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Saturday, December 31, 2005


Delicious, creamy, vegan pumpkin pie

Whipped tofu makes this pie creamier, smoother, and sweeter than eggs would. This pie is best after cooling overnight, which allows the flavors to mingle: out of the oven, it is initially bland. This recipe is a slight revision to one that was once posted at, which has since been replaced with a corporate, processed-food website.

-16 ounces firm tofu
-2 cups of cooked pumpkin or other winter squash (see my list of favorites)
-2/3 cup of honey or brown sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1 prepared, uncooked pie crust.

Directions: preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Blend the tofu with the honey and spices in a food processor until completely smooth. Add the pumpkin, and process until it's as smooth as you can get it. (The volumes are large: you may have to do this in two batches.) The resulting puree will be barely pourable, depending on the moistness of the squash. Pour this into the unbaked pie crust, and bake for 1 hour.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:11 AM

Friday, December 30, 2005

The coughing was part of the allergy, too. My cousin advised me that while he is not allergic to Claritin l like I am, he is allergic to Allegra, and that he develops a terrible cough within hours of taking it. My lungs became painfully congested while I was suffering all of those other unpleasant symptoms, so now I know that this was part of my problem.


I called up my family to warn them about this allergy, which they might also suffer from, and got a call back from my mother, advising that my sister already knew she was allergic to Claritin, thanks to her stomach having decided to violently empty itself when she last tried it. Did she share this information at the time? No. Grrr.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:00 PM

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I am allergic to Claritin. I didn't know this. I don't think I've ever taken Claritin for 2 days in a row before. Today, a precious vacation day, I have been feeling worse and worse, and now I have several of the adverse side effects listed by other folks who are allergic. Headache, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pains, the unpleasant bathroom experience that begins with the letter d, fatigue, sleepiness, and... forgetfulness of other symptoms?

It's unpleasant.


While researching this a bit, I came across this comment about allergy medications that I think is cute: - Trial and error.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:50 PM

Little by little, everyone ships their manufacturing overseas, until.... BBC NEWS | In pictures | Toy story | Moulding
China now produces 70% of the world's toys, most within [the Shenzhen] region.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:53 AM

WOW. I mean, WOW. Christmas thief steals 'Nun Bun' (, 12/27/05) not only includes an image of a bun that is said to bear a striking resemblance to Mother Teresa, assuming that Mother Teresa looks like a bready dwarf, BUT the article also has links to a photo gallery called "Father; son and holy toast" with images of - among other things - the Virgin Mary on a Fish Stick! YES!! YES! You must see this.

While I'm laughing so hard I'm coughing, I have to ask to be reminded not to worship in any religion that belives its diety communicates with its followers through burned patterns on toasted cheese sandwiches. Please. I mean, really.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:31 AM

Monday, December 26, 2005

Fun!: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory | The Onion - America's Finest News Source.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:01 PM

Recently updated: Peace is more than the absence of war
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:31 PM

Always bitter, cynical, and worth reading: | get your war on | page 51.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:20 PM

Pretty photos of things frozen over: Urban Legends Reference Pages: Photo Gallery (Swiss Freeze).
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:19 PM

Sunday, December 25, 2005

image of top of San Francisco's Xmas Tree at night, on display at Union Square

Happy Solstice!!!

Yes, it's that time of year for wreaths, decorated trees, fake snow, lights, and images of old men dressed in heavy robes.

It makes me feel bad for the folks who get all worked up about the religious aspects of Christmas which they believe are being slighted. The solstice has had all of these trappings for far more than 2,000 years, and the clever Christian church merely hoped to co-opt the existing party. It largely worked - if you listen to holiday music, you can be sure it's religious. But all of the mistletoe, everything associated with winter climates, the little lights on the trees, and the wreaths are still GLORIOUSLY pagan.

Have another cookie and enjoy!

[back-posted on December 27th]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Christmas Vacation!

