30 January 2007

Support the U.S. Government!

That's what I spent last night doing -- that's right, I'm talking taxes. There's nothing better than finding out you owe several hundred dollars of your piddly income to a government you loathe to fund a war you abhor. OK, that last rhyme eased the pain a little. I like to rhyme. On a related note from yesterday, I hereby declare with all my legal authority behind me that you are not really a graduate student until you have been charged at least a hundred dollars in library fees (with the threat of four hundred dollars tossed out there by the library folks). Yet another way of returning my paycheck to the government institution that employs me. OK, I didn't return a few books while I was on the East Coast. Whatever. Like anyone else has ever checked out those particular books. I smell a lawsuit! Or I smell me meekly paying the fee and not really doing anything about it but bitching on my blog. Yep, I knew I recognized that scent.

Everyone should totally go to this website Y. found -- the face transformer. Check out how you'd look as a cartoon character, different gender, older, younger, etc. As she says, it's perfect for the self-absorbed. And who's more self-absorbed than us bloggers?

P.S. View the following picture at your own risk. Seriously, I find nothing more terrifying than tiny gleeful baby heads on adult bodies.

29 January 2007

Urban Folly

The trip to Portland was a good time -- a chance to hang out with friends that hadn't been seen in ages (yay Jess!), cuddles with the most adorable two-year-old on the planet, and lots of delicious food. My name either sounds just like Mama to toddler ears or I give off a very maternal vibe, because that was his name for me for most of the stay -- by Saturday he was managing "Tamil," which is impressive for two...and also somehow appropriate. He's especially fascinated by me, I suspect because he has red hair and no one in his immediate family does, so I am the only other redhead he knows. Although his is fading to dirty blond of late, perhaps a nod to our impending extinction.

Also, I was reminded again of the travesty that is the Indian restaurant scene in Eugene -- where we have literally dozens of top-notch Thai restaurants and maybe two mediocre Indian restaurants. Such a let-down, especially after Cambridge. Many in PDX seem to be obsessing over the new incredibly expensive tram lately. As E's grandma said, "what about our schools? No one is willing to sign that much money into education funding!" She's an awesomely pissed-off lady who rides the Greyhound cross-country to peace marches and reads every leftist magazine and book in print. And she's vegan! She rails against patriarchy and genocide at Thanksgiving! I'm so going to be like her when I grow up. OK, I'm kind of like that now, but I'm going to stay that way. No middle-aged conservativism and yuppification! (My computer is claiming that neither of those are actual words but I beg to differ.) I even managed to find a cute indy bakery where I could sit with my coffee and work all afternoon one day, so my guilt-o-meter for taking a weekend trip is only at a 7. And yes, it's sad that I now consider a city of half a million people "urban," but there it is. All in all, a rousing success and good BCC bonding time.

26 January 2007

Off and Away

I'm leaving for Portland in twenty minutes and I haven't yet packed, so this'll be short:

-- Stitch n' Bitch sessions rock. When A.'s partner B. got home and we were all still there at 11 pm, she surmised that there had been "too much bitching, not enough stitching." Yes, in the best possible way. A good cure for a weird funk I've been in this week off and on.

-- The lovely Marie turned me on to this blog: I Blame the Patriarchy. Don't read it unless you enjoy deeply sarcastic radical feminism. Between Saru and Twisty Faster, there's hope yet.

-- Erin makes a mean spaghetti.

To Powells! To Jessica! To the City of Roses!

25 January 2007

Notes to Self

-- Two hours before metalsmithing class is not really the time for a double G&T. Especially when that is immediately followed by a second double G&T. Because when 6:30 and the time to use torches and giant knifey finger-chopping machines rolls around, it is really impossible to go to that class loaded. Obviously I made the safer decision (staying at the bar), but my inner Catholic still feels guilty for skipping class. Ah, well. It was a nice night with entertaining conversation among friends. Secondary rule learned: always stay at the bar.

-- Our cat is evil. I apparently am her evilness enabler. She caught a wee mouse in our garage last night and brought it into the house -- yuck -- where we realized it was totally alive. On the rare occasions she has found mice in the past she usually will deposit the entrails somewhere as a "gift" but this time the little squeaker kept running off, live and well. This was all part of Paola's literal "cat and mouse" game in which she would let it go for a second, pounce again, chomp it for a moment or two, and then let it go and the torture would begin all over. This is not abnormal behavior for a cat (though Erin swears she knows many cats who do not cruelly play with their food), but the more disturbing part to me was my own reaction. Immediately, I was on Paola's side. I was proud of her spryness and wanted to let her slowly torment the mouse to death as she wished. It didn't even really cross my mind to feel bad for the mouse. This is my cat. Erin was appalled and caught the mouse and released it outside (where there are twenty-five strays living on our street, but whatever). I feel like this was akin to me cheering on one of my friends as they slowly strangle a veal calf in front of me. Apparently my principles go out the window when my pet wants to torture something. So much for siding with the oppressed.

