Wednesday, January 27, 2010

quote of the day, or, this is the best they've got??

Boies: Is it your judgment that prior to the last 100 years in China and India there were many polygamous marriages?

Witness: Yes, but I need to answer with another statement.

Boies: Keep it short.

Witness: In those societies, men would still marry one woman at a time. A rich man would then marry other women, but each woman is a separate marriage, so it’s still one man and one woman.

(Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, Good Guy Lawyer Bois cross-examining "expert witness on marriage" Blakenhorn, supporter of Proposition 8)

Just out of curiosity, if two of the main arguments against gay marriage are 1) marriage is between one man and one woman and 2) same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy but if (as their own expert witness says) polygamy is just a series of one-man-one-woman marriages, what exactly is the problem? I'm not saying that I think polygamy is a great idea, mind you, but by their own logic it's an empty argument.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

natural disasters

Professor L. sent me a slightly frantic email yesterday afternoon apologizing for submitting her syllabus so late (classes started a week ago). The reason she was late, as it turns out, is that she and several of her students were in Port-au-Prince on January 12th, in meetings that morning at the United Nations headquarters.

She stopped by my office a couple hours later and with a haunted look started telling me about their trip, and how they stepped out the door into the street and felt the ground begin to shake, and how they turned around to watch this multi-story building collapse down into itself, almost everyone inside, including the people they had just met with, crushed to death.

It took her and her students almost week to get a flight out of Haiti to the Dominican Republic, and eventually from there back to New York. She thinks recovery will be a long time coming, if ever coming at all.

Erica and I were walking up Broadway one day last week, talking about this and that, and she turned to me suddenly and asked, "Have you ever been in a natural disaster?"

I have not, and I am grateful to not be carrying that particular kind of haunting around with me.

quote of the day, or, starving the beast

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

(South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, discussing subsidized school lunches for poor children)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

dinner party for 11, japanese-style

Andy, our dear Andy, returned to NYC yesterday from Pittsburgh, at least for the next few months. We decided to throw him a welcome-home dinner, cooked with guest Dan's veganism in mind. Andy, the poor boy, arrived a couple hours later than expected but that was okay, most of the guests arrived late too (and those who made the mistake of arriving on time were promptly put to work in the broiling kitchen).

Menu: Stir-fried bok choy, baked teriyaki tofu, braised squash, miso soup, sticky rice

Stir-Fried Bok Choy:
(as modified from Mark Bitman)
3 tablespoons oil (we used olive oil)
3 tablespoons miced garlic
3 tablespoons peeled & minced ginger
1 cup chopped scallions
4 pounds bok choy, cut into 1-inch sections
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth, white wine, or water)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste
minced chives for garnish
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat fro 3-4 minutes. Add the oil and, almost immediately, the garlic, ginger and scallions. Cook, stirring, for about a minute, then add the bok choy and turn heat up to high.

Cook, stirring almost constantly, for 3 minutes (this actually took closer to 5-10 minutes because we had so much bok choy), then add broth. Cook, stirring, until almost all broth evaporates and the bok choy is tender. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and turn off heat. Season with salt & pepper, garnish, and serve.

Teriyaki Baked Tofu:
(as modified from Delicious Living, thanks to Andrea!)
1 cup soy sauce
2 pounds extra-firm tofu
1 cup nutritional yeast

Teriyaki sauce:
4 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover broiling rack or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain and blot dry tofu, then cut horizontally into 3rds, then lengthwise into 6ths, making 18 strips from each pound. Lay strips on aluminum foil, not touching each other, coat in soy sauce, sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast, and bake for about 45 minutes.

Mix teriyaki ingredients and spoon over cooked tofu strips. Broil strips for 5-10 minutes until well browned (check frequently). Serve warm.

