Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Four Out of Five

Time’s up. Please put your pencils down. The Five Things About Me Quiz is finished. The answers are below.

1. I was a cheerleader in high school.

Dive, are you sitting down?

Oh, this is fun. The looks I get when I admit this are priceless. YOU?! YOU WERE A CHEERLEADER?! people shout when I tell them. Yep. I was.

Please stay seated, Dive, as it gets worse.

I was not only a cheerleader; I was also the captain of the squad. In other words, I was a great cheerleader. I have the trophies to prove it (well, they are gathering dust in my parents’ attic, but you get the idea). If Smokestack makes herself known here, she’ll tell ya. I rocked the house.

Just as no one sets out to be a junkie, I didn’t set out to be a cheerleader. Thing is, I needed an activity for college, and dancing wasn’t going to cut it. I needed something I could letter in. I couldn’t play basketball. I wasn’t terribly good at softball (I throw like the girl I am). They didn’t offer volleyball until my junior year (I was pretty good at that).

I might not have possessed great athletic prowess, but boy could I dance, and I could yell loud enough to raise the dead. Hence, cheerleading. Even though I went to a tiny, conservative Christian school, we had real uniforms with short skirts, and we did plenty of jumping (and cartwheels, and flips, and splits). I hated it. I was not a stereotypical cheerleader. I was not popular, nor was I outgoing (Little Sassy Schmoozer took a big long snoozer during my awkward teenage years). I tried to quit my junior year, but my coach wouldn’t let me. Instead I became the captain of the cheerleaders.

So, yes I was a cheerleader in high school. I was also an excellent student. It always amused me when people at school used to put the cheerleaders down for being ditzy and dumb, especially since some of the most intelligent girls in school were on the squad. One of my cheerleading buddies majored in math and went on to earn oodles of money at IBM. Thanks to my AP credits, I was technically a college sophomore half-way through my first semester in college. But you know, I was like, a cheerleader, so I’m, like, totally dumb and stuff. Totally.

2. I worked at McDonald’s for a summer.

Doubly sad, but also true. I started college in the middle of a recession (thank you, Reagan and Bush I). There were no jobs, and so we were all taking what we could get for work. I had to suck up working at Mickey Ds. I was a vegetarian McDonald’s employee who really didn’t care if people got their fries in a hurry. They didn’t like me much.

My first day, I donned my high-water polyester pants (I am all of five feet, three inches tall, and I have never had a problem with high-waters before or since) with the arches emblazoned on the ass, the polyester striped button down complete with bow tie, and the visor. My friend beheld my appearance and nearly died of asphyixiation. In no way did I look like myself. I’m not just saying that. My McDonald's costume would have made the perfect disguise if I had wanted to live a life of crime.

One time I worked at another store, and after my shift I changed my clothes before going back to the counter to get an employee drink. They asked to see my employee ID. I had to show them my mustard-stained uniform before they believed it was me and forked over the Diet Coke. When I brought back my uniform at the end of summer, one guy who hadn't been particularly nice to me took one look at me and exclaimed, “You’re pretty?! Holy Shit!” Ha. Ass.

3. I can roll my tongue.

True. I also have hitchhiker thumbs. My second toe on my right foot is longer than my big toe, and if you believe the story, that makes me a werewolf. My hair’s perfect.

4. I’ve run for public office.

FALSE! Fooled you! I have never run for public office. I’m too much of a rabble-rouser to be interested in running for office. Besides, I was a wild child in my wild days, and there are pictures to prove it. I inhaled. I might get elected dogcatcher, but that’s about it.

5. I’ve been tear gassed at a protest.

True. By Canadian Mounties, no less. In the spring of 2001 my coworkers and I traveled up to Quebec City, Canada, to protest at the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings. The authorities were stopping people at the border, but we had rented a car and wore decent clothes, so we got a pass. Although I didn’t personally witness any violent activity, the cops did not want thousands of protesters anywhere near the meeting headquarters. So, they repeatedly fired tear gas into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The stuff’s awful, and I’m horribly allergic to it. It made me very sick, but my allergist always considered me a hero after that. I’ve been to plenty of other protests in my day, but that was the only time I’ve been tear gassed.

Before Girl is indeed the Smartest Person Alive. She’s the only one who figured it out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tag! I'm It: Five Things About Me

OK, since I can’t really come up with anything interesting to say on this Monday evening, I’ll do Vic’s tag now. Here are five things about me. Only four are true. Guess the one that’s false, and I’ll say that you are the smartest person alive. A caveat—sadly, those of you who know me are disqualified.

1. I was a cheerleader in high school.
2. I worked at McDonald’s for a summer.
3. I can roll my tongue.
4. I’ve run for public office.
5. I’ve been tear gassed at a protest.

Good luck! I tag anyone and everyone who has yet to participate in this little game.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Adventures at the Fetish Fair Fleamarket

A friend of mine and I pride ourselves on being open to new experiences. We’ll bravely go and check out some weird art exhibit, eat strange food (provided, of course, that there’s a vegetarian option for me), see some new band, take belly dance lessons, what have you. Sometimes we find something amazing. Sometimes we find something dreadfully boring and awful. Almost every time we find something to laugh about. Life’s too short to spend it doing the same old thing, we say as we take off on a new adventure.

So when my friend e-mailed me earlier this month to see if I would be interested in going to the Fetish Fair Fleamarket, I wrote back, “Hell yeah, if for no other reason than to say that I went.”

“Exactly!” she wrote. “If nothing else, it will be hysterical. But you never know…”

Over the next couple of weeks, we exchanged expectations and laughed over the course titles (and cringed over others—I’m sorry, but I do not find abject humiliation sexy, and I don’t think I ever will). We also talked about our theories of why people engage in this kind of activity and rehashed stories from our own limited experiences, both of us having tried some kinky stuff but never really going in for the whole S&M thing.

From what we’d gathered, S&M doesn’t really have anything to do with sex. It has to do with power and submission. We wondered how this would display itself in gender roles (defining gender not as one’s sex, but as qualities associated with masculine and feminine). Both of us have an intellectual bent, and so we were approaching the topic as slightly naughty anthropologists. You know, the kind who giggle.

