not being fish.

I mean: "duh"

I don't think I ate it on a Friday. But I was 12. Can't really remember.

Me: I think the Pope should declare that "pork is not a white meat, let alone 'the other white meat,'" - that could be fun. (I want to hear the National Pork Council denouncing the Roman church!) It does seem obvious, but people bend religious rules to suit themselves. (There are "vegetarians" in coastal India who have declared that fish are "vegetables of the sea," and thus permitted.)

That total sicko Leviticus was rather specific about what Christians shouldn't eat:

Leviticus 11:9-12 says:

These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.
Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.
This is from the excellent (, which was born of the selective, fundamentalist interpretations of Leviticus that are so annoying (the website mocks anti-gay jerks).

Incidentally, vegetarian Christian sects think passages like this were added later, and aren't actually part of "God's plan for us."

I'm copying D-, so she can be alarmed at the breadth of my bizarre knowledge in an ongoing fashion.

D-: HOLY SH--!! That's all I've got!!

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Technically, not a food for vegetarians like ME, but still hysterical: Elizabeth Hickok: San Francisco in Jell-O (Alamo Square) (

Yes, there is a video of the Jell-O city in motion. Yes. Really. Go. Look.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:14 PM

Monday, November 07, 2005

I laughed really hard at this. Which probably tells you more about me than you want to know. Meta-morphosis: How FF MetaPlus Became FF Meta | The FontShop FontFeed | font blog, typography tips: "Actually, Yves, I think that the Helvetica of the 90s was Helvetica ;-D"
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:12 PM

Sunday, November 06, 2005

We didn't quarantine the Dutch. BBC NEWS | Early bird flu warning for Dutch (, 11/6/05) discusses a February 2003 outbreak of the bird flu in the Netherlands. It was a serious outbreak:
Four months after the outbreak began it was brought under control. 30m chickens had been killed to curb the disease's spread. 89 humans had been infected by the virus and one person had died.
Part of the reason I find this interesting is that I've heard a great deal of hysteria over this "Asian bird flu." And, while tradition dictates that the flu is named wherever it is discovered, the 'foreignness' of the flu seems to be one of the points of hysteria that I do not understand.

Influenza is an international phenomenon that kills thousands of people every year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Influenza FAQ ( reports:
Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.
Now, I dread international pandemics as much as the next person, but it looks like "normal" American flu CURRENTLY kills a lot more people than the bird flu that is all the range in the news.

American flu, in turn, kills far fewer people than driving (>38,000), according to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( And those fatalities are just a teeny weeny fraction of the deaths from heart diseases and stroke, which kill 927,000 Americans annually, according to the CDC.

So really, the news media ought to have high cholesterol, deep fried foods labeled as 'killers' on their front pages, automobiles near the bottom of their front pages, good ol' American influenza inside, and bird flu as something to watch and be concerned about.

If I'm going to be worked up about something, I'd like it to be proportionate to my actual risks. Which I know is a lot to ask. But still. I was in Canada during the SARS outbreak in Toronto, and the Canadian media were IRATE over the hysteria, pointing out how you were more likely to strangle yourself in your sleep with your bedding or die of injuries from pet attacks than you were to catch SARS. (The graphics for the article were fabulously witty.)

If an avian flu is risking the world population's health, one would assume that steps could be taken where the outbreaks are occurring to reduce the risks. Say, not keeping birds so confined in unsanitary conditions, for example. (Duh.) Unless actual steps are taken by the bird-breeding industries, I don't see what point there is in having people on the street (who are about to have heart attacks and crash their cars) worrying about it, UNLESS they create pressure for the industries to clean up their acts (and hen houses).
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:53 PM

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 ParticipantGosh. We're 6 full days into NaNoWriMo, and I'm only at 6,168 words. I'm not too concerned - I had some 5k days last year - but I seem to be thinking a bit too much about how I want things to go. I'm also only writing ever other day, which isn't helping. (But I have other things to do!)

A friend I talked into joining is trying to acquire a laptop he loaned out to someone else to loan to me, so the two of us can go to some of the local "write-ins" at local cafes to enjoy the company of other, frantic novelists. I wanted to do that last year, but couldn't borrow a laptop, so I'm looking forward to trying this year.

I'm still dreaming up food-related entries for this blog (and I'm still doing photographic printing, which I want to write about), but that will have to wait until I get to at least 20,000 words.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:50 PM

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 ParticipantWe're three days into National Novel Writing Month. I didn't actually plan to start on the November 1st, but two of my writing buddies had already started, and I want to be ahead of at least one of them, and so I set my sights on the one who had about 800 words and just set out to beat him. :-) Yeah, I'll take even the shallowest sort of motivation! I'm at 2,229 words right now (which means I'm technically behind the required 1,667 average daily words to get to 50k by the end of the month), and I'm sleepy, so that's enough for today.

When I decided to write this year's story, I hadn't realized that I had TWENTY FIVE PAGES OF NOTES from 2001, mostly of scenes I'd dreamed up and hoped to connect into a proper story some day. Lucky for me, the scenes are all far too light, fluffy, and perky for me to use in my current writing mood. So I'm taking the characters, changing the names to protect the innocent, and putting new events in a much darker future. This not only gives me new inspiration, but allows me to show that I've diverged so dramatically from my 25 pages of notes that I am NOT using pre-written material.

As if my low word count doesn't say that already.

The NaNoWriMo website has some cool new displaying features, which unfortunately are not working right now. But I got my word count update in! Woot!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:07 PM

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pumpkin trivia: BBC NEWS | Magazine | Pumpkin passions (10/31/05):
The pumpkin capital of the world is - not surprisingly - in the USA, Morton in Illinois....
Illinois?? ILLINOIS?? Why wouldn't I have guessed that in a thousand years?

Anyway, there's more from the BBC:
Halloween wasn't always synonymous with these huge orange gourds. The custom used to be to make a lantern out of a turnip or swede, but when the Irish pitched up in America there was a distinct lack of such things, so they substituted pumpkins instead.

According to ancient Celtic tradition the carved face and a burning light placed inside welcomes home the spirits of our ancestors.
I had to look it up, but a "swede" is a Swedish Turnip, known here as a rutabaga. Which looks just like a turnip, for the most part.

Wow. You can see why a pumpkin would be a VAST, VAST improvement over the sad, little, solid-centered, root veggies that were once used in Europe.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:43 AM

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