24 January 2007

First Camellia

Until this morning I had completely forgotten that the camellia bush outside my bedroom winter blooms in January. What a nice surprise! Especially nice that it's actually the norm for this particular kind of camellia, and not some freakish side effect of global warming. I enjoy knowing that, barring apocalypse, the camellia will outlive me -- it's both reassuring and humbling.

Also on the list of good things, I successfully made a vegan, wheat and gluten-free, soy-free, nightshade-free, estrogen-free dinner for our friends K. and I. last night. This is the third (fourth?) time I have managed this, without repeating menus, and I always feel very proud of myself. I imagine this is how many of my carnivorish friends feel if they make something vegan for me.

22 January 2007

Argument Clinic

Open for business (somewhat unwillingly) most of the night last night. Jake and our friend John were the main participants seeking a friendly fight (or two, or ten). For some reason I am always the designated arguer. Serves me right for having non-mainstream opinions! I find that the white men in my life are the main customers at the argument clinic. I say that with love. And a touch of exhaustion. Topics argued, a partial list:

-- global warming
-- Al Gore and the great man theory
-- the existence of a universal human nature
-- communist morality v. "universal" morality (you can't see it, but my keyboard is dripping with sarcasm over that)
-- peak oil
-- the social construction of biology
-- utopian thinking v. historical materialism
-- anarchism
-- the viability of socialism
-- the categories "human" v. "animal"
-- petrodollars
-- the unlikelihood of Obama being elected, and if elected, the likelihood of him being assassinated (inspired by a comment from S., who can out-Debbie-Downer even me)
-- individual v. collective identity as an aspect of social responsibility
-- the value of the occasional ad hominem attack (specifically against Bush) for those on the left to blow off steam
-- expediency v. idealism in political action

Perhaps a bit much for one Sunday night. Thus, heteronormativity, one of my personal favorites, didn't even make an appearance. Yes, I know I could just refuse to take the bait, or agree to disagree, or whatever, but come on. That's not how I was socially constructed. Payment was given, in the form of dishes washed and dinner cooked, so the clinic has balanced its books. And it'll undoubtedly open for business again when Jake gets home in an hour. These things can't be helped. Next time I am maxed out I will just tweak Monty Python and argue that we are not in fact arguing, there is no argument nor were we ever disagreeing about anything.

21 January 2007

Angela Davis spoke here yesterday. It was inspiring. She was kickass. And then there was delicious, delicious coffee. Highlights:

1) When discussing how certain white students frame their claims that affirmative action is unjust: "Do grades stand in relation to the aspiring student in the same way that price stands in relation to the commodities we buy?"

2) When responding to an audience question about whether she stood by statements she'd made 10-15 years ago regarding capitalism containing the seeds of its own destruction (a question which dragged on and on and probably lasted five minutes in total, in which he was clearly asking, as E. whispered "Are you still a big commie?"): "Yes." Wild audience applause. Well, as wild as a few dozen people can get. Followed by: "And yes, I stand by what you say I said, though as I'm sure you know, Marx actually said that first."

3) On prisons and education: "Race matters when determining who's gonna get to go to prison and who's gonna get to go to the university." This was followed by a further articulation of the links between schools and prisons that forced me to write a one-word note to E. saying "FOUCAULT" and totally dork out with Marx/Davis/Foucault love.

4) In response to a question about art and activism, she discussed Adorno's concept of the "shudder" that goes through you when you are exposed to something that, for a moment, makes you believe the world could be different in some way. I love that moment, and it reminded me of all those works that have given me hope in the possibility of a different future, despite all evidence to the contrary.

5) Finally, just hearing from an academic who has combined teaching and academic work seamlessly with activist work outside of the college environment was inspirational. I love teaching (and I'm already missing it having been grading for a few quarters and now taking time off from Kaplan), but there's also only so much of an impact I feel I can have working with a bunch of privileged, mostly middle-class or better students. She was definitely one of those people that makes me want to take serious action outside of the academy as well as within it.

18 January 2007

Call Me Smithy

I have a confession to make. I got married last summer. And, even worse, since the day of the wedding, I've been cheating right and left. That is how I feel about my comps list -- like it's this pain-in-the-ass, constantly jealous, nagging husband. Oh, I justify my cheating -- it's just this once, it's not hurting anybody, how will it ever know? Of course I love my list, but I feel smothered! Friends, family, meals, exercise, sleep, sudoku, movies, crafts, I cheat quite freely. But in the end, I feel guilty every second of every day that I'm not spending with it. And, really, when was the last nice thing it ever did for me? It didn't even notice my new haircut last month! Just more guilt for spending money I should have spent on books to feed its insatiable appetite.