Wanting to blend in a teensy-tinsy bit, I wore dramatic makeup and donned my gecko necklace (the little silver lizard points South and looks just a little creepy). My friend was running late, and so I strolled up to the hotel lobby. My expectation of seeing fastidious people (I thought an overly hyped sense of cleanliness was a fetish) was shattered by this slovenly old guy who kept leering at me as I climbed the hill. Keep walking, UglyGeezer, I thought. You aren’t getting lucky with me.

I surveyed the scene once in the lobby, and I have to say that I’ve never seen such a gathering of unattractive and unhappy people. Where were all the sexy ladies with their whips and spiked heels? Where were all the buff, leather-clad men? What about the naughtiness? I don't know, but there was skinny late middle-aged, wrinkly chap whose leather (pleather?) slacks were sagging at the ass under his LL Bean parka. I turned away from him and saw a woman wearing what I think were supposed to be spider web tights, but she looked as though she’d sprayed on more varicose veins. Both the man and the woman looked miserable. I continued my survey and saw that while a few people were smiling, most of the market-goers looked defensive and defiant. I spied a few people who looked like fellow slightly naughty anthropologists. I was already disappointed. A sign warned participants that photography would not be tolerated. Damn! I thought. So much for photos for the blog post.

My friend was likewise disappointed when she entered the lobby. “My God,” she said. “Have you ever seen more unattractive people?”

“Oh, you haven’t seen the elderly guy in the cop bondage outfit yet.”

We bought our tickets and went into the show. The sign pointing us to the vendors read “Venders.” My friend and I looked at each other and smirked.

On display in the hotel ballroom was the usual array of leather, glass, and latex sex toys that one can find at any sex shop in America. The leather and latex hoods were interesting, but I only saw one man buy one. I liked the Mardi Gras masks, and my friend loved a couple of bags that could double as hysterical purses. We saw some velvet and lace corsets and garter belts that were to die for (and priced accordingly), but we also saw a poster advertising a woman with the hook (think Gitmo). A bondage exhibit promised to show things in action (we were hoping to see a rack and a wheel on display, at least), but all we saw were some truly hapless folks trying their hand at whipping. A quick stroll through the “art” exhibit revealed mediocre photographs, featuring women (and only women) tied up awkwardly and trying to look like they were into the experience.

After about an hour of wandering around the various displays, we figured out what was bothering us about the whole fetish-y thing.
With the exception of one hotel room full of gussied-up women selling vintage lingerie, there was a complete and utter absence of joy. The lack of sexiness was palpable. We walked through display after display of blatantly sexual wares, and nary a dirty thought crossed my mind. I think I had dirtier thoughts during jury duty. The people at the fair seemed to approach their fetishes grimly, almost militantly. The vibe was almost like a bully saying, Yeah, I’m into some kinky shit. What do you want to do about it? After walking through that show, my answer is nothing.

“Well,” we said as we left the exhibit for some thrift-store shopping (where I found an adorable schoolgirl skirt) and dinner (we also went makeup shopping), “We’ve been to the Fetish Fair Fleamarket. Check another one off on the life-experience list.”

We laughed.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The World Would Be a Better Place If ________

Bless Robyn’s heart. She’s given us another assignment. This time I’m truly grateful, because I am feeling about as creative as Sauce (see photo in earlier post). She has asked us to fill in the blank for this sentence: "The world would be a better place if ________. "

For some reason, I keep singing that ditty, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…” after thinking about the question, but I still managed to come up with a few answers. They aren’t deep, as they've come from someone with the creativity of Sauce. I make no apologies.

The world would be a better place if:

— we didn’t have to work for a living.
— everyone had everything they needed.
— chocolate was a diet food.
— we didn’t need diet foods.
— I could dance all the time.
— we could, well, just get along.
— every day was like Sunday, but not silent or gray.
— laundry did itself.
— there was always a concert in the park, and the band was good.
— red wine, good champagne, and Guinness were available at will.
— I had a massage every day.
— my daily massage was given by a hot man named Sven.
— everyone got their minds out of the gutter.
— everyone had knowing little smiles on their faces all the time.
— nice dogs lived forever.
— we could fly.
— I had a teleporter.
— we could switch back and forth from childhood to adulthood as we saw fit.
— everyone was healthy and happy and lived in peace.

Tag. You're It.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Zippy the Pinhead and Fluffernutters

Zippy the Pinhead never ceases to confound me. That’s why I love him. Now Fluff loves him too.

So, what realizations make you wake up screaming?

Nightmare Scenario and Showing Him the Way: Thoughts on the State of the Union

I cannot say enough how relieved I am that W can no longer claim a majority in Congress to support his disastrous leadership. Listening to him plead with lawmakers and the American people to give his war a chance was far more heartening than hearing him gloat about the “successes.” The most common word I’ve used to cover the response to his State of the Union address was “tepid.” W knows that the American people do not support him or his war, and he knows that he can be defeated.

Still, his words about Iran make me very nervous. If he broadens this “war on terror” to include a fight against Iran, I fear for the future of my country, and I fear for the safety of the entire world. We are not winning in Iraq—what makes him think that we can take on Iran? “Nightmare scenario” indeed.

Senator Jim Webb’s succinct and cogent response for the Democrats demonstrated why he won his seat as a Democrat in the red state of Virginia. Here was a voice who knows war himself. His father served in the military, he served in the military, and now his son is serving in Iraq. He said that this war was misguided from the beginning and that it is time to extricate ourselves from it now. Alluding to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, he said that Congress would be “showing him the way” if W refused to listen to reason about this war. The American people have placed their trust in the Democrats to do just that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Life, the Universe, and Not Much Going On

If you have not seen these flicks yet, and if you can stomach violence, go see Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth. Children of Men’s use of sound and color to convey the struggle for hope and survival made it the most remarkable futuristic film I’ve seen since Blade Runner. The nightmarish, yet strangely beautiful, fantasy of Pan’s Labyrinth, interwoven with a brutal tale of the end of the Spanish Civil War, is simply stunning in its originality. Neither film insults its audience by neatly filling in the story; instead they challenge the audience to find the meaning. Mexican directors are making beautiful films these days.

