Friday, August 13, 2010

sing it, ted olson

And you thought Fox News lacked quality programming:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

yours truly

Perhaps this has been covered elsewhere. Perhaps it's of little interest to anyone but that diminishing fraction of us who study words for a living. But the way a comrade signs her emails tells me a lot about the person, likely a lot that I'm just inventing and nothing about her real intent, but still.

First, "cheers." How did this catch on? We're not in a bar. Nor are we in Britain. I just sent you the sales sheet for the spring 2010 publishing season. Is that something to toast? I daresay nay.

Then there's "best." Not best wishes, not best regards. Just "best." This nearly always comes from someone with an MBA or on their way to acquiring one. I need not share further thoughts of mine on that sign-off then.

"Regards." What I like about this, as has recently been pointed out to me, is that in responding to someone who has repeatedly failed or blown off deadlines, your use of the clean, cold "regards" is tantamount to one big eff you. This is truth. Observe in your own irritated exchanges of the future.

All the rest work for me. I stole one from one of my fave folks on the planet, Askold Melnyczuk, who used to sign his letters to me with "all good wishes." I liked it so much, along with the energy it carried, that I just thieved it.

So if nothing else, this serves as notice. I plagiarize. We all do.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Some days the ethics of being a literary critic, while unambiguous, still pinch. Say your allegiances lie squarely within the gay community. You actively advocate for and advance arts of, by, for the LGBTQ community. You're assigned to review the nonfiction work of Emma Donoghue, best known as a fiction writer who not only happens to be a lesbian, but who locates queer identities centrally in much of her work.

You feel confident this will be a sympathetic review because you've enjoyed much of her fiction, even associate one of her short stories ('The Dormition of the Virgin'), "the diary of a nerdish English student on a mini-break pilgrimage to Florence," with an all-time high of personal contentment, the recollection still sweet of lolling around a Roman piazza as the sun set, reading her well-turned little tale as the crowd cleared out. You needed absolutely nothing more from life at that moment.

Given all that, a review would be just fine, a hoot. You sign on. You're pleased. That is, until you read the book. Inseparable is lacking and you are obliged to say so. This review, because it's critical, was hard to write. Still, I'm pleased to suggest that I may be the minority opinion. So don't just take my word for it. Read Kathryn Harrison on the matter as well. Even better, read for yourself and decide.

Friday, June 04, 2010

operation walk the dog

This may not sound at the outset like it has anything to do with dog walking, but it does. The rampant jeering at BP leads me to the obvious conclusion that we're monstrous for distancing ourselves from the oil companies. It's a breathtaking disconnect. Gentle reader, how many miles did you drive today? And how many of those miles could you have ridden your bike, taken public transit, or walked? For me, I'd estimate my week clocked in at well over 100 miles, with all last weekend's zipping around.

I've got a great bike. And the sole reason, as it has been for years, that I drive to work is so I can travel the six miles back home to walk my dog Stella at lunch without taking forty minutes by bike each way to do it. So. Does my budget stretch for a dog walker comfortably? Not without some changes. But I'm putting out the call anyway. I don't want to sit around lamenting the evil empire of BP while their fuel pump is snug in my tank.

Natural Resources Defense Council

[Photo credit: Kira Stackhouse]

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

octopus dress!

1. Maude would approve.
2. How did this not go to Tilda first?
3. I want one. Or more.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the mad maudlin

We let Maude Madeleine go; she was seventeen years old. This sweet little feline was given three month to live in August of 2007, but she defiantly lived a healthy, bossy, private life until May 18, 2o10.

I didn't write much about her because she was the opposite of Stella in just about every way--she was brave and quiet, subtle, graceful, moody. She meowed me awake every morning, didn't want much to do with folks outside her very small tribe, and patiently acclimated each time I relocated us, all told probably around ten times. I miss her desperately.

She'll likely be one of those active spirits. So send your wishes her way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

stella's spring semester

We've been out having lotsa fun this year. Maybe we need an intern to blog for us. Well real quick, here's a peek into Stella's new superfavorite endeavor: nosework class. The girl is CRAZY for it.

For those unfamiliar, nosework is a kind of professional hunting for dogs. It takes advantage of a dog's excellent sense of smell and natural desire to hunt. For those who have dogs that like to stalk and hunt, this is a hell of a way to channel their energ
y. In this video, we've hidden treats in one of the object out on the floor and each dog is instructed to "find it." Have a look.

In the video above, you can actually see Stella catch the scent pretty early at 0:39, right before she passes by the little portable dog kennel for the first time. Then it becomes more obvious she's caught something as she starts to circle around, ruling out areas and closing in on the treats in the fruit basket.

Take note in this video of the orange cone turned on its side. That's where the treats are hidden this time. When Stella goes past it, you can see her lift her head and then drop her nose right to the ground at 0:24. She then follows the scent like it's a thread right to the cone. She's caught the scent and just followed it. Neat stuff, no?

Friday, March 19, 2010

basic civil rights

After reading From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law by Martha Nussbaum, I simply cannot imagine how anyone could get married while so many Americans are denied that same right.

