Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Lunch: Risotto With Herbs

I make a lot of risotto lately, especially mushroom; it's something you can make without fresh ingredients that is nonetheless tasty. Today we had fresh basil & parsley and I made this variation:

Basil & Parsley Risotto

1/2 medium onion, minced
3/4 cup Arborio rice (I get mine from Trader Joe's, which has it for a good price)
splash white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (Better Than Bouillon, because I never use a whole carton of broth before it goes bad. If you use this, add no extra salt.)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook onion in a little olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add rice and stir until rice is oily. Add wine; stir and let bubble away. Then add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and allow it to almost get dry in between additions, stirring every minute or so. Cook 20-30 minutes or until rice is not quite tender. Add herbs, butter, and cheese.

More pix

Whole bunch of photos from the Switzerland trip on Flickr. I still need to tag them, but they go roughly Geneva - Zermatt/Matterhorn - Zurich - Interlaken.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bad Sales Tactics

Steve and I are walking around the farmers' market. I beeline toward the mushroom table, where they are still setting up. We watch as a woman opens a box of commercially packaged mushrooms (the same brand you can buy at the grocery store) and transfers them to little baskets. She then pulls out a five-gallon plastic bag of another variety and starts doing the same with these.

"How much are these chanterelles?" I ask.

"Ten dollars. They're wild."

"Hmm. No thanks."

Also: the store with the hot mod shift dress? Closed itself for a private event just when I came back to show Steve the garment and order my size. Guess who lost a sale and guess who bought a sweater dress instead? I am very particular about giving commissions to the people who helped me find an item when I come back to purchase it later. Your loss, Andrea!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Maybe it's silly that I don't know the answer to these questions, but there it is.

- In last night's episode of The Office, a joke revolved around Andy's problem with nipple chafing from running. I have only ever heard guys complain about this. Why?

- What makes chicken and waffles a good pairing? Do you wrap the waffles around the chicken? Do you mop up syrup with the chicken?

Unconstitutional? Ya think?

Go Judge Lawson.
U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson struck down [Michigan's] Minor in Possession (MIP) law because it “authorizes police officers to perform a search of minors without a warrant or legal excuse for not obtaining one” in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The decision does not apply to drivers of a motor vehicle and allows police officers to administer breath tests without warrants in emergencies.

Michigan is among a handful of states nationwide with an MIP law that makes it illegal for young adults and minors who are pedestrians to refuse a Breathalyzer test even though police do not have a search warrant. Those who refuse to take tests in Michigan are guilty of a civil infraction and must pay a $100 fine. In addition, police in some places — including Michigan State University — tell students that if they refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer upon demand that they could spend up to a dozen hours in jail.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shopping Thoughts

  1. I always forget to dress up to go to the mall, and then I get the cold shoulder from some of the staff. One of them directed me to the cheap section on the first floor and another tried to warn me off of a pair of "expensive" pants. Bleh. Maybe this is why women buy tacky, loud logo bags. The understated designer bag doesn't scream, "she has money to buy your stuff and spends it stupidly!" I got the pants and am having them tailored because of the problem in (2).
  2. The money spent on the trainer last year was a good investment, considering the number of things I try on and then don't buy because the smallest size is still too big.
  3. The difference between what's available at the store and what's available online is really infuriating. I'd prefer to get my Lucky Rewards discount, apply some random coupons from Google, and avoid sales tax, but neither the hot pointy-toed boots I liked from Nordstrom nor the mod shift dress* I found at Cusp were available online. This sweater, which was a dress on me, is, but I'm hesitant to buy something than you have to wear layers under (and to buy the XS, which they didn't have in-store but which is probably better fitting).
* Like this, but black. It has pockets! And a pink silk lining!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Children, Nudity, and Britney Spears

Commenters on my previous posts about public sex and nudity asked, "what about the children?" Slate made a half-hearted effort to determine the effects of kids seeing their parents naked. Two thoughts:
  1. I have trouble taking seriously any article that unironically uses the words "Oedipal anxiety."
  2. Children whose parents defy cultural norms may become uncomfortable once the dissonance between parental action and those norms becomes apparent? Who knew?

Dorothy No More

I really want to dress up for Halloween this year, but I need 1) a costume and 2) a costume party. The last time I went all-out was 1L year, and that is much too long ago. I thought about going as Margot Tenenbaum, but I might have to bleach my hair to get the right look. Ideas? Keep in mind I am trying not to be lame.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Hating on Roth.

The proper response to fashion police.

Someone in Norway likes my paragliding post.

Against the feminization of cupcakes.