Aside from that, not a hell of a lot is going on with me. I had lunch with my parents on Sunday. I was able to keep my it’s-cold-out-leave-me-the-hell-alone prickliness from getting the best of me, and we had a decent time. We went into a British imports store, and I found this shelf of goodies. Let it not be said that American food is the only thing worthy of a bit of mockery.

British Goodies

Mmmm. Sauce. Fruity Sauce. Tasty. Gimme some Marmite. I’ve spared everyone the tinned Spotted Dick on the top shelf.

This morning I woke up to this beautiful sight out my living room window. Finally, a bit of the white stuff.

Snowy Day

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Baby, it’s cold outside. Brrrrrrrr. Shiver. My friend called me earlier this afternoon, trying to psych herself up to brave the elements. The conversation went something like this:

“Have you been out yet?”

“No, but I’m looking out the window. The sky’s beautiful. Does that count?”

“God, it’s cold.”

“No kidding. I’m not sure if I want to go out. Are you going out?”

“I really should before it gets dark. It will be depressing if I don’t.”

“Yeah, but it’s cold as fuck out there. I’m nice and warm in here. Still, it’s such a nice day.”

“Where did all this wind come from?”


What she did, I do not know, but I did indeed go outside. Or, more specifically, I walked outside and got promptly into my car and took a drive around the salt marshes in Ipswich. Here are some pictures.

Ipswich Salt Marsh

Sumac colored


fire hydrant

After my little jaunt, I stopped into the specialty grocery shop in downtown Ipswich for some good-quality balsamic vinegar and mustard. The shopkeeper and I both commented on how frigid it was. The last time I’d been in the shop, it was seventy-five degrees, and he had the door wide open. That was two weeks ago. We just aren’t ready for this, we said.

I’m trying to psych myself to go out again, this time to a movie. I just might make a nice dinner and have a salad with balsamic vinaigrette instead.

Spice Girl

spice shelf

Dive saved me from having to come up with a post idea today (sorry, I'm not feeling terribly creative this week). For some reason, he’s really into his spices. He’s asked us to post pictures of our spice racks. Well, I have a little spice shelf. I get my spices at the health food store, and I got cute little jars to put them in. I keep them on a shelf I bought at a flea market a couple of years ago.

Enjoy the spicy!

Off subject: I do not watch a lot of things on You Tube, but last night I saw this video at my sister’s house. You may have seen this before, but I hadn't. I laughed my ass off. I’m still singing the song.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I had a post up about a crazy proposal we received today, but upon reflection, I decided that it was too mean. Upon reflection, I actually feel terrible that I was laughing at the poor guy. Funny (and more than a bit scary) though it may have been, it’s not his fault that he thinks the way he thinks. So, it’s down. Apologies to anyone who saw it.

This is been a week of reconnecting with people. Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with two old coworkers. Then I had dinner with one of my best friends. She lives in Portland, about two hours from here, so we don’t see each other all that often. We met up in Portsmouth, our halfway point.

While wandering around in the freezing cold trying to find a place to eat, we walked past a café, and I saw an old, dear friend who I haven’t seen for nearly three years. She’s gone through a lot in those years. Although nothing happened between us, I was not sure she would want to see me. I almost kept going, but I walked in the café instead. I said her name, and when she looked up, she had the widest smile. We chatted, exchanged phone numbers, and we’re going to keep in touch. I’ve really missed her, so it feels great.

And today I heard from someone I’d been thinking about a lot lately. Things are a bit complicated, but I’ve also really missed her. She’s a good friend. She wants me to knit her some mittens. I think I’ll do it.

So good things are happening.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Poor Honey Bear

Poor Honey Bear

This morning I added
a bit of honey to my yogurt.
I think I permanently
maimed my honey bear.
Poor thing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Memories of Montana

This morning I remembered that eight years ago today was my first full day in Montana. I moved there after graduate school to find myself. I found myself seriously underemployed as an at-home tutor for kids suspended from school or recovering from illness and as the night auditor for a haunted Ramada. One month I actually made $700. Beautiful country, northwest Montana. I miss that immensely. I miss the intense blueness of the Rockies, and the milky green of the rivers. I miss the trees. I miss some of the people. I do not, however, miss all the typing tests. I had a master’s degree, not to mention relevant work experience and excellent computer skills, and no one wanted me because I only type seventy-five words per minute.

A few months later, fed up with my prospects, I rode “back east” on a Greyhound bus, fending off an annoying little man from Kentucky (he pronounced it “Kin-tuck”) who tried to feel me up every time I dozed off. Between that and his rack of animal horns falling off the baggage rack and stabbing me in the head every few seconds, I felt I had a case of justifiable homicide. Some other kid was chasing Black Velvet with orange juice most of the drive through every godforsaken town in North Dakota. The driver left him, covered in his own vomit, in Fargo, North Dakota. The other passengers cheered as we left the station and crossed over into Minnesota.

The next day, another bus driver nearly left all of us at the bus depot in Toledo, Ohio, because she didn’t bother to tell us about the time change. In Buffalo, a woman got on the bus at 6:00 AM and started to chit-chat with me. Exhausted, fed-up, and cranky as Satan with PMS, I said, “I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about you or whatever babble you are going on about. Shut up, please.”

Her expression was priceless. I rode the rest of the way in silence. Never in my whole life have I been so happy to see Boston.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Bookstore Closing That Wasn't

For at least three and a half years, the Derby Square Bookstore in Salem, Massachusetts, announced plans to go out of business. The first time I went in, right after I had moved to Salem three Augusts past, I felt terrible that such a quirky little bookshop had fallen victim to the big chains. I was charmed by the tiny shop with its precariously balanced, disheveled stacks, organized more by whim than by title. Housed in one of the old brick buildings near the old town hall, the shop had more character than any new-fangled outlet could ever hope to achieve. In solidarity, I bought a heavily discounted book and told the hulking curly-haired, bespectacled proprietor that I was really sorry that they were going out of business and that I wished they would stay open, as I loved the shop.