Here's my full review.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

migration nation

Finally making the move over to Wordpress. (Slow and steady wins the race.)

More soon and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

hey, stella!

Stella is making the rounds. Her mug is up on Pit Bull Patriarchy. Ain't she purty?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

this vegan life

Two weeks into this vegan deal--some discouraging moments, along with breakthroughs to cooler stuff.

1. The web remains, as we well know, a dangerous superhighway, pocked with noxious DIY potholes. A good many of the vegan recipe photos I have encountered thus far bear a striking resemblance to indistinct offal or, perhaps more accurately, cud. I pass.

2. I miss honey. Eat some for me. Honey, as it turns out, happens to be on everything crunchy and delicious. See labels. Truth.

3. Rip kale, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, go at 350 degrees for a flash of minutes till just crispy. Jesus, so good. Just like potato chips, I swear.

4. Vegans are magicians in the art of substitution. Not the silly "meats" so much as baking substitutions. Take eggs, for example. Depending on the recipe, you can use bananas, avocados, or applesauce in their place. Also all the synthetic soy and corn products, of course. I am, in fact, making Avocado Brownies tonight. Oh that's what I said.

Anyway, it's not all roses for the beginner. It can be discouraging. Going out to dinner is a joke when you do not know your way around. My most significant encounter was at my local Thai place. I asked if the masaman curry was vegan and she said, "Yes, masaman chicken (pronounced cheeken) and ... ?" (Pause) No, no. Not exactly right.

So most days I venture into establishments, I do feel like Felix Unger, alienated and underserved. But the upshot has been an intense increase in cook-at-home meals, not bad since I'm pretty good in the cocina. All told, it's a hard adjustment, so much to learn, but I feel good, cleaner, for the most part. It's a hard feeling to convey, much like the impact peppermint has right after you breath it in. That kind of thing. And I feel a lot less guilty for complicity in all sorts of things. That's worth a great deal. I've lost weight already. I'll have to watch that. I've been having especially lunatic dreams. Related? Perhaps. It's all becoming part of my routine and I'll just end up rambling about my dog and books and movies in no time at all.

In the meantime, I have to go soak some nuts for a raw pizza. I kid you not.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

thai iced tea for now

I had Thai food after work and was jonesing for a Thai iced tea. It was a rocky road to that damn drink. I nearly broke the veganism only five days in. Turns out this is a landscape rich with mines. Non-dairy, apparently, doesn't mean non-dairy. Casein, essentially a cow's milk protein, is found in cheese, as might be expected, but also in non-dairy creamer and, incidentally, plastic. Awesome!

So I backed off that, but most of you probably suspect that coconut milk has such a strong flavor it would interfere with the tea taste and the other milks would just be too thin. And you're right. The recipe below comes close enough for a beginner, but it's not the same as Thai iced tea. I see, though, that there are soy non-dairy creamers out there, so there are likely rice versions too. I'll have to look around and revisit this one.

Ohh, and neat molecular gastronomy-ish stuff: I'm going to see about experimenting with Irish moss, carrageenan, and other thickening agents. I'm not so into cornstarch; I can taste it like I've stirred my drink with a tire iron. Not the taste I'm going for. Who knows, comrades. It's all an imperfect process. We'll see what we can unearth (other than mines and tire irons).

Meanwhile, here's one for the passage of time:

Thai Iced Tea, Sorta

2 tsps. Thai tea blend (China Black tea and red tea leaf, plus "natural flavor")
1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. rice milk
1 tbsp. coconut milk

Fill a glass with ice; using a ceramic one-cup coffee filter, run the hot water over the tea blend. Once that's brewed, add the sugar, stir, and add the milks.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

rosy cocoa

Food's great, but the warm drinks are the order of the day.

Rosy Cocoa

2 tbsp. Dagoba Fair Trade Baking Cocoa
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 c. hazelnut milk
1 tsp. Magliano Organic Rose Syrup

Whisk cocoa, sugar, and milk over medium-low heat in small saucepan. Once cocoa is dissolved and milk is letting off steam, add syrup. Get a book, find a blanket, call the dog over, and delight in it all.

Hmm: This just in. I've been told that you can't actually raise any nut milks over the boiling point because they scald. I certainly didn't have any film on my cocoa and it tasted great. Okay, well whisker beware.

Monday, January 04, 2010

cinnamon raisin tea

It's cold out! Not sure how I got on this drink kick, but here's a suitably cozy bevvie, original and interesting, from comrade Karen's mother.

Cinnamon Raisin Tea

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
5 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
1/2 c. raisins
1 c. prunes
6 qt. water
2 tbsps. brown sugar (add at the end to taste)

Add first five ingredients to the water in a large soup pot. Boil for fifteen minutes and then simmer for at least two hours. Strain and sip. Mmm.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

cold-pressed cardamom coffee

It’s Sunday morning. I have my morning paper and that means the time for lattes is upon us. It’s come-to-Jesus time, my flockmates. Must. Have. Good. Coffee. What’s a die-hard Peetnik to do? Is this it? Will the whole vegan bag be hoisted into the Bay because I pitched a fit over an insufficient coffee option? I seriously worried—veganis interruptus was nigh. Since I have never been crazy about a cup of joe without milk, soy lattes or sugared-up chai seemed the best options. Bleak prospects, both, by way of substitution. (And don’t suggest carob to me, you communists.) I thought all hope may be lost. Then ah, sweet, punk-rock cherub of provision screeching up to the curb gifted me last night at the last possible moment with this cold-filtered concept.

