Monday, November 30, 2009

No Popeye's Chicken is a Serious Failing, Though

When someone asks you if you want fried food, you ... say ... YES!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Shakers disappeared for a reason.

Total pie fail. Filling didn't gel, a pain to cut, crust lacked integrity. Luckily this was just for me and there was no holiday pie shaming.

Back again

With pecans, Meyer lemons, and a satisfied taco-consumption quota.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm so contrarian I should write for Slate.

Challah is just bad brioche.

ETA: Is there any good reason for the convention of putting the currency symbol before the number it relates to, e.g. "$20"? We don't say "dollars twenty." We say "twenty dollars." So why not "20$"?

Monday, November 23, 2009

"We love the money in Jesus Christ’s name! Jesus loved money too!”

I don't even know how you could deal with people like this. God wants you to have a house you can't afford? God wants you to buy a flashy car? The parishioners have NO ATTACHMENT TO REALITY. How do you get by in a largely secular society when this is your starting point?

"Hi, I'd like to get the limit on my credit raised."

"We'll, you're already in massive debt and have no job. We're going to deny your request."

"But ... God told me you would give me an extension on my credit line."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Bake: No-Knead Bread

So I tried making this. What a disaster! Too much water = giant sticky mess. And the yeast was old. Still turned out edible, though.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No, I'm not going to the movie.

Although young men do often fail to bathe for other reasons, I can't help but think that Robert Pattinson's decision to reek is a form of unconscious coping with the constant pressure of his squealing fanbase.

Here's an article on the Twilight phenomenon that most of us can get behind. Someone post it to the Twilighter boards!

ETA more interesting links:

- Comparison of stalking scenes in Buffy and Twilight. Takeaway:
Buffy quickly establishes control in each potentially dangerous situation while Bella is perpetually cast as the damsel in distress. Stalking, spying and over-protective male behavior is present in Buffy's world but it is always framed as creepy or inappropriate and is often the subject of ridicule. The same type of male behavior in the Twilight series is framed as romantic, sexy and a sign of "true love."
- Long examination of abuse issues in Twilight.
Edward is an emotional batterer, and Bella is constantly and persistently victimized by his actions. What makes it sad is that the author herself seems to have no idea that she was writing about an abusive, codependent teenage relationship.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Endless night

It has been so dark all day, I feel like it's Alaska or something. Perfect staying in bed and sleeping weather. Alas.

There's some discussion elsewhere on the advice column linked in the post below, mostly on the duties we owe to our partners.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A lesser injury is still an injury.

It's not obvious to me that all of the advice in this column is off-base.

Denying someone's rape is egregiously wrong, especially when it's obvious that they were assaulted: really, drunk physically forceful boss on a business trip who won't be pushed away? Rapist. But is it so straightforward that her husband, who left her after she decided not to abort the child that resulted from the rape, is a "total dickwad"? Maybe leaving is not the ideal reaction, but---without denying the very real injury the letter writer suffered---is it an incomprehensible moral wrong?

Even many pro-life people are understanding when a rape victim wants an abortion. Any child born as a result of such an assault could be a constant reminder of the crime---imposing an obligation to raise the offspring of someone who has committed an unforgivable offense. Some (I for one) cannot even imagine doing such a thing.

The letter writer was put in a horrible position through no fault of her own, but she made the decision that she was strong enough to go through with a pregnancy that she didn't want, by a man who violated her. But those of us who are pro-choice should acknowledge that our choices affect others. If we opt to follow our lives down certain paths, some of those we walk with may not be strong enough to follow.

It is not relevant that there are "hundreds of thousands of men who throw their entire souls into parenting adopted children and step-children, and ... dedicate their free time or careers to helping kids." Those men are making choices to form new, blended families or to devote their time to children in need. But here there was no decision on the husband's part to even potentially create a new life. This pregnancy was imposed on him---on their marriage---and just as many women could not in similar circumstances, he could not stomach the idea of raising a rapist's child.* It is not about being "charmed" by a child. It is about whether you could be a good parent to a child that is a constant and visceral reminder of your beloved being forcibly violated.