“Thanks,” he sighed. “We just can’t do it.”

As August passed to September, and then to October and November, I got acquainted not only with the big curly haired co-owner, but also his partner, who bore a striking resemblance to Christopher Lloyd. Every time I stopped in, they told me that they would be closing any day and that the books were priced to move. Something seemed off, however, as they were still taking special orders, and they didn’t seem to be doing anything else about leaving.

I moved that December, and I didn’t go back to Salem again until that spring. As I walked through the pedestrian mall, noting all the touristy, Salem Witch Trials oriented shops, I expected to see an empty place where the weird little shop had been. They were still there, however, with their “Store Closing” signs still posted in the window. I walked in, and the curly haired man looked at me quizzically before launching into his store-closing speech.

“I remember,” I said, browsing through the stacks, worried that books might come cascading down on my noggin.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “Haven’t seen you in here for a bit.”

I explained that I had moved and bought another discounted book from Christopher Lloyd, perched behind tall stacks of books, with a space wide enough for a stack of paperbacks. He told me that his mother was sick and that he had plans to move to Florida later that spring.

“We’ll be closing then,” the curly haired man chimed in.

“That’s too bad. I’ll miss seeing you here.”

My visits to Salem became less frequent over the next couple of years, but I would still stop in the shop whenever I was in town. Every time, I heard the same speech before I got three feet in the shop. I’d nod, and go about my shopping. While some of the books bore the signs of age, I noticed a lot of new titles and gradually caught on that they weren’t really going anywhere.

Today was gray and icky, like yesterday, and so I decided to go to Salem to do a little poking about and stop in the coffee shop. I went to the bookstore, and something was different. Hand-lettered neon signs about the discounts assaulted me, but I didn’t see anything about the store closing. I stepped in, and that Curly Haired Bespectacled Guy greeted me with news of their discount. He didn’t mention that the store was closing. Perhaps they finally caught on, too.

The books are still discounted, and some of them are still incredibly old (Fat Sparrow, I saw a number of Ursula Le Guin titles and wished that I had your recommendations in mind, as a couple of books were rather old). A fan, perched up on some sagging stacks in the back of the store, had a heavy coat of dust, and upon seeing it, I sneezed. Undeterred, I walked back to the fiction section. Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting caught my eye (I know as a feminist, I’m supposed to hate him, but I don’t—he just writes so incredibly well). I picked it up and looked around for the book I was hoping they’d have, Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill (I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time). Alas, I didn’t see it. Oh, well, I thought, I can get it some other time.

Curly Haired Bespectacled Guy came alongside me, after telling another customer that his David Eggers book would be there early next week, to ask me if I needed help. I told him what I was looking for but that it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t have it. “I’m in the middle of a book, and I’m picking this up, so I don’t really need it right now.”

“Oh, I can order it for you. I’m placing an order on Monday. The discount will be ten percent.”

I smiled at him, letting him know I was in on the joke, and placed the order. He didn’t react. I purchased my book through the tiny opening in the book stacks, gave him my name and phone number, and told him I’d be back when the book was in. I stepped out into the drizzly grayness, happy that the Derby Square Bookstore was still in business.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Confessions of a Recipe

Shit. Last night I mentioned my delicious dinner of pasta with lemon cream sauce. I almost posted the recipe but didn’t, because then I would have had to admit where it was from. Well, Gaijin Girl had an inquiring mind. I promised to post, and so I will oblige. Figures this is the night that my dear Yetta, aka Dear Prudence, perhaps the best cook in the world after my mother (sorry, Yetta, but if she ever finds out about this blog, she’ll not only kill me for the "Dirty Little Secret" post and my liberal use of the word “fuck,” but she’ll also get me for insulting her cooking), joins the blogging ranks.

True to my word, the recipe follows, but there’s a story to tell first. You can skip it if you want; the recipe is really good, and I’ve also introduced a variation. In fact, why don’t you skip my story that I’m telling to cover my shame. I’ll feel better.

The Story

Tagliatelle with Lemon comes from one of five self-help books I’ve ever purchased (when you think about it, as a thirty-three-year-old American woman, I’m doing great in that department). Here’s why I bought it.

Two years ago, around this time, I stepped onto the doctor’s scale and wanted to cut off my ass. WHAT THE HELL!? I WEIGH WHAT???!!! FUUUUUUUUCK!!! It was the single biggest number I’ve ever, ever, tipped the scales at. I walked out of that office, utterly defeated, at my All Time Fat (ATF).

That’s it, I resolved. Something must be done. But what? In my early twenties, I did the no-fat thing and reached my All Time Skinny (ATS). It was the only time in my adult life I had people trying to feed me because I was too thin. Thing is, non-fat “cheese” is disgusting. My diet was terrible, consisting of mostly instant soup, fat-free quesadillas (fat-free “tortillas” with non-fat “refried beans,” non-fat cheese, and salsa), and eggbeaters. Not to mention all those fucking SnackWells. Part of the reason why my diet sucked was because I didn’t know how to cook, but mostly it was because I was afraid of food. Still, enough was enough. Wanting flavors back, even if they came from restaurant food, I eventually gave up. Up, up, up went the scales.

In my late twenties, determined to do something about the bod again, I gave veganism a go and became obsessive about exercising. I ate soy “cheese” and joined a gym. That worked too. Although I have nothing but respect for vegans, for me, life without real cheese is downright depressing. And I hate workout machines, not to mention gym culture. While in the process of changing jobs and moving, I lost the rhythm. I also learned how to cook around then, but not how to eat. However popular it might have been, I looked upon the Atkins Diet with scorn. What kind of diet dissed bananas, but allowed people to eat steak with butter and bacon, washed down with a gallon of Gallo? So, I cooked up and ate my fat and carbs and didn’t find a suitable, regular exercise routine. It took a while, but eventually I wound up at my ATF. I was so depressed.