For the uninitiated, cold-filtered coffee—to my knowledge—is indistinguishable from the standard, classic French press treatment of the coffee, only more coarsely ground and left in cold water for twelve-plus hours (rather than steeped for five minutes in hot water). I swear to you: this is a delightful discovery, even for the omnivorous coffee ho.

The brew is totally free of bitterness, not acidic at all, yet full of the robust flavor we fiends cannot do without. My sole warning for the coffee critic is that it lacks that roundness that comes from the oils released with hot-water steeping—it’s thinner. I was okay without that quality, but you may not be. And here’s the stunner: the way I made it, I didn’t actually want milk in it. Whoa.

One other note: I use a thirty-two-ounce French press from Bodum. Peet’s recommends two-thirds of a cup of grounds for that. I am disinclined to add hair to my chest, hence my reversion to one-quarter cup. But hey, do your worst King Kong if two-thirds speaks to you. I won’t judge.

Acid-free Paper

1/4 c. coarsely ground Peet’s Fair Trade Blend coffee
32 oz. water
10 cardamom pods
1/2 vanilla bean

Smash the cardamom so that each pod is cracked open. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scoop out the bits. Put it all in the press pot—grounds, water, cardamom, vanilla bean, scooped bits. I pressed it halfway down before bed, sort of arbitrarily, then pressed the rest in the morning. Poured a cup (I had it up and cold), read paper, saved myself for veganism. God bless. That was a close one.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

drinks with the vice squad

Lifestyle discovery of the hesitating vegan, exhibit A: plan ahead. A number of the better looking recipes found in the few vegan cookbooks I've gathered thus far call for long-term maneuvers—soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and the like. An unexpected ancillary effect is I find myself considering the whole package, the full meal deal, well in advance.

That includes drinks. Being three years sober now, I have no less interest in beautiful drinks and pairing them than any other enthusiast. But my cocktails call for creativity. So this long-term thing may work out. The first drink I made was entirely my creation. It worked out well, I think. Good for tamarind freaks, an order to which I tithe with feeling.

Dum Dum 2.0

These drinks taste almost identical to the lollipops of yore. No joke.

15 whole tamarinds
1 gal., plus 1 c., water
1/2 c. agave syrup
15 sprigs fresh lemon thyme

Soak the tamarind in the gallon of water overnight. Bring the cup of water and the agave to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat immediately and add thyme. Simmer on low for ten minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and cool completely.

Next morning, strain tamarind water with fine sieve or china cap, as well as the thyme agave syrup. I like a three to one ratio, water to syrup. Serve on the rocks and with a freak at the table, ifn ya like.

Friday, January 01, 2010

the hesitating vegan

The majority of private emails I’ve received about my going vegan for 2010 have asked what in the world I—the sensualist omnivore who practically sleeps snuggled up to the Roquefort in the kitchen—am doing. I am improvising, that’s what. I have spent several inquisitive years badgering farmers and trying to monitor the quality of life for the animals I eat. I have, in my own assessment, for the most part failed, no matter how I have tried, so I’m venturing an experiment.

I am a solid amateur cook, a snob—a judgy, fussy, discerning, demanding girl who has long enjoyed access to a wide range of excellent product and deep gastronimical resources. I know what’s up. With a twelve-week course from Kitchen on Fire treading my soles, and more importantly, plenty of time with my boots on the ground at the range, I have just that mix of bravura and ignorance that makes a chef lusty, brave, and reckless. So if there were ever a time when I could give this a go without going full-tilt-boogie into culinary school enrollment, it's now. So I assure you: I have not changed. I still like meat, cheese, honey. I love the mouth-feel of cream in my coffee, the taste of chicken in my stock, the sight of a steak on the grill pan. But I am curious to see what a chef can do without all of that. Call it a conscious year-long Quickfire Challenge. (Longer, who knows, should my nutritional and culinary results prove out.)

These posts will be real when meals taste awful, but focused on pleasing and surprising. I will be going with all my heart for hits, not misses. No one should expect this to become the depot where we sing the song of tempeh soy-cheese scrambles. In fact, we take this truth to be self-evident: soy is the devil. It tastes bad, we can’t digest it, its producers are ravaging our primeval forests. But the soy devil will, alas, show up in these recipes here and there. I’ll just operate on the presumption that there's more to veganism than Tofu Pups and their attendant fleet of fake meat travesties, and that the better I get at this gig, the less I'll need to employ them.

I’ve got the here, I’ve got the now. So on we go, friends, launching our own minor variation on JFK’s theme from the 60s. We do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.”

My favorite recipe of the weekend, for your fun, is this macaroni and cheese. It’s delicious. Honest to god, you can take the word of this cynical omnivore. Trust. I’d be the first to roll my eyes.