Archive for November, 2010


Driving while Dumb

I’m wondering if I’m the only person who believes that people should have to pass IQ and personality tests before being given a driver’s license.

I “commuted” 180 miles round trip 2 days a week for 5 years, and found that my faith in humanity was drastically undermined by the behavior I witnessed on the road. People behave in such a way as they never would if waiting their turn in line or dealing with someone face to face. Couple that with a generalized lack of attention, and the road is a dangerous place to be indeed.

For example, today, on my 9-mile drive from work to home:

1. Driver #1 sits in the lane for the duration of the green left-turn arrow, then zips out at the last second and dives into the far right lane, turning right on a red light without stopping first (apparently, since he/she had stopped at a green light, she/he was then granted one go-at-a-red-light pass).

2. Driver #2 proceeds down busy 3-lane road at ~ 7 mph under the speed limit, then turns on her left turn signal, pulls into the right (parking) lane, and turns right.

3. Driver #3 merges onto the highway at a blistering 37 miles per hour.

4. Driver #4 changes lanes, from the right to a left, in the middle of an intersection, proceeds in the left lane ~13 mph under the speed limit for approximately 1/2 of a mile, and then goes back into the right lane to turn right (this is not the same as driver #2, alas).

What is wrong with these people?

Nobody knows how to merge, people either don’t use their turn signals or use them too late to be of any use to anyone, most people seem to be driving cars without cruise control and are completely unable to maintain a consistent speed on the highway, and way too many people cross center lines at random or hug one line or another, seeming to indicate an intention to change into a different lane, but failing to actually do so.

Many of these drivers are talking on their cell phones, and apparently have forgotten that a) they are driving a car, and/or b) they are not the only person on the road. Besides DWD (Driving While Dumb) we have DWD2 (Driving While Distracted), DWoCP (Driving while on a Cell Phone), DWT (Driving While Texting), DWO (Driving While Old) and DWY&C (Driving While Young and Clueless).

A few weeks ago a man driving a large pickup, and pulling a VERY long trailer, simply merged onto the highway and into my lane without looking at me once. If I had not been able to get into the left lane instantly he would have “taken me out.” He never noticed — he was talking on a cell phone, which he was holding up to his left ear, the result of which a) he couldn’t see me and b) he didn’t notice and/or c) he didn’t care.

Various surveys show 4 out of 10 accidents being caused by people driving while on a cell phone or texting and compares the reactions of 20-year-olds while on a cell phone to those of 70-year-olds in general. Other surveys show that driving while on a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk and include using a hands-free phone in these statistics, some studies showing that these are even MORE dangerous.

In general people seem to be getting away with worse and worse driving abilities and habits, although maybe this is just my opnion.

In any case, it would be good for everyone if people drove smarter and stopped treating their car like a living room or a phone booth. Remember:  Your primary job is to a) drive your car safely and b) be considerate of everyone else on the road. If you can’t do those two things, please stay home, or at the very least, stay out of the driver’s seat.

Think of it as your Christmas gift to the world.



This young man:

is suspected of having murdered this young woman

the day after her return home from college for Thanksgiving break, following 18 months of an “on-again-off-again,” apparently troubled, relationship.

Now of course, he is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and maybe I should avoid “jumping on the bandwagon” by writing about this, but I have children, and can only imagine the pain both of these sets of parents must be feeling at this point.

What crucial emotional piece is missing that would allow anyone to do such a thing?

I’m going to go hug my children now.



more thanksgiving

So, my kids are at their dad’s until tomorrow; my husband’s kids are with their mom until tomorrow; tomorrow the hordes descend and we will have 7 people in a 1600 square foot house for 3 days heavenhelpus.

Today, though, we slept in (10), and have been puttering around all morning. The pumpkin is roasted for the pie, the Christmas cake is in the oven (recipe below), hubby is doing extensive research on the life of Saul Bellow after I read a review of his new book of letters in the NYTimes Review of Books.

We still need to wash sheets and towels, clean the bathroom, get the porch furniture off the, well, porch (and the tiki torches; tiki torches still out on November 25!), and I need to practice for hours to prepare for Sunday’s concert (Franck Sonata for PIANO and violin).

But a good day.

I’ve been thinking, as I putter, about the holidays past, especially those of my adulthood, and the wonderful friends I’ve shared them with.

JF and countless Thanksgivings (to her mother’s great chagrin) — we had a tradition of making butter cookies cut out in the shape of turkeys and elaborately decorating them with orange, yellow, red, and brown frosting; then we would make Christmas cookies together and she would take some home with her. Her mother, a terrific food snob, would refuse even to touch the cutouts, and if she wanted a pfeffernuse or springerle or schnecken which happened to be nestled under a cutout, would ask J to move the cutout out of the way for her. Last night J texted me for wine advice for the best stuffing recipe ever (New Basics Cookbook), and when we see each other we go to the bookstore and buy each other’s children books for Christmas, even if it’s August.

Tammyguck (Tammy + Chuck through the mouth of a 2-year old, now 20) — every holiday from around 1986 to 1996 was shared in one way or the other. We were there one Halloween evening while Guck had Phantom of the Opera on really loud on the stereo and some trick-or-treaters were afraid to come to the door. They live in California now (Tammyguck, not the trick-or-treaters); saw Tammy for the first time in 8 years last summer. She looks exactly the same as she did in 1986. Despite this, I was very happy to see her.