I’ve mentioned before that I work for a publishing company (I’m not an editor, so don’t get snarky about my grammar). We get a subscription to Publishers Weekly to keep us current with the industry. I usually spend my Friday afternoons reading the book reviews (and looking for typos—that rag has a shocking number of them). Right after I’d hit the ATF, I happened to come across a review for this “diet” book that wasn’t, well, a diet book. It was a book on how to enjoy food without being fat. That sounded far more appealing than a life without real cheese, so I picked it up.

Say whatever you want about this book—that it is a commercial for that wino company she works for, or that that leek soup is one of the more vile things ever concocted, or that there’s a very good reason why French women don’t get fat, and it nothing to do with sensible eating habits (cigarettes, anyone?)—French Women Don’t Get Fat has a lot of good advice. (Oh, God, did I just admit to owning that book? Please, stop reading this. Just skip to the recipe. Please. This is humiliating.) In it, Mireille Guiliano describes how one can eat real food, really insanely good food, with all the fat and calories, and not turn into a photo-op for a photojournalist doing a story on American obesity. It just involves a little discipline, playful self-deception, and common sense.

When I’ve followed her advice (I fell off the wagon for a bit, owing to some personal stressful circumstances, Ex-Boyfriend’s penchant for pizza and Indian food, and the aftermath of the infamous e-mail), I look great. Not only that, I am healthy. And fucking happy because I can eat real cheese.

In addition to the good advice, French Women Don’t Get Fat also contains some kickass recipes. I’ve served some of the dishes from this book to unwitting guests, and I always get applause. The bread recipe is simply amazing. So is Tagliatelle with Lemon. Here’s the recipe.

The Recipe, with Variation

Tagliatelle with Lemon
(serves four—I cut this down to one portion)

You’ll Need:
12 ounces tagliatelle
4 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces crème fraîche
4 ounces parmesan cheese (NOTE: If you use fresh-grated, good parmesan, this will come out much better)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To Assemble:
Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the zest of lemons and squeeze and reserve the juice of 1 lemon.

In a saucepan, warm up the olive oil, add the zest, and cook over low flame for 2 minutes. Add the crème fraîche and bring to a boil; pour in the reserved lemon juice and bring to a boil again.

When the cream starts to thicken, add the parmesan, season to taste, mix well, and cook for another minute. Add the drained pasta and toss to mix. Serve immediately.

Free-Styled Variation, with Mushrooms
I made this up tonight, and I don’t have exact measurements for this, but you should get the idea.

You’ll Need:
Mushrooms (I used oyster and cremini [porcini would be delicious]; don’t use those icky white things popular in grocery stores), enough for the portions you are cooking (I used four cremini and four pieces of oyster mushrooms to feed me, and it did nicely), sliced

Shallots (I used a generous slice from a medium-sized shallot to feed one, but if you really like them, you could do a bit more), chopped finely

A bit less olive oil, and a small amount of butter (adjust for the servings, but I used a dab)

The crème fraîche (you might need a bit more), a smidge less of the lemon juice (I squeezed a half-lemon lightly to feed me), parmesan, and the salt and freshly ground pepper listed above

Flat leaf parsley, for garnish, chopped

To Assemble:
This pretty much follows the method above, except that while the water for the pasta is boiling, sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the olive oil and butter in a saucepan.

Cook the tagliatelle until al dente and drain.

Once the mushrooms have cooked, turn down the heat. After a minute or so, add the crème fraîche. You might need a bit more than for the lemon sauce, but take it easy. Bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice. Bring to a boil again. Follow directions above. Garnish with the parsley.

NOTE: Both recipes call for Italian-style portions. In Italy, pasta is never the main course. Plan for a second course (I’m a vegetarian, but I’m a non-judgmental one, so I won’t tell you what to do), and follow with a salad and whatever subsequent courses you will. Please, drink wine, unless you can’t. If you are looking to lose weight, be aware that this is still a caloric bomb. I didn’t overindulge for breakfast or lunch yesterday or today.

People love to hate the French lady. Thing is, eating like this since New Year, I’ve lost five pounds. Beats the hell out of non-fat or soy “cheese.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Long Day

Oh hurrah, pasta with lemon cream sauce is delicious. Mmmmm. So’s wine. Wine’s tasty too. I’m feeling much better now.

Last night’s swearing at W via the radio tuckered me right out. I overslept my alarm and had to drive at a dangerous speed in order to make it to work in time to lead my meeting this morning. On my way to work, I heard on the BBC that the US evidently attacked an Iranian military base in Iraqi-controlled Kurdistan. Brilliant, George. Fuck up one war, and go start another one, this time with a nuclear power. Thanks. Is this guy missing his precious bodily fluids or something?

I got through the meeting, despite the coffee not kicking in until about half-way through. Then I had to try to finish proofreading an index from hell. Honestly, this freelance indexer must have the most retentive anus in the history of retentiveness. He indexed absolutely everything in the entire book, twice (that’s not good). His sense of organization is frankly bizarre, and I spent days trying to get the blasted index to make logical sense before I could sit down to do the three-hour job of proofreading the thing. Of course the project’s drop-dead date is tomorrow, and lateness will not be tolerated. Just as I was cussing the indexer out for his dumbassness, the freelancer e-mails me about his payment. I didn’t answer.

While giving my brain a break from the drudgery, I came across a very bizarre little piece of news. Canadian coins, it seems, are bugged with movement-tracking software. Since when does James Bond live in Canada? What’s next, Q, and even more groovy gadgets? Seems like a strange way to spy on people, but I have hopes that Canada has plans to liberate us from W. Canadian Bond, help us out, eh?

I stayed late to try to finish the index, but my eyes were starting to cross, so I’ll finish it tomorrow. I came home and made lemon cream sauce instead. And had some wine. Everything is right in Sundryland again. I haven’t turned on the radio, and I don’t have any Canadian money.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What New Strategy?