Best bowling tournament ever.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Literary Criticism

Hating on Brooklyn Books of Wonder.

Hating on Pynchon.

Hating on Harry Potter 7.

I read The Last Colony over the weekend. Verdict: meh. I won't hate on it, though.

(h/t Bookslut times two)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fear of Flying

According to the pilot, I was more relaxed about my first paragliding experience than most people are. I told her that once you jumped off the hill into the air, it didn't seem like it would do much good to get upset about it.

I highly recommend this particular form of recreation.


Pot Effective in Treating Mad Cow Disease?

I love venison, but eating anything but imported stuff makes me nervous because American deer have freaky mad-cow-like prion diseases. Maybe we should give avid hunters medical marijuana.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

On another note

Interesting post on kissing technique. The video that sparked the conversation (fast-forward to the 2:00 mark) is worth checking out for tips on what not to do. One should not kiss like a snake strikes, but I disagree that one should just be still and let the tongue do the work all the time. For one thing, darting in and pulling away allows for surprising excursions to the ear or neck, nibbling, etc.

I hate D.C.

I lost my card case and am full of impotent rage. The cute silk case with the bunny pattern from Japan? Gone. SmartCard with $20? Gone. Collection of various business cards? Gone. Customer service for SmartCard and Metro? Useless.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recent Comments Widget

Via Belle, a mechanism for monitoring recent comments on this site. I replaced the Recent Posts section with this. Let me know if anyone is upset by its removal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Death doesn't make the incessant references to hair-pulling any more tolerable.

I am more than a little appalled at some of the reactions to Robert Jordan's death. He sounds like he was a very nice man, but some of the encomiums to the quality of his writing are a bit rich even by the standards of commentary about the recently deceased. But maybe I'm just bitter about the days of my high school life that I'll never get back that were wasted on books 1-7. The first spirited argument I had at college was with a guy in my honors history seminar on why The Eye of the World was derivative, sexist tripe. People here know that I will read practically anything in the fantasy genre, but even I could not slog my way through all 7,000+ pages of Jordan's opus.

Epic fantasy with entertwining plotlines and a huge cast of characters is great, but I do ask that said characters, even the women, have personalities, and that there be a plot that goes somewhere. If I wanted to read meandering wankage I could pick up Proust (kidding. sort of.).

Is this how lit fic readers generally feel when they hear genre fans talking about their favorite books?

Relatedly: the best, nerdiest post this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review: Lies of Locke Lamora & Red Seas Under Red Skies

"Has it got any sports in it?"

"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."
I've been talking up these books for a while now, but I wanted to write a double review and that had to wait for my completion of the second volume. So:

Here we have two installments of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards sequence. You really must read The Lies of Locke Lamora first. It contains essential backstory, although even with plentiful use of flashback the reader is still left with tantalizing gaps in the characters' history. Without some grounding in Lynch's world, you will be lost, because the cast is large and the plots entwined.

Imagine if George R.R. Martin had written an entire series based on the criminal underworld of King's Landing. Picture as a protagonist a cross between MacGyver, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Parker. Imagine that every time Baldrick had a cunning plan it actually could work. These are books about scheming, lying, cheating thieves, and their schemes incidentally produce a certain amount of high adventure.

Settings range from convincingly filthy slums to soaring towers that may be the relic of a culture from the deep past or the far future (is this more Star Wars than Book of the New Sun? uncertain.). Characterizations are broad when appropriate but generally reflect a more nuanced psychology. In Locke Lamora we could have a generic Prince of Thieves, but Lynch imbues him with personality, history, and flair. He also avoids the general trap of permitting readers to grow too comfortable. Death, mayhem, unexpected reverses, and hollow victories abound.

The first book could exist as a stand-alone feature; most of the main plot threads are resolved by the novel's end, and we get some significant closure while preserving some uncertainty for the future. Red Seas Under Red Skies, by contrast, ends on something of a cliffhanger, and my emotional attachment to the characters is at war with my admiration for Lynch's nerve with respect to how I hope things shake out.

The only quibbles: sometimes the dialogue is pedestrian, although it's occasionally hilarious (who can argue, through a mouthful of broken teeth, with lines like "one plus one equals don't fuck with me"?) and there is NO MORE of this for a long time, since Red Seas was just released. Also, while one can entertain one's self with casting games* and imagining how some of the more dramatic scenes would play on screen, these books, I fear, are basically unfilmable; too much depends on intricate plots that would require substantial narration to explain or, as is perhaps more likely, a more intelligent audience than the average pack of adolescent boys which makes up the target audience for action-adventure movies.