Today was my last day of office work for the year. I am a free woman, with a rapidly filling calendar and an unrealistic to-do list of fun projects, until January 3rd.

Aaah. Can you hear me smiling? I am smiling.


Today was a busy workday, but one with odd breaks in it. I was able to take a two hour lunch, and go to Embarcadero Center's Kristi Yamaguchi ice rink to skate with Steven, two of his sisters, and three of their kids. It was POURING rain, absolutely amazing volumes were coming down, and we skated with all of the deliriously happy children and adults, who were relatively indifferent to the water.

The rink flooded, and had to have the water pushed off it at one point by staff dragging a hose. Even after they were done, the downhill end of the rink had half an inch of water. When small children fell, they made WAVES.

Yet, it was delightful. And I wasn't even wearing a raincoat.

At one point, I turned to one of my nieces when the rain started hurtling down in impressive style, and yelled, "This is spectacular!" And she laughed.

Steven impressed the waiting parents and their children by intentionally getting a running start and doing a long, belly-slide across the rink, gliding through shallow water toward the tented waiting area with his hands up and a HUGE grin on his face. He earned cheers, applause, and private praise when he left.

I've never been happier to have a change of clothes in the office.

The rink is open until January 1st for you locals.


I might do some posting over the next 11 days. There are a lot of other things going on, but I'm feeling verbose. :-) As always!
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:59 PM

Corporate pressure to buy patented, genetically modified products - again. This is an interesting article, which talks about something I am always interested in: manipulation of agricultural technologies to solve nonexistent problems. Mali's David v Goliath GM struggle (, 12/7/05) discusses the high-pressure offerings of expensive genetically modified organisms (GMOs) offered by USAID, Monsanto, and other American entities. These entities hope to introduce GMO cotton to replace traditional cotton - which, of course, would require all farmers growing the cotton to pay license fees to do so. The GMO crops resist what a local professor of genetics describes as one or two of hundreds of local cotton pests. Which isn't much.

And then she asks:
"If BT cotton is so profitable, why do they have to subsidise their cotton farmers with billions of dollars in the United States?" Ms Samake asks.

"Our farmers in West Africa achieve record production using just their digging sticks and regular seeds and they have great difficulty selling what they produce, because subsidies in America and Europe have made the world price for cotton fall. So why do they come now with their GMOs and technology to solve a problem that they created? It's a big farce!"
So the problem is subsidies, and the solution is supposed to be an expensive, foreign-sourced, GMO seed? That's not especially convincing.

Perhaps the farmers of Mali are not keeping Corporate America's best interests as their first priority?
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:51 PM

Persimmons revisited: Larry, who went on a road trip in the Pacific Northwest ( recently, wrote:
In the space a few days, I had persimmon pudding, dried persimmon slices, and persimmon bread.

Of these, I recommend the bread. The other things seemed like last-ditch attempts to get rid of persimmons.
This made me laugh. I still suspect all the people in my neighborhood who buy these at markets in Chinatown are actually just leaving them on their family altars as offerings...
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:43 PM


On Microwaves

I had written an unenthusiastic endorsement of microwaves, saying that they are more energy efficient than certain other heating options. RB asked me:
Do you have a reference for this? I keep hearing it said, but ultimately I'm having a hard time finding Real Live Numbers. What I *really* want is the amount of energy expended to raise a gram of water one degree accounting for losses due to conduction, energy changes, etc, comparing metal pot-flame to electric heating element to microwave. It must be out there, but...
My reply:

That would be too damned precise! Apparently, it's routinely assigned as homework in physics classes, but I missed that one. Would you settle for... an unspecified, Midwestern-style casserole cooking chart?

California Energy Commission: Microwaves ( [This page claims that "Fast and efficient microwave ovens use around 50 percent to 65 percent less energy than conventional ovens," and has a price chart showing the relative cost of baking a small casserole in a microwave, at a certain kilowatt hour price.]