So, at long last, an admission. The situation in Iraq is “unacceptable.” It only took throwing his party out of Congress to make him see the light. This illegal war, waged under false pretenses and bungled from the beginning (OK, he didn’t say that), isn’t working out so well. Tonight, President George W. Bush told the American people that he knew the way forward, the way to fix this horrifying mess. The way to fix it, according to our president, is more of the same, only with some 22,000 more troops from our overextended military and a “we really mean it this time” to the Iraqi government.

The president talked about September 11, 2001, and he talked about al Qaeda. It would have been great to hear him say that the only connection that this date and this group have to Iraq is that we attacked Iraq and made it vulnerable to al Qaeda’s infiltration. It would have been wonderful if instead of paying lip service to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, he announced his plans to act on them.

He didn’t. I listened to this speech, and I listened closely. I didn’t hear a new strategy. I didn’t hear a way forward. All I heard was more delusional babble that “victory in Iraq” is possible if we only up our staying of the course. Victory is not possible. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, and our continued participation in it is folly. It’s time for him to realize that. It’s time for him to admit that we need help. Negotiation is required. Financial commitment to fix what we have broken is demanded.

The American people elected a Democratic majority to Congress because the situation in Iraq is unacceptable. I only hope that they are strong enough to make the tough decision required. Sending over yet more troops is a horrible mistake. We voted for a new Congress because we don’t want that to happen. It’s up to them to pave a new way forward. Let’s hope they can do it.

Why I Vote for Ted Kennedy: Resisting the "Surge"

In answer to the question posed by a few people I know, this is why I vote for Ted Kennedy. As W is preparing to send yet more troops into Iraq in an attempt to salvage his disastrous war, Ted Kennedy is saying no. He’s saying that the people voted for change, and a “surge” is not change. While Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have indicated that they will resist the attempt to escalate the war, Ted Kennedy introduced legislation to block the funding for it and to reinsert the rightful role of Congress in this war. In an interview with the New York Times, quoted in the Nation blog linked above, Kennedy said the following:

It seems to me that we are at a time of a major escalation into a civil war, that's what the proposal of a surge is really about. This president is going to escalate the American presence and escalate the whole Iraqi war. This is a major mistake and a major blunder. If there's one thing that the election was about last fall was sending a very clear message to Congress and to the president that the American people want accountability. They want a change in direction on Iraq, they want accountability, and they want people to stand up and be counted.
“Surging” will only make this war worse. This is Bush’s attempt to save face from the dope slap he got from the Iraq Study Group, headed up by the man who helped get him selected, James Baker. W keeps saying that this quagmire is an “essential front in the war on terror.” Kennedy is asking why. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was a bastard, but he was not bin Laden. The solution to this mess can only be found through political means, not a misguided “surge.” Thank you, Ted Kennedy, for having the courage to stand up and resist it. This is why I vote for you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cleansing Thoughts

Something strange is going on in Blogland. With few exceptions, including Robyn (who mentions Lucifer) and Carissa (who talks about sexy knitting), blogging of late has gotten a bit, well, crass. Puffins and drugs and strange acts involving Chuck Norris, oh my! How-to tips, debates on one’s stage name, and stench, oh my! Perhaps it’s the January doldrums, perhaps it’s global warming. Who knows? In any event, I’m all for things bawdy and crass, and we all know that I can turn things up a notch when the mood strikes, but I cannot be looking at such posts while at work. I’ll get myself fired.

So I need to think good, clean thoughts and take a break today. Maybe I’ll get some work done.

See you when I get home.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gray Days and Mondays Make Me Think of Aliens

Aliens, man

I give up. Countless cups of coffee have done absolutely nothing to wake me up. I’m so tired that I nearly fell asleep in the dentist’s chair this afternoon while having my cleaning. The noise kept me awake, but I was entertaining thoughts about how the creators of alien movies must have spent a lot of time at the dentist's office. Looking up at the Preston & Clark lamp, with its two metal grips off the sides, and the wide Plexiglas light with a metal band right where the eyes would be, I saw a snaky-necked alien.

That’s an alien head,
I thought as the hygienist probed my gums. Really, it is. Hey, that’s where they got the idea. Some sci-fi dude spent too much time in a dentist’s chair under the laughing gas. That’s why aliens are always portrayed as such nasty beasts—I mean, who really likes going to the dentist? Aha. I even went so far as to deduce that the reason why the creators of these movies made the probing happen in the other place was so that people wouldn’t figure out that they got the idea in the dentist’s chair.

Thank goodness for the supersonic de-scaler whirling in my mouth, because otherwise I would have shared my ingenious theory with the hygienist. She thinks I’m nice and sane. I did share the idea with my coworkers. They already know I’m crazy. I sounded just like Slater from Dazed and Confused. Aliens, man. They were invented at the dentist’s office. Just look at that lamp. Cool. Please, everyone, stop me if I start talking about Martha Washington and the dollar bill.*

Anyhow, I’m not awake. When will this workday end?

*If you have not seen Dazed and Confused, go and get it. Now. Guaranteed good time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Wanderings

Ceramic Doll Head

It’s still way too hot here for January, but at least I needed a light sweater today. Inspired by the sunshine, I took off for a little town not too far from here and did some wandering around. Apparently I wasn’t the only one inspired. A street musician, wearing some multi-colored quilted jacket, was wailing away on his recorder. In between little trills on the thing, he’d yell out “Aieeee!” or “Arghhhhh!” I tried not to make eye contact with the madman as I passed, but he started to follow me a little bit, inclining his head in my direction as I sped away. I ducked into a shop, and the owner explained that he just does that. She simultaneously turned the music up a bit louder. Poor thing, having to endure that all day.

After walking around for a bit and getting a junk-shop fix (where I saw the ceramic bust, above) I stopped for a coffee at a little café. There I did some knitting, reading, and uninteresting eavesdropping (gossip about a friend’s impending divorce—these friends don’t think it’s a good idea—and the wonders of Tide detergent pens). It always disappoints me when I take the time to listen in and the conversation’s boring. Oh well. I was being rude, so I guess it serves me right.