Highly recommended for fantasy and adventure fans and for others who enjoy a good yarn.

* Locke really requires a young Clive Owen type, and perhaps Vincent Cassel might do as as the villain in Lies and Terrence Stamp would for Red Seas. Or maybe not. Thoughts?


I am en route to the USA. Observations:
  • Creepy Swiss guys on trains keeping the spirit of 1970 alive! Nice going.
  • Steve has a new method of self analysis: asking himself what a parasailer paraglider would do.
  • Swiss food: altogether disappointing. No outings to cheese making monasteries, and no good cheese found randomly along the way.
  • We saw some of those famous black sheep political ads. Photos of them and their retaliatory graffiti to come.

Monday, September 17, 2007


We survived the parasailing paragliding. Check out Steve's blog for more.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


If I never blog again it is because I perished while parasailing paragliding.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Getting bored of mountains and trains.

Not bored with: 19th & early 20th c. German and Austrian painting. Good thing I have such narrow obsessions.

Book review postponed until I get somewhere that does not charge an extortionate amount for internet access. Am v. angry with non-functional Blackberry.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Big review of Scott Lynch books coming soon.

Am still v. sad re: character death. Read these books!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Geneva

Switzerland is going well so far. No cheese yet, though. If I never post again, it is because I have fallen off the Matterhorn.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I blame Pam Gann

A commenter at Snarky Bastards observes that my alma mater, despite its being listed as a "best value" private college, has become exorbitantly expensive:
As I recall CMC was $26,500 in 1998/99. If my memory is correct then thats a mere 73.5% growth in 8 years.
Stag Blogger Apollo observes:
In 2000/01, it was $30,000. In 2004/05, it was $40,000. I do not recall the college improving by 33% while I was there.

Also, when I applied the admissions office made a big deal about how they only passed along half of the cost to students and that fundraising covered the other half. Thus they were charging $30,000 per student but spent $60,000 per student. If that still holds true, they are now spending $92,000 per student. I cannot fathom how they can productively spend that much money.
Tuition and fees still make up about half of CMC's revenues. And tuition still tracks expenditures fairly closely. Where does the money go?

EXPENSES 2000 2006 Change
instruction $12,784,000 $21,305,000 66.65%
research $2,803,000 $5,516,000 96.79%
academic support $3,740,000 $4,887,000 30.67%
student services $7,123,000 $9,513,000 33.55%
institutional support $8,858,000 $10,929,000 23.38%
auxiliary enterprises $6,465,000 $7,770,000 20.19%
TOTAL $41,773,000 $59,920,000 43.44%

Academic Year 2000-2001 2006-2007 Change
Tuition and Fees $22,580 $33,210 47.08%
Room and Board $7,420 $10,740 44.74%
Total $30,000 $43,950 46.50%

Expenses on a per student basis in 2000-2001 were 139% of student charges and in 2006-2007 were 136%.

Research funding has nearly doubled, and instructional costs have risen by two thirds in six years. Are professors collecting bigger paychecks? The faculty size has gone down by 15% over the same period.

Random Roundup

Will the people who got angry at Michael Vick get angry about this? (There is of course a major difference of degree.)

How arrest warrants work

What lawyers make.

Schizophrenia diagnosis through brain imaging?

The percentage of unbelievers in the U.S. is about the same as the percentage of believers in France.

You can join the Planned Parenthood Pill Patrol and survey pharmacies in your town to check the availability of emergency contraception.

A personal note: I best not see anything like this on my trip. Then again, what can you expect from a country that only let women vote in 1971?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book Review: Crystal Rain

This was actually my second attempt at reading this book. When it first came out, I picked up a library copy, but after a handful of pages the use of what I thought was invented dialect turned me off. Later I learned that the dialect was actually Caribbean English, which made it seem part of the story instead of self-indulgent affectation. With this in mind, I began to read Crystal Rain a second time.

The premise: John DeBrun is an amnesiac with a past. When bloodthirsty Azteca boil over the mountains and begin sacrificing and conquering his people, he must do what he can to stop the assault, even if that means regaining the memories of his lost life.

The twist here is that both the Azteca and their peaceful neighbors are descendants of colonists from Earth, and both societies worship aliens who have taken the names of Earth gods. The war is in some sense a proxy war between two alien factions, although that makes it no less deadly to the humans.