These thoughts lead me to thoughts of other wonderful friends, many of whom have gotten me through some pretty difficult times in my life — JK, MS, especially. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

One has only to click here to see some of the articles talking about how psychologically and physically beneficial it is to have close friendships. Even Oprah thinks so, so it must be true. They provide emotional support, honesty and advice and sympathy and recipes, they let you know that you are not alone in the world. I’m very lucky, and very grateful for my friends, and hope that I have been as good a friend to them as they have been to me.

And now for the recipes:

The Best Turkey Stuffing Ever, from The New Basics Cookbook

Cut a large loaf of bread into 1″ squares; spread in a pan for 10-12 hours to dry out. Put in large mixing bowl.


3 c. chopped celery, with leaves

2 c. chopped onions (good if 1/2 is a sweet onion)

in 2 T. vegetable oil over low heat until softened but not browned, ~ 10 minutes. Put veggies in the large mixing bowl with the bread.

Brown 1 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage in pan from the vegetables, breaking into chunks. Add to mixing bowl.

Add to the bowl:

2 tart apples, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 c. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

1 c. dried pitted cherries

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tsp. dried sage leaves

freshly ground black pepper.

Toss together.

Mix 1 c. tawny port (or Gamay Beaujolais, or Marsala) and 1 c. chicken stock.

Add liquid to dressing and toss, smush together with hands until “stuffing” consistency.

Stuff the turkey (but not until right before ready to put it in the oven), and put the remaining stuffing in a bowl and cover with foil.

Roast the turkey at 325˚ on a bed of celery ribs, carrots and onion, basting occasionally with melted butter + 3/4 c. tawny port or the wine you used above, every 15 minutes for the last hour. Roast the remaining stuffing for the last hour, basting with turkey juices once in a while.

Sheriji’s Christmas Cake (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

This recipe has the unique and wonderful direction near the end; it’s how I recognize that I’ve found the recipe every year when I’m trying to remember which cookbook it’s in (I have several, dozen).

And all candied fruits must be removed from the premises before beginning. It would truly be tragic if any accidentally made their way into this cake, for all involved, directly or indirectly.

Put 2 sticks of butter into your mixer and turn it on at medium speed. Allow to beat for a long time so the butter is really smooth and creamy.

While you’re waiting for this, sift together:

3 c. flour (I use a scant 3 c. of whole wheat)

1 tsp. each: baking powder, cinnamon, grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, mace, ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

When butter is smooth and creamy, add 2 c. dark brown sugar, and beat 3-5 minutes until lighter in color and texture. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least once so that you are sure all of the butter and sugar are fully incorporated.

Add: 1/2 c. dark molasses, and the grated zest and juice of an orange and a lemon.

When well blended, add the flour mixture in 3 parts alternating with 3/4 c. brandy in 2 parts, beating on low speed and scraping occasionally to make sure everything is worked in.

Then add, gently:

2 c. currants

2 c. raisins (regular or golden)

2 c. dried figs cut into small pieces

You can also add 2 c. walnuts and 2 c. dates, but I don’t like either of these, so I just leave them out.

Put into 3 8-1/2″ bread pans that have been well buttered. Bake at 300˚ for 3 hours. “The cake may appear done at 2-1/2 hours; simply ignore this.” It does say that if the cakes are starting to brown significantly at 2-1/2 hours you can make a foil tent over the top of them. I have done this.

Cool in the pan on the rack for an hour, then remove from the pan. Be very careful about this — they tend to fall apart.

These are good right away, but even better if you make in November, wrap them in cheesecloth, and brush the cheesecloth with brandy every week or so for a month to get them good and drunk just in time for Christmas.

Thanks for reading! I have almost 200 regular visits each day now, and am really enjoying the comments and conversation.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

May your turkey brown perfectly, may your champagne fizz delightfully, and may your J, Z, or Q be useful on a triple-letter or triple-word score.

Ah, scrabble. (Click on and watch — it’s one of the funniest things ever.)


dumber than a sack of . . . ? (fill in the blank)

The other side of the story:

For this one, skip to 2:37


And now, an opportunity for her to speak for herself.  This has to be the only politician who can be made fun of merely by quoting her directly.


functional illiteracy iii



stupid and transparent!

I wonder how long her publicists had to work on her responses to these questions.

And Gretchen Carlson looks like she wants to kill herself. (Can you blame her?)

Did Sarah Palin just compare herself to Moses?

Oh, Sarah, how I loathe you.


stuff I’m thankful for

(Getting a head start on the holiday.)

1. A healthy body and mind, for myself and my family.

2. My husband

3. Coffee

4. An apparent end to my 8-day bout with insomnia

(hmm, interesting juxtaposition, that)

5. Wine, chocolate, risotto, and a kick-ass stuffing recipe

6. Technology

7. Gainful employment, for myself and my family

8. The poetry of Merwin, Billy Collins, Jane Kenyon, and Shakespeare

9. People who take turns merging on the highway, use their turn signals, and don’t tailgate

10. The Onion and The New Yorker

Your turn.


11. Terrific colleagues — esp. DP, YW, and KB.

And FRIENDS; should have been #3! I’m a loser!!! Will try to make it up to you. . .stay tuned.

Reader Appreciation Award

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