I also read this interesting passage from my book (The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, a little literary candy about vampires). In it, the father of the narrator is musing about the change in landscape from Istanbul to Budapest:

It is a gradation of towns, of architecture, of gradually receding minarets blended with the advancing of church domes, of the very look of forest and riverbank, so that little by little you begin to believe you can read in nature itself the saturation of history. Does the shoulder of a Turkish hillside really look so different from the slope of a Magyar meadow? Of course not, and yet the difference is as impossible to erase from the eye as the history that informs it is from the mind. Later, traveling this route, I would also see it alternately as benign and bathed in blood—this is the other trick of historical insight, to be unrelentingly torn between good and evil, peace and war.

I thought briefly about the way the Earth has memory that can be sensed from being in a place. I also resisted the though, because I don’t like to think of nature as being solely a reflector of human history—we don’t define it; it defines us. But then my coffee was getting cold, and it was time to go.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Global Warming Eye-Popping Color

Today’s wrong, but it’s hard to be upset. After a gray and drizzly morning, the clouds parted in an instant, leaving a clean, clear light that was almost as jarring to the senses as the record-breaking heat. Driving toward the beach with the windows rolled down, the newly-washed colors popped in a way that I’ve only ever experienced while on drugs. I turned the music up a bit louder and drove along with a star-struck grin on my face. Everywhere, everything, screamed amazement. I walked along the beach, not even wearing a sweater, in awe. The clouds returned as I headed into town, and the sun played off them. I watched shadows play off buildings the way I do when I’m stoned. But I wasn’t, which made the experience that much more incredible.

This isn’t good. The heat today should convince anyone that global warming is real, and that we need to do something about it. Now. It might already be too late. What’s more, this day is going to make winter all that much harder to bear when it does come. My senses are awake. I’m ready for life to begin again, and it’s not real.

Here are a few photos from my day. My camera did not do justice to the intense colors, but you might get the idea.

This was the view of the water from
the bridge heading to the beach

water another view

Another view from the bridge

moldy orange

This moldy orange looked like a
scary little face to me

Good Harbor Beach 1-6-2007

View of the beach

water crashing on the rocks

Water crashing on Bass Rocks

sea mist

Sea mist

Friday, January 05, 2007

Today Is Friday…

Today is Friday, and I’m singing my little Friday Song. I don't have much by way of plans this weekend. PhilosopherPants and I exchange a couple of e-mails, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re not really an ideal dating pair. Anyway, I could use a little down time after the two-day New Year’s bash and a nearly full-length work week.

I had thought that Perfume: Story of a Murderer might have been worth going to see, but I’ve read terrible reviews. Pity, I thought the whole idea of seeing and hearing scent sounded so sensual, and you know, there was that whole creepy book thing. My two new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, recorded for me by Super Carissa Marie, will provide some guilty pleasure instead. That and some wine.

What about you? Big weekend plans? Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Your Assistance Is Kindly Requested

OK, Blogpals, I need some help. It’s a new year, and my dating profile needs an update. I’m going to post some new photos (sorry, you don’t get to see them—I’ve heard too many horror stories about potential employers/other important people who recognize people from their blogs, to the detriment of the blogger) that will present an attractive visage that might surprise some of my coworkers who mostly see me as my four-eyed-untamed-hair-got-ready-in-less-than-two-minutes self. Now I realize that all most of you know about me is what I type into this thingy, but since I think this blog is as honest an expression of myself as I’ve made, you could be a good judge of my profile. In any event, that’s what I’m asking you to do.

This profile is for the decidedly more edgy of the two sites I’ve availed myself of. It’s where the hipster boys live, and it’s geared more toward dating than it is toward relationships. Before I met Ex-Boyfriend through the relationship site, I met a number of interesting lads through this site, and I’d like to do so again. Keeping in mind that I’m answering this question with an eye toward a reasonably casual dating situation, please critique, based on what you know about me through this blog.

Here is the first topic: Why you should get to know me. Here’s my new draft answer:

Should? I don’t know what you should do, and I’m not about to tell you what to do. You might want to get to know me because I’m interesting, smart, and rather funny. I’m also independent, open-minded, and a bit rebellious, and I appreciate the same in others. I’ve traveled the world a bit (with a tub of Fluff as the subject of my tourist photos), and I’d like to do it some more. My book list is long, but I’m always looking for another read. My friends say I’m easy-going and supportive. I’m a talker, but I also listen. I’m creative and love learning new things. I once took a personality quiz that said I’m the Dirty Little Secret, which I found both hilarious and strangely more appropriate than the Social Philosopher designation this site tagged me with. I don’t believe in personality tests. In my own oddball way, I have a certain mystery that some find intriguing. Perhaps you do, too.

Here’s the second topic: More about what I'm looking for. Here is my draft answer:

I enjoy people who are comfortable in their own skins and who have open and curious minds. A sense of humor and of the absurd is essential. Kindness is important to me. A sense of adventure, even and especially in the everyday, would be great. Dancing is a plus, ability not required. Hopefully you read and like to talk about what you are reading. Creativity and wisdom would knock my socks off.

OK. Critque away, please (but please be nice).

Strange Day Indeed

Do you ever have one of those days when you really don’t know what’s going on? I’m having one of those days today. Often when I sit here in my rose-pink cube (I despise rose-pink), looking out the window on gray days, I lose track of time and space and feel as though I’ve lived my whole life in this rose-pink cube. It creeps me out. Today isn’t like that. Today feels even weirder, and it’s scaring me because it’s not chemically induced.

It started with some really messed up dreams right before I woke up. Not those kind of dreams, my pervy friends, but the kind that leave you going, “Now where did THAT come from? And what was that person doing there? I haven’t thought about ___ in years!” I woke up not really knowing exactly what time of year it was or where I had to be that day. Thankfully, I figured it out. January. A Thursday. My presence was requested at work.