Another twist is that some of the people are "oldfathers": people with modified bodies and nanotech blood who have lived since humans arrived in the system hundreds of years before. They may be able to make a difference in the fight, or their long lives may have made them so risk-averse as to be cowardly. The oldfathers could have been used to explore some interesting problems a la Lazarus Long, but this is only briefly alluded to. (It does seems unlikely that one of the most famous fighters in the original alien conflict could reappear hundreds of years later and not be immediately recognized by any of the aliens or oldfathers who were alive the entire time.) Kudos to Buckell, though, for resisting any temptation to make the oldfathers all-knowing, kind, and wise. A randomly selection of people given almost eternal life would probably include a hefty share of ignorant cravens and mercenaries.

The Azteca in general interested me, and I want to hear more about them. For instance: how was a dead Earth religion imported to a new planet, adopted by aliens, and embraced by humanity? The character of Oaxyctl, an Azteca spy, is the only one with a significant internal conflict to face, which dims the relative appeal of the protagonist; De Brun's motivations are fairly straightforward, as with most action heroes.

Crystal Rain is perhaps SF's first example of Caribbean steampunk, and therefore a genre unto itself. If you are in the mood for something that's a little bit Star Wars and a little bit Bourne Identity, but with a dreadlocked version of Wolverine thrown in, this book is for you.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


An email from another overeducated woman:
So what's up with the smarty high-undergrad-pedigree male bloggers? Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Julian Sanchez, Ross Douthat; yes they are smarties, but they really don't have much education compared to a lot of women bloggers/journalists out there. Not that education = intelligence, but it helps. I think I'm fairly smart, but if I had stopped with my college education in 2002, as much of the above did (and baby Ezra just graduated!) I'd be a rambling dummy. My ideas are still getting shaped and refined, and will never be beyond doubt. Not that grad school has been super useful for me, but it did make me think about new subjects in new ways. And no, this PhD isn't truly necessary, but all the reading and writing I am doing is great, and I'm still benefiting from going to lectures and being among people who are not like me and do not think like me.
Is my friend right? Do men with bachelor's degrees constitute too great a portion of the blogging punditocracy and journalistic elite? Do bloggers with additional formal education provide more valuable insights? Or are young pups better journalists than those ensconced for long periods in the ivory tower?

And why is everyone so pale?

Friday, September 07, 2007

So hot.

Did Wes Anderson make this movie just for me?


Shalom Auslander on modern fiction and crying jags:
I purchase more novels than I can possibly write off as expenses (trust me, I've tried), and put most of them down before I'm a third of the way through. Call it laziness if you like. I call it prudence: I can only kill myself once, and I'd like the book that makes me do so to be really worth it. I've read enough of them through, though, to know that if there's a baby, it will die. If there's a dog, it will be shot. A heart, broken. A family, torn apart. A city, demolished. A tire, flattened. A toe, stubbed. A nail, bent. A cup of tea, spilled. But cathartic, always cathartic.
[M]ost people, if book reviews and Amazon customer comments are anything to judge by, really would prefer to curl up in a chair, read something horrible about the awfulness of people, the futility of life, the inescapability of fate, and the impossibility of love, cry until the snot of authentic art runs from their noses, and feel like they’ve gotten their $21.95 worth. I am not a happy-ending type of person. If the truth is (and the weight of the evidence seems to indicate it as so) that life sucks, at least help me through it. Laugh at the suckiness. Show me why the suckiness is so foolish, so temporary, so meaningless. Comedy is anger (the good comedy, anyway), so Christ, get angry. But get me through it; not just "it's worse than you think," but "it's worse than you think, but it's all pretty stupid." You can't go on, you'll go on. And you'll trade bowler hats a few times, too, and lose a shoe.
Say what you want about genre fiction, but a lot of it is at least somewhat optimistic about the human condition: Mysteries can be solved. Science will take us to the stars. Love can prevail, or at least not destroy lives. (I'm looking at you, Atonement.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Geek Love

I have a friend who is seeking companionship via Craigslist. This was one of her many emails:
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a conversation about the potential reunification of Vulcan and Romulus and Matt Damon's playing a young Kirk but only in the context of someone who would care to talk about such things. I mean come on, how much heavy conversation about the decline of the American Empire and the forced geo-political instability of the middle east can a man and a woman take before ripping their clothes off?
I feel like this is a question that could be answered in an R-rated version of the Tootsie Roll commercial with Mr. Owl.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm getting tired of this allergy to ideology.

What's wrong with this sentence by Jeff Rosen about Jack Goldsmith?
In addition to being intellectually curious and having good judgment, he always struck me as a pragmatic rather than an ideological conservative.
Full disclosure: Goldsmith was my Conflicts of Laws professor. I would totally bet on him in a fight against John Yoo.