That's about as close as I can come. The Sierra Club website doesn't seem to have the article I read, but it wasn't that specific anyway.

I also like this, but they exclude important calculations (for electricity, which they've already done, really) in this efficiency calculation: Energy use in food processing for nutrition and development ( by David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University. Under COOKING AND PREPARING FOODS, they go into great detail about energy consumption. Here's a sample:
For electricity the picture is more complex. First, mining and transporting coal reduces the energy potential of the coal by 8 per cent. This means the 92 per cent of the initial energy potential of the coal is available at the power plant for subsequent electric power generation. Assume that the power plant has an average efficiency rate of 33 per cent in converting coal to electricity, that the transmission of the electricity to the home is 92 per cent efficient, and the transmission of heat from electric stove to food is, at best, 75 per cent efficient. Then, taking into account the successive losses in potential energy that occur throughout the entire process (100 x 0.92 x 0.33 x 0.92 x 0.75), the overall efficiency rate of electricity is only 21 per cent.
It goes on at length, but doesn't complete the calculations for microwave cooking (they omit the electricity calculation, and assume coal is the source of electrical power.) [It's a completely fascinating article, actually - I encourage those of you who are energy minded & consider the complex implications of our domestic practices to go and read that.]

That was the best I could do for the time. If any of you readers have something closer to what RB was asking about, drop me a line through the comment link at the bottom of the page.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:07 PM

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fast food and cultural dignity. There's a very successful Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fast food chain in Brazil, which was founded by locals who thought it would be a great idea. In the article BBC NEWS | Business | Giving Brazil a taste of Arabia (, 12/11/05), they write why they think American fast food chains there have failed (and they have):
"Suddenly KFC wanted Brazilians to pick up pieces of chicken with their fingers, when it's not the Brazilian habit to eat with your hands.

"Also, the pieces of chicken were served in cardboard buckets. Brazilians are not used to being served like that. These are basic mistakes which customers will not accept."
There's an idea: that American fast food companies serve their products in an undignified way. Isn't it funny that most people here don't blink at the idea of a meal being given to them in a greasy cardboard bucket?
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:39 PM

Friday, December 16, 2005

This must be good: look at all the disclaimers! Unconventional Fun with Microwave Ovens (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:44 PM

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just thinking about my plans to update my websites makes me sooo tired. :-0 I do hope to have a series of updates to nearly all of the pages, plus a couple of new features, up by the end of January. I'll post announcements on the splash page, and then post a site map with more detailed information on what's new.

But not tonight.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:29 PM


Lasagna with eggplant

I've read descriptions of lasagnas which have more pasta going then filling: instead of being two to three layers of pasta and lots of cheese (or various combinations of cheese, meat, and egg) filling, that there are versions that are more like many layers of pasta baked in a very chunky sauce. I've HAD a version like this, at a little Italian restaurant on Belden Lane called Cafe Tiramisu, and it was quite good, though I never really thought of emulating that style. Not until yesterday, when I looked at a delightful collection of little, egg-sized eggplant, and decided that they would be great in a thinly filled lasagna.

-enough lasagna noodles for four layers in the casserole pan of your choice, cooked (boiled ~ 10 minutes or per your source's directions)
-a small batch of "tofu ricotta," consisting of
---1.5 cups of tofu
---1/4 cup of olive oil
--- a half teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and crushed red chili pepper, and
--- three large cloves of garlic, pureed together
-3 to 4 cups of eggplant, diced very finely and sauteed in olive oil until tender
-1/3 cup of green olives with pimentos, halved and added to the eggplant near the end of its cooking
-8 ounces of mozzarella, grated (optional)
-about 3 cups of your favorite, simple tomato sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare each of the ingredients as directed in the ingredients list. Layer these in your pan at your discretion, but more or less like this:

bottom: 1/3 of the sauce
then pasta
half the ricotta, thinly spread
half the mozzarella (if used)
sauce and eggplant
ricotta and eggplant
top: sauce.