Disturbing News
Having sloughed off that disorientation, I learned that the banshees weren’t finished with me yet. On my way to work, I heard a
story on the BBC that I swore had to be fake. It wasn’t. I listened, horrified, to a tale about parents in Seattle, Washington, who had surgery performed on their severely mentally and physically disabled daughter to have her remain a child, literally, forever, so that they could better care for her. OK, I understand that caring for such a child is very, very difficult, but was this the answer? Apparently this series of procedures was approved by the hospital ethics board, so I’d imagine that there are some other issues in play, but this seems like nothing short of mutilation to me. Regardless, it definitely wasn’t the usual news.

Classic Boy Freakout
Then I got to work and read an e-mail from a friend. Last night her boyfriend discovered that he was happy, so naturally it was time for him to break up with her. The timing could not have been worse for her life. A couple of you male readers have asked what women want. I don’t believe in blanket statements for “men” and “women,” but here’s a thing that many women, myself included, have experienced, and it confuses the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of us. It goes a bit like this.

You start dating a guy. You hit it off. You think that you might like to go out with him again, and so you do. You aren’t thinking of this as a “relationship.” You are just enjoying his company. Things, however, are going well. The conversation’s great; other things are great as well. You spend more time together, and things continue to be great. Sometimes the guy even starts talking like he’d like things to get a bit more serious. You think that might be nice.

Then, WHAMO! The guy says, “Um, I really like you, but I don’t want to have a relationship right now, so I think it’s best that we stop seeing each other.”


Nothing shy of breaking up with someone by e-mail (a-hem) pisses off women I know more. I’d say that it was something we were doing, but to tell you the truth, we are all very different people. We date different “types” of men. And we’ve all had this happen to us more than once, at different points in our lives. We call it the “Classic Boy Freakout.” We hate it. It confuses the hell out of us, which makes it somewhat appropriate for this day.

Seattle’s Geography and Grey’s Anatomy
So then Carissa Marie and I had this lengthy conversation about the location of Seattle Grace Hospital on Grey’s Anatomy. Being from the Promised Land of Seattle (as she calls it), Carissa is very offended that the show’s creators cannot seem to decide where, exactly, they’d like this hospital to be. I’ve assured her that since Grey’s is pretty much a soap opera, the hospital can teleport at will. She doesn’t seem to believe me. All the talk about Seattle’s geography, completely unfamiliar to me, is not helping my sense of dislocation.

Simply Wacky News
Then Carissa sent me a link to
this story. A bank issued a credit card to a cat. The cat’s name is Messiah. Salvation through shopping. Interesting concept.

And then I read about
THIS. An unidentified chunk of something astral landed in someone’s house in New Jersey. It’s shiny and metallic looking, and they have no idea what it is. Come to think of it, this might make the most sense of all.

More later when things return to normal.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Politics Is Local: The Gay Marriage Debate in Massachusetts

The outgoing governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts wants to be the president of the United States. And, since Mitt Romney is running as a Republican, that means he needs to prove to the religious-right wing of his party that he’s socially conservative enough for the job. This means that whatever he said about gays to get elected governor of Massachusetts (hint: rather moderate in tone), they are Public Enemy #1 now.

Romney’s parting shot as governor and opening salvo as presidential candidate was to sue the state legislature in an attempt to force them to vote on a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage. While he lost the case, the court chastised the legislature for failing to vote. Yesterday, the legislature voted to advance the measure, taking it one step closer to getting it on the 2008 ballot. Should this proposed amendment pass, it would be asking voters to write discrimination into our state’s constitution.

Having grown up in a religiously conservative home, I understand the arguments against gay marriage. The Bible does not applaud homosexuality; indeed it numbers with the offenses punishable by death in the Old Testament. Since the religious right in this country seems to primarily concern itself with issues of sexuality, I am not the least bit surprised that this issue is a big one for that community.

OK, so religiously conservative Christians don’t like homosexuality. They think it is a sin. But does this mean that they get to legislate according to their religious views? Marriage in this country is a secular institution. It always has been. The Puritans were trying to escape the Sacraments, and so they established a marriage based on a social contract. By allowing same-sex couples to enter into this social contract, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not violating the Sacrament of Marriage. Instead it is bestowing the economic and social rights wrongly denied to an entire group of people. It is rectifying an injustice. This makes everyone freer.

Gay marriage is a civil rights issue. As such, it should not be up for a vote. Think Brown v. Board of Education if you need an example—do you think that the South would have voted to desegregate schools, or that they should have had the right to vote to keep African-Americans as second-class citizens? The same is true of the right for gays to marry. Their marriages have not damaged a single heterosexual union in Massachusetts. The state legislature needs to end this bigoted attempt to write discrimination into the state constitution.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

“I’m all right… I’m all right!”

Wow. New Year’s bash indeed. It lasted for two days, and I think I slept for four hours.

We were informed that this was to be a dressy affair, and so we got all dolled up for the New Year, only to find that it wasn't exactly French champagne and hors d'œuvres. Instead, the host had brewed up a keg of “champagne” (I insisted on calling it chahm-pahg-neh, and asked if it was going to make us go blind, but I have to admit that it was rather tasty, if rednecky) and some cider. Everyone got just a little bit tipsy (OK, more than a bit). Half the party was a dance fest and the other half was an outdoor bonfire. In other words, we put on our best clothes to stand outside by a campfire drinking keg champagne. It was hilarious.

As for me, I chatted up just about everybody, danced up a storm (including learning the merengue, well, kind of), and in general had a splendid time. When my sister and I left the party at three-thirty to get some sleep, things were still in full swing, with musicians and others jamming (and singing) in the basement, dancers dancing, and drinkers drinking.

I woke up the next morning after my brother-in-law came downstairs, and we chatted and drank coffee as we waited for the others to rouse themselves. At around eleven, we went back over for a day of brunch, games, music, and watching episodes of The Office (alas, the American version, but still really funny). I left around six, completely exhausted, but happy. I went to bed at eight. I woke up at eight this morning, and now I’m here.

What’s my job again?

What did you do?