Braised Squash:
3 lbs. pumpkin, butternut, kabocha, or other squash
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar, honey, maple syrup or other sweetener
2 tablespoons mirin, sake, or white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in large baking dish or casserole or dutch oven. Toss to coat, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, stir. If squash seems dry add more liquid, recover in foil, return to oven. If it seems watery, return to oven uncovered. Continue to bake until squash is tender, about 15-30 more minutes. Stir, serve warm.

Miso Soup:
2 4-6 inch strips dried dashi kombu seaweed
6 tablespoons miso paste
a couple scallions
1 package firm silken tofu
3 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed

Soak kombu in 2 liters water, room temperature, for 6-8 hours, then discard seaweed. (This broth is a form of dashi, and can be used for lots of different Japanese dishes.)

Dissolve 5 tablespoons miso paste in small amount of dashi, then add to soup pot. Heat over medium-low heat. Add chopped scallions (whites only), diced tofu, and dried wakame. Serve warm, garnished with chopped scallion greens.

Given Andy's late arrival, we ended up keeping everything but the soup warming in the oven until it was time to eat. Then served with sticky rice. I think everyone liked this meal, given that (to my dismay) we've got no leftovers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

quote(s) of the day

"...this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption, or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence and access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy." (Citizens United V FEC, Syllabus, P5 Para 2)

"That the opinion actually discusses whether the electorate might 'lose faith' in our entire form of government because of this decision should, on its face, have been enough to stop this ruling in its tracks." (Pam's House Blend)

"The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations." (New York Times)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Had dinner with M yesterday, who brought me a belated birthday gift -- a photograph of a Brooklyn brownstone, complete with front stoop and tree and shadowed windows. I had forgotten, a couple years back, that M was hellbent on coming up with a nickname for me (because the many I have did not, of course, meet her particular standards). Apparently what she settled on, apparently what I am to her, is a latter day Francie Nolan of sorts, and this made me smile.

"Late in the afternoon the sun slanted down into the mossy yard belonging to Francie Nolan's house, and warmed the worn wooden fence. Looking at the shafted sun, Francie had that same fine feeling that came when she recalled the poem they recited in school.

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring
pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld."

While I love this poem, and wrote it in many a blank book when I was little, and memorized it and created vast imagined worlds around it, my favorite bit of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn involves Francie's favorite past-time. I have not read this book in twenty years but I still love the thought of Francie, armed with a bowl of mints and a library book (Francie very systematically worked her way through the local public library), curled up on the fire-escape outside her family's apartment, under the spreading branches of the tree growing up through the yard, her own personal Tree of Heaven.

Also I loved the bit about Francie and her brother being made to wear heads of garlic around their necks, as evidenced in my garlic soup ramble from a few years back. Clearly Francie has been a presence in my life for eons, even if not always entirely recognized by me. Now what to do with this framed photograph, given to me last night by a woman who has always, in her odd way, seen parts of me I never did.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I'm not much of a week-day breakfast person -- give me a cup of coffee and I'm pretty much good to go. But Evan has recently taken to making granola, and suddenly I often find myself hankering after a bit of breakfast before dashing out the door at 7:40 every morning.

Anything Goes Granola
(as stolen from Mark Bittman):
5 cups rolled oats (not quick-cook)
3 cups mixed seeds & nuts (we've been using chopped walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or other spices to taste
1/2 cup to 1 cup honey or maple syrup to taste (we've been using 1/4 cup agave nectar)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups raisins or other dried fruit (we've used dried cranberries and also some chopped crystallized ginger -- delicious!)

Mix all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl, and then spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove, add dried fruit, let cool, and eat away. This is wonderful with plain old milk, but even better with home-made yogurt.

Monday, January 18, 2010

national holidays

Working on what is a holiday for most might otherwise be incredibly frustrating except for the fact that the boss is in India, Radio Paradise is playing, and Erica and I are reserves processing demons on days like today.  Double time and a half doesn't hurt either.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I am reading The Diamond Age, perhaps two decades too late to fully appreciate it, but in passing it is mentioned that a particular theater in futuristic Shanghai regularly shows Dances With Wolves. As a girl I loved Dances With Wolves, Little Big Man, Jeremiah Johnson, the story of Eunice Williams, kidnapped as a child by Mohawks in 1704 and refusing to go back to her puritanically white world.