Bake covered with foil for 40 minutes.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:13 PM

Sweet potato pancakes. I've been doing some recipe testing for sweet potato pancakes, and while the test results have been delicious, I don't think the recipe is quite right. There are a few things which bother me as a cook, but which Steven (yes, I'm using his whole name) says don't really affect the outcome. They are: that the sweet potatoes themselves aren't moist enough to puree smoothly without the addition of soy milk and egg replacer, even with a generous helping of moist onions; the sweet potatoes shred into little bits that come away from the pancakes in the pan and burn, which is aesthetically distracting and makes smoke; the sweet potatoes absorb hot oil far faster than ordinary potatoes; and the potatoes cook to tenderness but never really develop any structural integrity - the pancake can brown, but still nearly fall apart on the plate.

Steven has suggested a mix of ordinary and sweet potatoes, and I might try that next and then post that recipe.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:08 PM

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. I was overextending myself, as is traditional. I worked 14 consecutive days, some of those full shifts for my favorite local non-profit, and I didn't get enough sleep. So now I have a terrible headcold, the same one that S has been fighting off for a week or so.

No surprises there.

I've been writing now and then without posting, but perhaps I can post a series of those blurbs here today without making too much of a mess. Let's see.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:44 PM

Downtown. At the office where I'm doing a little contract work, someone on my floor brought in several plates of delicious, homemade persimmon bread. It's a lot like pumpkin bread, but with a complex and tangy aftertaste that reminds you of its inherent persimmon-ness. I've never had it before, but was impressed.

I've sent an e-mail out to several of my friends, asking what they make with persimmons. I got some funny replies ("Thanks for asking if I even cook!!! LOL!!! What's a persimmon....?"), but no recipes. I recall that Larry once told me that his family purchased persimmons this time of year: the technique was to buy them, arrange them in a pretty bowl, put them on a coffee table until they started to look mushy, and then throw them away. :-) I think that's a popular and traditional approach.

I'm convinced that somewhere in my vast paper archive, I have a faux-country magazine from the early 1990s, which I purchased just for its treasury of persimmon recipes. I estimate the chances of finding this magazine at approximately 2%, so I'm hoping for recipes from friends. ['Faux country' magazines, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, are magazines which idealize a rural home decor, rather than an actual rural lifestyle. According to such publications, rural people apparently spend all of their time hanging framed needle point scenes over elaborate wallpaper patterns, reupholstering their furniture in floral prints, using antique milk jugs as vases, and decorating with lace, in case you were wondering.]


What do you drink with persimmon bread? Tea or coffee. The mega-office that I'm helping out at serves NINE different kinds of coffee on each floor. NINE. I'm not saying the work is glamorous - it's not - I'm just saying they have a lot of coffee achievers here to support this variety and level of consumption.

Those coffees, several of which are from my favorite local supplier, Peet's (, are:

-Extra Dark
-Major Dickason
-Superfly (!?!?)

That's quite a selection for any office. The Major Dickason may be my current favorite, though I'm testing them all (except Decaf and Light) over time.


A silly-yet-tasty gift idea: The Peet's Coffee e-Cup ( Yes, you can e-mail someone a certificate for a pre-paid cup of superb coffee at their local Peet's. It's only silly because of the "e-" part, but it's a clever thing just the same.


My colleagues in SSF were all envious that I'd be working downtown for a few weeks, where food choices are abundant. In SSF at Sierra Point, we had three options by the time I left.

Baysider Cafe is the cafeteria in the Hitachi building. It serves made-to-order sandwiches (I recommend the eggplant and sun dried tomato - get the garlic sauce rather than mayo and mustard); hot entrees that differ each day, like lasagna or fajitas; burgers and fries; and a salad bar. I ate there often.

