Archive for February, 2010


Curling? Who knew?

I’ve become a fan of this sport, and not just because Canada won the gold and I’m married to a Canadian. I love the combination of grace, finesse, and strategy. And I’m all for a sport where a working knowledge of geometry and a middle-aged bald man can lead a team to victory.

I do think the Norwegians should have been disqualified for the pants. They looked like jester pants, or pajamas, or the backs of a deck of cards.

And what was up with the bouquets? Kale? Leaf lettuce? I mean, I know the Olympics are being held in Canada, in February, but couldn’t they have at least trucked in some carnations or something?

In a not-wholly-unrelated story; when did arm-flailing supplant artistic expression in (men’s) figure skating?



The traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with salt in a process that has been traced to Southeast Asia. The term sushi comes from an archaic grammatical form no longer used in other contexts, and means, literally, “it’s sour.” Beginning in the Muromachi Period (AD 1336–1573) of Japan, vinegar was added to the mixture for better taste and preservation. The vinegar accentuated the rice’s sourness, and was known to increase its life span, allowing the fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned. By the mid 18th century, the seafood-and-rice form of sushi had reached what is now known as Tokyo. The contemporary version, internationally known as “sushi,” was invented by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) at the end of Edo period. The sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food that was not fermented (therefore prepared quickly) and could be eaten with one’s hands roadside or in a theatre. Originally, this sushi was known as Edomae zushi, because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay, or Tokyo Bay). Though the fish used in modern sushi no longer usually comes from Tokyo Bay, it is still formally known as Edomae nigirizushi.

Sushi has to be one of those foods that causes one to contemplate who decided, all those years ago, that it was food.

You know, like artichokes. Here we have fibrous, thorny cacti, but hey they’re green and we’re really hungry, OUCH. But hey, maybe if we clip off the thorns, steam the daylights out of them, peel away 35% of their mass, and then scrape the pulp off with our teeth. . .what’s that? lemon butter? Sure, can’t see a reason why not. . .

So, some Japanese people are sitting around noonish ca. 1335, hungry, but nobody really feels like cooking . . . but hey, there’s some rice leftover in that urn over there (phew! Did you smell that? Quick! Put the lid back on!) and [insert Japanese-sounding name here] caught some tuna this morning, and there’s that lump of seaweed that washed up on the beach that no-one’s raked up yet — why don’t we roll it all together using this bamboo mat we’re sitting on? And just in case that rice has REALLY crossed over to the dark side, we can pair it with some of that radish [other Japanese name] found in the woods last week that’s so hot nobody knows what to do with it, to take care of any lurking microorganisms.

He likes it! Hey Mikey!


Do you want fries with that?

These beautiful, destructive creatures have been on my deck almost every afternoon for a week. They barely flinch when I try to shoo them away. It’s like they’re looking at me, standing in the doorway waving my arms, thinking: “Look, she doesn’t have boots on. There’s no way she’s coming out here. Maybe if we just stand here and stare at her she’ll go away.” Meanwhile they keep digging around in the snow looking for tulip and hostas sprouts to devour.

I keep waiting for one of them to poke its head in the window and order a cheeseburger.


As if!

My son (16) actually told me yesterday that he thought I should “pay him for his time” spent transporting his sister 2.5 miles to gymnastics one day a week, in the car I own, pay insurance on, and subsidize the gas for through a very generous allowance system.

It might have actually been funny if he had been joking.

And then there’s the whole issue of the value of his time — here I am making these unreasonable demands which directly interfere with an underqualified, unemployed teenager’s earning capacity.

Maybe I should start charging him for the 27 lbs of simple carbohydrates he eats every week.


The End of the World as we Know it

Let’s all try to make it a better one.

Op-Ed Columnist
The Fat Lady Has Sung

Published: February 20, 2010

A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”

Welcome to the lean years.

Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.

But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.

Indeed, to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel. We’ve gone from the age of government handouts to the age of citizen givebacks, from the age of companions fly free to the age of paying for each bag.

Let’s just hope our lean years will only number seven. That will depend a lot on us and whether we rise to the economic challenges of this moment. Our parents truly were the Greatest Generation. We, alas, in too many ways, have been what the writer Kurt Andersen called “The Grasshopper Generation,” eating through the prosperity that was bequeathed us like hungry locusts. Now we and our kids together need to be “The Regeneration” — the generation that renews, refreshes, re-energizes and rebuilds America for the 21st century.

President Obama’s bad luck was that he showed up just as we moved from the fat years to the lean years. His calling is to lead The Regeneration. He clearly understands that in his head, but he has yet to give full voice to it. Actually, the thing that most baffles me about Mr. Obama is how a politician who speaks so well, and is trying to do so many worthy things, can’t come up with a clear, simple, repeatable narrative to explain his politics — when it is so obvious.

Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.

They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.

Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.

So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.

To be sure, taking over the presidency at the dawn of the lean years is no easy task. The president needs to persuade the country to invest in the future and pay for the past — past profligacy — all at the same time. We have to pay for more new schools and infrastructure than ever, while accepting more entitlement cuts than ever, when public trust in government is lower than ever.

On top of that, the Republican Party has never been more irresponsible. Having helped run the deficit to new heights during the recent Bush years, the G.O.P. is now unwilling to take any responsibility for dealing with it if it involves raising taxes. At the same time, the rise of cable TV has transformed politics in our country generally into just another spectator sport, like all-star wrestling. C-Span is just ESPN with only two teams. We watch it for entertainment, not solutions.

While it would certainly help if the president voiced a more compelling narrative, I am under no illusion that this alone would solve all his problems and ours. It comes back to us: We have to demand the truth from our politicians and be ready to accept it ourselves. We simply do not have another presidency to waste. There are no more fat years to eat through. If Obama fails, we all fail.



Finally managed to see the movie that the rest of the country saw weeks ago. (What can I say? I’m a busy girl.)

So, I’ll go with the consensus: beautiful movie, wonderfully impressive special effects, stilted dialogue, caricatures rather than characters, lame and predictable plot. I needed resuscitation at the end after being clubbed repeatedly over the head with obvious metaphors. I mean, come on, unobtanium? Subtle! I wonder how many names for this species-and-planet-saving-mineral were batted around before they settled on that one. Elusium? Greedium? Cantmineitwhileitsunderthattreeandallthosenativesstilllivethereium? Puh-lease, give us at least a little credit. Just because we’re all victims of the American educational system doesn’t mean we can’t pick up on a basic metaphor.

It does seem that, if someone is willing to spend as much time and as much money as it takes to make a movie as visually stunning as this one they could have invested a few more dollars in some decent writing and the development of characters of more than one dimension. Maybe they were using Star Wars as a model . . .

And yes, smoking used to signify some kind of rebellion or hardness of character (after it stopped being touted as a healthful activity in which all should partake), but it didn’t work for Grace. Is it possible that they were under the impression, (based on Sigourney’s performance in previous roles,) that she couldn’t pull off bitter, frustrated scientist without it?


Shave that Soul Patch!

Apolo Ohno is an amazing skater, and I love the drama and speed and excitement of short-track speed skating. But someone needs to hold this otherwise-really-attractive young man down and shave off the soul patch. Is someone telling him this looks good? It looks like a little bit of Donald Trump’s toupée found its way onto his chin. [A choupée?]

I mean look — isn’t that soooo much better?

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