It is baffling to me how the same people who would (rightfully) snap if a female rape victim was told not to abort her pregnancy because she'd love the baby as soon as it was born, or that tons of women are stepmothers or social workers and thus raising other people's kids is no big deal, are incensed at the idea that a man might not be able to embrace this situation.

Is the idea that they are married and so any kid she opts to have is his responsibility without exception? Because that's not the law, from what I can tell, and there's no indication from the letter that the writer relied on a marital presumption of paternity (which both spouses know would be a lie).

Is the point that he made a vow and thus he's in it for better or worse? Whether or not you can parent another man's child, especially the child of someone who raped your wife, strikes me as a pretty irreconcilable difference.

A pregnant woman has the right to choose to abort or carry to term, and her husband can discuss it with her but not choose for her. But husbands are not obliged to follow their wives, nor wives their husbands. If one spouse chooses a life that the other finds unbearable, they are permitted to part. And if their reasons are understandable, I don't know why we should judge them harshly for doing so.

* In one of China Mieville's books, there's an outcast character we are told for nearly the entire book was brutally punished and cast out of his tribe for "choice theft." In the last few pages Mieville reveals that this was rape. Without failing to recognize that the letter writer was more greatly wronged, we can acknowledge that this theft of her choice also effectively stole the choice of others.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Further adventures in Ethiopian cooking

Red lentils = TOTAL FAIL. It tasted like nothing. My kingdom for a good mesir wat recipe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I can see! Sort of.

As Kitty would say, "Say goodbye to THESE!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No famine jokes.

I have been trying my hand at DIY Ethiopian food lately, with decent results. (Injera I get from the bakery ... no way I will be able to make that at home.) This recipe for Kik Alicha is nice and simple.

Ethiopian Yellow Pea Stew (Vegan/Vegetarian)

1 tablespoon of Berbere Spice Mixture
2 tablespoons fresh salsa (go for the tomatoes, onions, & jalapenos)
3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

Boil 3 cups of the water and the peas in large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices; cook 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons water; cover. Cook on low heat 3 minutes. Add mixture to cooked peas; stir in salt.

Simmer until peas are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings.

I think next time I will soak the peas a bit. But first I think I will make some shiro wat. (N.B. No Ethiopian grocery I have been to actually labels anything; it's all just in plastic tubs with prices. The shiro powder is yellowish. The berbere is dark red. The rusty red powder is the stuff for dipping kitfo---very hot.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shelf Appeal

Double X's home decor blog notes a new trend:
I'll admit I own a few coffee table books that I've never even cracked, or books I bought at the flea market just for the cover and couldn't tell you the author or title. But the books I've really read and enjoyed over and over? Penguin paperbacks. An acutely observant editor friend noticed a recent trend in shelter mags in which decorators/stylists are turning books around on the shelves so you can't see the spines. So now we can add "book shame" to the list of subcategories to status anxiety!
The idea that you should not only hide the titles of your library from onlookers out of embarrassment but also actively undermine the books' utility (because how are you supposed to find a volume with the spines turned away?!?) to follow some decorating trend fills me with rage. If you are doing this, it means you don't really care about the books at all, or use them. So why do you have them at all? Because you like the look of stacked paper?

I respect people who are honest about their reading tastes. You know what a house full of pristine classics with unbroken spines or outdated federal reporters* says? You're boring and pretentious. And a shelf of pages with no visible titles says you're a cringing phony too lazy or stupid to even nod toward what a wall of books is for.

* One of the WORST things about How I Met Your Mother was the scene of the law student character studying for exams out of a federal freaking reporter. There is no reason to keep this sort of stuff unless you're an attorney without Westlaw access. And even then you're dancing on thin ice by basing your work product on potentially overruled case law.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Weekend Bake: Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Last night's lovely blogger dinner party was concluded with slices of this tasty cake. It's easy, it's quick, and you can make it with whatever kind of berries you have on hand. I used an 8" springform and drizzled it with raspberry syrup, which made it a little moister than one might prefer.

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz), plus extra for syrup

Preheat oven to 400. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in vanilla and egg. Whisk remaining dry ingredients together and add to mixing bowl a bit at a time, alternating with buttermilk. Smooth batter into pan and poke raspberries into the top. Sprinkle with reserved sugar and bake for 2o minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Optional: Puree raspberries, strain out seeds, and drizzle resulting syrup on top of cooled cake.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The boy is mine!