Mangiare Cafe/Deli's coffee stand was an outlet for the deli of the same name in Brisbane. It serves Italian coffees, smoothies, pastries & bagels in the mornings, and pastas and pre-made sandwiches at lunch. You could order meals from the full restaurant's menu by 10, and have it delivered to the stand for pickup at lunchtime.

There was also a hotel restaurant, which a colleague likened to a nationwide pancake house chain favored by old people without taste buds. I avoided that.


By contrast, my current position near Embarcadero BART has abundant food options. Strangely, they're nearly all different locations from when I was located at an office near Montgomery BART. Nearly every common "chain" (and they all seem like local chains now) near my old building has a different outlet near my current location. There is a different Peet's Coffee; a different Specialty's Bakery & Sandwich shop; a different Lee's Deli; a different Bistro Burger; a different SF Soup Company; Noah's bagels; etc. etc. etc. It sort of explains how uniform the downtown dining experience is becoming, once you stray from favorite, stand-alone places. (How did this happen?)

There are also too many Starbucks, but that occurs nearly everywhere downtown. To my amusement, the Peet's has a line out the door in the morning, while the Starbucks across the street can easily contain its short line at the time when I pass.

Places I have eaten over the last few weeks:

Bistro Burger on Drumm. This is a local burger chain (4 outlets) that serves Gardenburgers (my favorite vegetarian burger patties) with a variety of fancy toppings. The Drumm street location smells clean; the Bush location had an odd smell that stopped me from going back at a certain point. I tried the Mexican Gardenburger with salsa, sprouts and avocado: it was good, but I wound up smelling like fried food for a while, despite having cole slaw as a side dish. (This inspired me to chat with a colleague about the cole slaw, which came with raisins, which I found odd and my colleague found normal. Now I'll have to research cole slaw traditions.)

Cafe Venue, an SF chain with 3 locations, isn't very close, but I've gone there for breakfast burritos now and then. They serve hot pasta lunches with big salads, which are quite satisfying. They also have delicious fresh-squeezed juices in the morning.

El Faro on 1st Street. This local chain has been around since the 1960s, and is very staid - most of my friends find it uninteresting. I had the "no meat burrito" with jalapeños and hot salsa. It's very filling.

Lee's Deli is a chain of cheap sandwich places found all over the financial district. You can get a sandwich for under $5, along with lots of little side dishes. I go there periodically for avocado sandwiches (avocado, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, sprouts, mustard, on pumpernickel, nine grain, or sourdough) for about $3.30. Their main claim to fame is their cheapness and speed. They have a salad bar.

Noah's Bagels. This is a west coast chain, and a good a place to get a light, toasted bagel with cream cheese for about $2. The bagel turnover is high at the downtown locations, and so the bagels are fresh. They don't have the heft and heartiness of some other local bagels that use more whole grains in their mixes, but they're readily available.

Restaurant Orale Orale is my favorite Mexican place downtown. It is a standalone restaurant. They have a good vegetarian burrito, and enormous breakfasts (for egg eaters). There's always a line out the door.

Palapas is a Cal-Mex place that has things like "wraps," which are mostly burritos, but marketed differently. I can't really explain why. Their grilled veggie burrito is pretty good: their salsa bar has some tasty choices.

Specialty's is a bakery with great breads, cookies which feel like each one is made with a stick of butter, and tasty sandwiches. They make five different vegetarian sandwiches, have a vegetarian hot soup available daily, serve big salads... and then there are those cookies. I tried to eat two of their cookies once, just for science, and nearly made myself sick - they are ENORMOUS and rich. The Specialty's vegetarian sandwich is one of the better sandwiches available downtown. They also make a delicious corn chowder, with sweet peppers and a few dashes of chili powder.

I also ate at a little dive that made me sick, which doesn't really merit a description.

As I expand my range beyond the short walks I've been taking, I'll report on additional places. My cousin, who like me is a vegetarian with vegan leanings, may also be able to provide some leads: he currently works in the same building.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:47 PM

Tasty, easy, hot fruit dessert. I'm never sure what to do with overripe pears. I'm one of those people who likes pears when they're still quite hard; once they soften, they sometimes just sit until they're too mushy to eat. The solution: cook them with spices.