I wonder sometimes, though, whether my teenage fascination with these tales of going native, of throwing off civilization's shackles and disappearing into the wilderness, revolved around the notion of transformation or the notion of disappearance.

Monday, January 11, 2010

tastes, or, letting go of no-longer-valid truths

I don't like carrot cake. This has been a constant, if generally unspoken, tenet of my life dating back a quarter century to an unfortunate moment of mistaken identity (carrot cake is such a profound disappointment when you are an eight-year-old girl expecting a delicious bite of chocolate cake).

Andy came over to my place on New Year's Eve with part of a carrot cake in tow, fresh from his sister's oven. I, ever so slightly tipsy, blurted out in a moment of rudeness unusual even for me, "How nice of you, Andy, but I don't really like carrot cake!"

He looked crestfallen. I quickly apologized. And the next morning, in the midst of gathering up beer bottles and wine glasses, washing dishes, righting the wreckage of the previous evening, I decided I'd better give his carrot cake a go.

And lo, it may be time to admit that I perhaps like carrot cake, and that this tenet, once so accepted, is no longer valid.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

videos on my mind

This from Debra, and just gorgeous:

(One Year in 120 Seconds)

This from Andrew, silly and catchy and strange:

(United State of Pop, 2009)

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Little Girl: Mommy, why do people in New York always wear black?
Mommy: I don't know. Maybe they just don't like looking pretty.

--Upper East Side

(from Overheard in New York)


Stepdad Paul had to be taken to the emergency room the day after Christmas. He'd started feeling ill the morning before Christmas with the usual suspects: low-grade fever, chills, body aches. Mom sent him off to bed, where he spent the next 24 hours or so sleeping, drinking theraflu, and being generally miserable. This seemed particularly sad to us not only because Paul so rarely gets sick, but because Paul, while not much of one for complaint, seemed so very disappointed that he wouldn't be able to cook the Christmas dinner. (Paul is quite the amazing cook, and we all look forward to his Christmas dinners).

He was feeling a bit better by Christmas evening and emerged to join us around the dinner table for a little while. He even partook in the opening of the presents and, after making some sarcastically humorous remark, we all looked at each other and smiled knowingly. Our Paul was back on his game again. Thank God.

But not quite. Saturday morning found all of us gathered around the breakfast table staring with appalled fascination at Paul's right foot, which was bright as a boiled lobster and twice its normal size. Mom and I suggested he go to the hospital, just to have them take a look at it. Paul, being so rarely sick and a semi-rugged outdoorsman to boot, shrugged us off and retired with Shanna to the study to do a little internet research. A few minutes later he hobbled back downstairs and said, "Well. Yeah. You better take me to the ER."

Turns out Paul picked up a little bacterial infection while vacationing with Mom in Hawaii a few weeks back. A particularly nasty little infection that starts with what seems to be a 24-hour bug and ends in liver and/or kidney failure, meningitis, and eventual death.

Nate made up a bag lunch for them to take with them, and Mom drove Paul off to the Anacortes emergency room. I decided I better go see what was going on when, over an hour later, we still had not heard from Mom, nor was she answering her cell phone.

Evan very kindly drove me down to the hospital, where I had to call the ER from the waiting room and state my business. Which is what brings me to nomenclature. I said that I was looking for Vicki McNeil and Paul Dinnel, and when asked how I was related to them, started to explain that she was my mother, he was her husband, etcetera, etcetera. What came out, and what I found so surprising, was this: "I'm their daughter."

In the end, Paul got a course of IV antibiotics and a week's worth of pills and seems to be doing much better. And me, well if anyone asks me next December where I'll be spending the holidays, I might say, simply, "At my parents' place."