Really fascinating discussion on Tiger Beatdown on girl-versus-girl pop songs.
AMANDA: [T]hese “other women” are romanticized and demonized in song. the “other woman” song is an interesting thing to talk about from a feminist perspective I think. for example, when Dolly Parton is begging Jolene not to take “her man,” she exerts ownership over another human being and even attempts to control another human (jolene) in order to keep that ownership. instead of being like, “fuck it,” which maybe would not have made for a very compelling song, i guess. and so, perhaps you could give a feminist reading to “Girlfriend” and “You Belong With Me” in that these are women reminding other humans that they aren’t property.

SADY: welllllll… possibly? i think both are actually ABOUT competition over territory (territory = actual human dude). in one case you are trying to lure a dude away, and in another, you are trying to keep hold of him. but, weirdly, i don’t think that is so feminist? because what a lot of these songs do is sort of make the dudes not responsible for who they cheat on you with / who they date, in order to transfer all of the animus onto another woman. women are always sort of the villains, even if it’s a dude who is making the choices you disagree with. compare this to one of my favorite dude-finds-out-his-lady-cheated songs, “take a letter, maria,” in which a dude rolls into the office, tells his secretary his wife’s been sleeping with another dude. then, asks her to draft a divorce letter. then, tells her she’s his girlfriend now. like, the dude just kind of keeps rolling on. the lady is STILL the villain, even in songs about cheating ladies sung from dudes’ perspectives. not the guy his wife slept with. (emphasis added)
Now I love basically all songs in this genre, and have a few disjointed thoughts on them.

The urge to put it all on the other woman instead of the man who makes the choices ... is there something that discourages women from being directly aggressive toward the men? Power dynamic, maybe? Patriarchal hangover? Men could (and maybe still can) get away with de facto polygamy, and women sometimes lack the physical, economic, and social leverage to enforce their objection. But women can much more easily control things within the women's sphere. Shades of Edith Wharton.

SADY: well, i think the vast majority of dudes would get a case of The Creeps if we were all under their windows performing dance-offs about them. which DOES kind of make the whole “you belong to me” genre weirdly feminist: it’s women being suitors, not desired objects. granted, it’s in some kind of wacky “i could totally fulfill all your needs better than she can” way, but WHATEVS.

AMANDA: right, and weirdly enough, the guys are hardly humanized.

SADY: exactly. like, it’s not about how dreamy they are or whatever. they’re not singing the dude’s praises. they’re just like, “WANT DUDE! DUDE MINE!”

AMANDA: it’s possible that these “empowering” other-woman songs are just co-opting the worst aspects of traditional male courting behavior. one of the things that irks me about both You Belong with Me and Girlfriend is the assumption that, well, the guy belongs with them.

The assertion of ownership does have the effect of minimizing the man's agency. But part of meaningful choice is full information. Is there really something dehumanizing about a woman laying out the case for why she's awesome? "You may not have been aware that I have the following desirable qualities! Compare this list with your current situation and the choice is clear!" Although it is a little too much like shopping for phone service or something.

And isn't the blanket condemnation of this genre a little dehumanizing itself? Women are people, men are people. Sometimes a person is in a relationship with someone who's all wrong for them: value mismatch, personality clash, no chemistry etc.* It's not sexist to say "Hey, your girlfriend never really understands your Monty Python jokes and gets all mad when you say her mother smelt of elderberries. Maybe you should date somebody a little dorkier."** And it's not sexist to put yourself forward as an alternative.***

The reason the songs aren't singing the guys' praises is because the guy presumably knows that's he's awesome ... the point is that he's overlooked the girl-next-door**** in favor of someone flashier but with less appropriate substance. (Or perhaps is with someone drab and boring out of habit and needs to make a change.)

I feel like there may be some country songs that have this gender dynamic in reverse: dude-on-dude, "your husband doesn't appreciate you/is a cheating cad, you deserve better in the form of my love" sort of songs, but nothing's coming to mind right away. Also some along the general line of "that dude you're cheating with, he sucks, please come back!" but generally in a mournful, non-aggressive, pleading, Jolene-ish way. Maybe because dude-on-dude aggression ... not so much manifesting with the singing, more with the breaking of jaws.