Ingredients (per person):
-2 overripe apples or pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
-1 - 2 tablespoons of sugar
-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, or a combination thereof.

Toss the sliced fruit with the sugar and spices. Microwave in a covered glass dish for four minutes. Stir and serve alone or atop ice cream.

[Of course, you can also bake these in a proper oven for about 30 minutes, or simmer on a stove top until soft, but the microwave is more energy efficient. That's about as enthusiastic an endorsement as I can give to microwave ovens.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:30 AM

Hibernation advocacy. It is the time of year when I propose that we change the way we live to accommodate the dramatic changes in the weather. I propose that we all dedicate ourselves to getting fat for the winter through at least mid-December, and then spend the next month hibernating (on and off) and celebrating winter, food, and fatness. After sleeping off some of our excesses, we can begin a new year late in January, completely refreshed. (I initially typed "refleshed," and we can claim it's that, too.)

Everyone I share these plans with seems to approve of them, but I never managed to get them enacted. Darn it.


My mom is still calling up and raving about how great everything I served at our Thanksgiving feast was, and repeating comments my dad made about it. I'm amused that my mother things my apple pie "kicked *ss," which isn't a common thing for my mom to say.

My father had joked at the time that I was subverting the pie's unhealthy purpose by using a mix of whole wheat and unbleached flours in the crust, but it turned out quite well - the whole wheat wasn't distracting. (I had no choice, because I'd run out of regular, unbleached flour.) Also, I used my special spice mix, whose secret ingredient is cardamom, and that went over well. [I guess it's not my secret ingredient any more!]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:20 AM

New Knowledge: I recently learned that if you plan to wear a leather corset to a party and expect to be able to lace it shut, DO NOT EAT HALF A LARGE PIZZA (in this instance, cheese, basil, kalamanta olives, and tomatoes) about 1.5 hours before you need to get dressed.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 AM


NaNoWriMo 2005 ends; Long Live NaNoWriMo

So National Novel Writing Month has come to an end, even though the Thank Gawd It's Over parties will continue for a while. What did I learn this year?

I learned that it's easy for my to envision very dark versions of our nation's future. It seems kind of obvious, but 'if we're not careful, we may wind up at where we are heading,' to quote some famous phrase. The economic hardships I wrote about in the future seem inevitable for most people, with a tiny minority living in comfort and defending the system that put them there with great zeal. Many countries have been like that for a while, and it seems to be where we're going.

It's easy for me to envision food purity and safety problems in the future. Factory farming conditions are appalling, with overcrowding, rampant disease exposure, and nasty hygienic conditions: of course there will be periods in the future when certain kinds of foods (especially those made by or of animals) are unsafe to eat. This includes fish from the ocean: even now, it is unsafe for people in a variety of health states (such as pregnancy) to eat certain varieties of fresh fish, which are routinely contaminated with unsafe levels of mercury and other toxins. The current trends opposing oversight of food safety are likely to continue, to bad results for anyone who eats.

It's easy to imagine adverse weather events; nuclear contamination of widespread regions; and urban air conditions which are so poor, you're a fool to go out without a respirator with a filter.

I hadn't really known that I had so much of that in me. The notes I based this year's novel on were from a perky, bubbly, 2001 series of scene sketches, and that story was a sci-fi comedy more than anything else. I'd stopped writing because the conflict between do-gooders and corporate/fundamentalist greed for power became apparent too early, and I couldn't think of a way to turn back. So I took some of the premises and started fresh, with some more... realistic, unfortunate assumptions. So the story headed in surprising (but internally consistent) directions naturally. The story is unfinished - the end is fun, but a bit rushed - but it's a great start.