Imprudent remarks on clothing for youth

Check out these disgusting excerpts from a chat between Emily Yoffe of Slate and her readers, which was based off Yoffe's recent column on the difficulty of finding modest school clothes for her middle-school-aged daughter:

Girls have an obligation to cover up so the boys can focus on schoolwork:
Kansas City, Mo.: As a middle school assistant principal, agree 110 percent with this article—I can't believe what some parents will let their children come to school in. Some look like street walkers—it's no wonder some of our boys have so much trouble concentrating!

Emily Yoffe: So do school administrators send kids home? Do they send out notices saying what's appropriate? And you raise a good point about the boys. Don't parents realize the damage they're doing to both sexes by letting their little girls run around like streetwalkers?
When the cute boys have to wear bags over their heads, I'll buy into the idea that young girls in shorts and tank tops should burqa up.

Yoffe affirms one mother's contention that Chester the Molester goes after your tween because she's asking for it in those clothes:
Killeen, Texas: I have an 11-year-old daughter, and I agree completely with your article. Finally somebody who spoke out. Let the kids be kids as long as they can. Weren't we told that the people we attract depends on what we wear? We complain about predators and sexual offenders, but on the other hand the clothing companies only offer skimpy outfits? What message does that deliver? I wish that all mother of young girls would boycott buying those clothes. Hurray for you and thanks again.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks so much. Yes, if no one bought this stuff, they wouldn't keep making it. It's been interesting to hear from some mothers who think I'm way off base.
Yoffe is unaware that high-waisted jeans have been in for the last year or so:
New York: I don't quite understand why companies are marketing these low rise jeans to girls in the 'tween set ... anyone who reads any fashion magazine has seen high rise jeans skyrocket into popularity again. Do they just want these girls to be slutty and unfashionable?

Emily Yoffe: Please, please tell me high rise jeans are making a return. I can't be soon enough.
The real problem is that tween fashion isn't following trends slavishly enough; it's all about loose-cut trouser jeans now.

If I don't get what I pay for, why would I pay for it?

If fashion designers are concerned about competition from knockoffs, maybe they should differentiate themselves by providing higher quality merchandise? If it's a choice between a cheaply made blouse for $40 and a cheaply made blouse for $400, the only reason to pick the latter is if it's emblazoned with logos or otherwise obviously a designer product (assuming one wants to convey status through such exhibitionism). Several of the designer items I have bought (with the exception of my stunning handbag) have been real disappointments in terms of quality: linings that are missing or improperly sewn, loose threads, variable sizing. I expect this from the Gap, but not from Nanette Lepore.

I want well-tailored clothing made from fabrics with good hand and drape, with consistent and reasonable sizing. (Note: mature human females do not have 27" busts and 26" waists.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

CSI Effect?

It seems odd that there is still debate as to the parentage of certain celebrities. How difficult would it be to obtain a soda can or cigarette butt used by each prince and then run a DNA test? Surely this is the next logical step for the paparazzi. And there are many questions that could be answered through this method.

Perhaps we don't see this kind of DNA snooping due to liability concerns. But is your lineage a private fact? One's purported ancestry is a matter of public record. Would a reasonable person be offended to find out that s/he had a different father? Likewise, is it any more offensive to reveal that someone's genome contains the BRCA1 mutation than it is to follow them to their mammogram or chemotherapy appointments?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good Faith Inquiry: Who Owns?

In discussing the recent kerfuffle on subprime mortgages, a lot of people have contended that the American subsidies for homeownership are in part to blame, that said subsidies are tax cuts for the wealthy (property owners being wealthier than the average bear), and that other countries incentivize homeownership to a much lesser extent.

That would seem to imply that rates of owner-occupied housing in countries like Great Britain, Germany, and France are substantially lower than the American rate. My question is: Who owns the housing stock there, if not owners? I'm sure the answer is partially "the government," but do other countries have more of their housing stock owned by extremely wealthy individuals or corporations? That would be at odds with the general image of these countries' levels of economic inequality.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I do not think it means what you think it means.

You know what I hate? Fortune cookies that don't have fortunes in them. A fortune is "you will meet a handsome stranger" or "beware the number five." A fortune is not "you are very determined and confident" or "you like Chinese food." It's not called a compliment cookie or an observation cookie. It's a fortune cookie.

Which brings me to the other thing I hate: PostSecret postcards that don't have secrets. It is not a secret if everyone already knows. It is not a secret if it is a platitude. The concept is not complicated. Write something on a card that other people don't know. Send it in.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Daemon Finder

Apparently I am a crow.

Dead Link

When did this happen?