* Maybe s/he's a hot jerk. Or you're not really into them but you're trying to force it because you two get along so well. There's lots of reasons folks get involved with people who're obviously mismatches.

** Or, if you like it better, "Your girlfriend keeps dragging you to SCA events and gets mad when you don't want to go. Maybe you should date someone less dorky."

*** Whether it is jerky and wrong for other reasons, i.e. social norms against interfering with established exclusive relationships, I leave aside for now. It probably is.

**** Which is probably its own subgenre, cf. "Why Not Me?"

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What would Pete think of Stringer?

From MetaTalk, an interesting proposal:
Oh man, if there's anything white people love more than The Wire, it's Mad Men.
I have often enjoyed wondering what the characters from The Wire would think if they sat down to watch Mad Men. And vice versa.
That might actually get me reading the Freakonomics blog again.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

If you were John Galt, you wouldn't be wasting time on the internet.

A couple of new Ayn Rand bios are out. The NY Mag review notes Rand's injunction that "one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner." You know who doesn't fake reality, it turns out? Depressed people. Objectivism as a worldview involves either grandiose narcissism or depression.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Final Girls

Do you ever muse about who would be eaten first* in a horror movie starring you and your friends? I would probably try to be all logical about the situation and then be abruptly devoured like Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea.

* Not that eaten first. (link fixed)

I understand they also have walk-in Botox.

When I call my GP to get an appointment for an annual exam, there's usually a 2 month wait. When I discussed correcting my lazy eye with a doctor, he said it would take a month just to get on the surgical calendar. But when I called up the Lasik center here in town, they had me come in for a consultation/screening exam within 4 days. At that appointment, I was told that I had thick, burly, strapping corneas and am therefore a fine candidate for laser eye surgery.

"Great, let's schedule it now."

"Our first available appointment is ... *taps keyboard* ... Thursday."

"THIS Thursday?"

"Yes, can you come in at one?"

However, since I wear contacts every day and you're supposed to let your eyes go naked for several days prior to Lasik, I had to demur. For a whole week.

I'm not sure to what degree this super-efficient service is profit driven (probably a lot), the extent to which it's enabled by the lack of any insurance paperwork (presumably they take insurance for more necessary procedures, so they still have billing clerks and all those other insane flapper-jobs), or how much stems from the fact that the procedure takes TEN MINUTES,* but the whole thing blows my freaking mind. I have friends who live abroad who tell tales of similarly speedy medical appointments, but that is of course at the opposite end of the public/private spectrum.

Of course, now I only have a short time to fret over the giant packet of consent forms, most of which seems aimed at making you aware that if you inadvertently rub your eye soon after the surgery, your corneal flap** will wrinkle and everything will be ruined.

* Now think about how many procedures this doc can do in his two days per week of operating. Payment due in full prior to surgery.

** Despite being raised with OR anecdotes as dinner-table conversation, thinking about corneal flaps makes me want to throw up. And tie my hands down for weeks after Lasik.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Books I Don't Read: +1 Degree of Separation Edition

Jonathan Safran Foer has apparently written a book on meat-eating. Jessa Crispin doesn't read it so I don't have to:
It was bad enough when he was writing shitty novels, but now he's indulging in my least favorite form of nonfiction: the "I have never thought about this thing before until now, and despite the fact that other people have thought about this for years and wrestle daily with the implications, I think my brand new thoughts should be shared with the world." Whatever the topic -- religion, marriage, gender, food politics -- the books are always shallow, yet for some reason a lot of people take them seriously.
The proper place for deep thoughts on issues that you just started examining but which have already been exhaustively discussed by more informed people is a blog. GYOFB, Jonathan Safran Foer.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

But this photo of us/It don't have a price

I was, fortunately, the only Lady Gaga at my party last night. (There was a late-night change to Eeyore, though, because who can play charades while covered in balloons?) UNfortunately, this was not captured for posterity. But it did spark a serious debate on whether I would look good as a platinum blonde.