This means I've written TWO novels. What a kick! It's a lot like doing my first 100k bike ride: there's something about KNOWING that I could write a 50,000 word work of fiction in a month that makes me think I could take on anything. Because the 50,000 word goal is a "quantity" benchmark rather than a "quality" benchmark, it's very liberating: I don't have to turn out a constant stream of golden praise, I just have to get a story out, however inelegantly. The results of turning my 'inner critic' off and just writing are surprisingly decent.

I enthusiastically recommend this event to everyone, including other working people like me, who don't THINK we have a lot of spare time. Yes, I was employed and actually worked overtime in November; yes, I worked weekends; yes, I got the novel written. 1,670 words or so a day is a completely "do-able" goal, and can be part of a life-long, near-daily commitment to getting all of getting all of your personal stories out of your head and onto paper/a screen.

So, Thank Goddess It's Over, but also TGIHANY - Thank Goddess It's Happening Again Next Year!


I've been a big advocate for NaNo this year, trying to talk lots of people into trying it in 2006. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit - and it's fun! My temp assignments and fatigue kept me from being available for write-ins, but it was still thrilling to know that they were there.


The TGIO party was fun. The Rickshaw Stop ( is a former industrial space, so even though you enter through a normal, small door, the room inside is huge, with one large room (clear span, no posts) and a mezzanine, which is handy for excerpt readings. The whole place is hung in red velvet curtains, and the NaNo folks put up white Xmas lights with clothespins on them, so we could hang our excerpts along one wall. It was pretty and there were crowds along the wall, reading and chatting about the excerpts all evening. There were five giant, bronze balloons hanging along the back wall behind the stage, that said "50000." (There was no comma balloon.) There was a full bar with good sangria! The organizers gave out gold paper crowns at the door for all of the novelists, pins, and raffle tickets (though I failed to grab one of those - they gave out USB memory pens to the winners, which would have been a great treat). There was a guy giving out glow-bracelets, and I am as fascinated as a small child over those. (I slept with it on - it was still glowing in the morning two days later.) They had clever name tags, as always: this year, they demanded to know our favorite letter. (I put E. It was hinted to me by Steven that I had chosen incorrectly, whereas Ken, who chose S, had made a better choice. Steven went so far as to attempt to insult my letter. "E? Why? Because it is so COMMON?" Some people!)

So there it is: a red-velvet room with high ceilings, full of novelists wearing enormous gold paper crowns, drinking, and chatting with other novelists and supporters in front of a big, shiny 50,000... Ken took a group photo, which should be available at some point. (I feel ripped off - I'm not in last year's group photo, and don't know why! I must have left too early.) Only one part of his camera fell off the mezzanine during this process.

Chris Baty, resplendent in a bright red shirt with rhinestones on the back AND his gold crown, decided to read one of the letters he'd received, instead of giving his own speech. Claiming to be out of words after writing his own novel, he read a letter from a woman who fled a life-threatening, abusive marriage in South Africa and wound up in London, participating in NaNoWriMo. She's written a novel about her situation that she hopes will be as transformative for her country as it has been for herself. Chris said that every year he receives letters like this which inspire "projectile weeping," and this year he's
received about 50 of them.

And yes, it looks like the program is giving about $8,000 to the program to build libraries in Laos. Last year we
built THREE libraries in Cambodia, each of which serves more than 200 kids! And the books are all bi- and tri-lingual! So all of that rocks.

We listened to a few of the readings, which were difficult to hear over the DJ downstairs (and people kept tapping their feet during the readings, since the DJ was playing some fun stuff). Steven observed that people seemed to be really listening, and not just there to get to read their own stuff.

So, it was all good. There's another party on the 13th, I think, just for SF NaNos ( The SF NaNos apparently do writing and events year round now, and wanted an excuse to have their own party. (Good for them!)

Congratulations to all the writers out there - you rock.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 AM

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I love these people, I love these people, I love these people - I love anyone who would make a temporary park in downtown San Francisco, just for a day, just for art. PARK(ing) (
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:57 AM

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