This is all by way of background to a fantastic evening last night at my first metalsmithing class. (Yes, I know. The glamour train that is my life never stops.) It was fantastic largely because it was three straight hours in which the comps list and any guilt related to it never even entered my mind. It is amazing what several repetitions of the phrase "this could cut off your fingers" and "this torch burns at 1500 degrees" will do for focusing your concentration, especially when you're about to wield the torch or the finger-cutting machinery. Even more especially if you're as prone as I am to, you know, actually cutting off your fingers or burning yourself regularly. I stub my toes every morning on a bookshelf in our hallway. Every morning. So learning to anneal (the wussier version of forging, used on non-ferrous metals...look at all my terminology!), and cut and saw thick pieces of copper was the perfect meditative escape. In Bridget Jones persona for a moment: Am metalsmithing goddess. Can crystallize grains of metal alloy with mental powers alone. Will procure serious yet adorable blacksmithing apron and someday run own forge filled with shirtless, muscled employees.

OK, I'm back. The basic point -- learning new things is awesome. Extra points for any element of danger. Also, the craft center at the university, with its many crafty classes at reasonable prices, is the best thing ever. I return to my unhappy marriage with at least the knowledge that I will be filing divorce papers in just a few more months. I've had my eye on a hot dissertation topic that I think could definitely provide years worth of guilt and recriminations. I'll invite you all to that wedding, I promise.

17 January 2007

Distrustful Bunny

I am the efficiency bunny today. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, it's because you were fortunate enough not to attend law school with me. I love being that bunny. To do list covered with cross-outs.

Also, I don't trust the following words: freedom, free, free society, liberty. (Obviously words like market and open economy go without saying.) I was browsing around a few fellowship websites and I saw one that gives great funding...for work exploring the policies necessary to a free society. I immediately picture anticommunist witch hunts, counterrevolutionaries, and other apologist lackeys for capitalism. Is it kind of sad that I can't even read the words freedom or liberty without alarm bells going off? Yeah, I'm not applying. Of course, being all post-linguistic turn, I don't trust any words, but if a fellowship were about justice or equality I wouldn't freak, despite their similarly overdetermined meaninglessness.

Happy Skanderbeg Day!

Today is the official holiday of Albania's national hero. If I were more linguistically adept, and if I hadn't gotten an extremely pricey law degree that limits me to U.S. history, I would totally write about Albania. There's just an incredibly rich and unexplored history in that country, though more books have started coming out in the last few years. I recommend the novels of Ismail Kadare, Albania's only Nobel Laureate, for a taste, especially Broken April, about the blood feud tradition in the north, and Palace of Dreams, a surreal political parable.

In utterly unrelated news, OK Go announced the winners of their YouTube video contest today: synchronized treadmill dancing is clearly the fitness wave of the future.

16 January 2007

The Devil and Al Gore

Double header at the BCC last night: An Inconvenient Truth (my 2nd time watching it, roommates first), and a History channel special on the Antichrist. Some highlights:

-- Just by living where I do and not driving (though I feel the need to count the time I spend riding in cars) I have a pretty low carbon footprint, but when I compared the same electricity bill in different states it went from .7 (Oregon) to 5.25 (Iowa). Kind of makes me glad I live somewhere with efficient energy systems at least partially in place. Most other states were 3-5 times the amount here, but Idaho takes the prize -- the same energy use there puts a grand total of .1 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Who knew Idaho was leading the pack on this?

-- Supposedly there've been recent hints that Bush is going to do a 180 on global warming in the State of the Union and we're going to see the first-ever carbon emissions controls put on U.S. businesses and population. I'll believe it when I see it.

-- The Antichrist is a white businessman in a dark suit in the HC's hypothetical enactments of the end times. I love that so, so much. He looks like the poor man's Neo.

-- I learned a few fun new things about dispensationalism and millenialism and their variations. In particular, I learned that the Antichrist will be known because he brings peace and order and unites people. This all precedes the "destructive day of the Lord," basically leading into all us sinners getting eaten by locusts. I'm just not sure I'm tracking the logic here. So the "bad" guy brings peace, and that makes him the opposite of Jesus? Because Jesus was all about war...? And then I'm supposed to be rooting for the side that's psyched for the slaughter and torture of lots of people?

This actually does explain the current government's policies in many ways -- if you want to be the opposite of the Antichrist you need to really commit yourself to war and chaos and divisiveness. So if you start wars, cause death and suffering and destruction, and push people into polarized positions against groups that aren't hurting them at all (cough, gay marriage, cough), BUT you've signed some sort of church contract naming Jesus as your saviour, you get saved and everyone else gets screwed? That sounds so unbelievably lawyerly -- the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. They are full of Christ's love. The rationality here is also making me want to do a few LSAT puzzles just to calm my brain down. There is logic in the world. There is. I do believe.

15 January 2007

Music for Books

Sometimes I get a little distracted by music with lyrics (or at least lyrics I understand, so I end up playing lots of opera or classical) when I'm reading, but yesterday and today I can't help myself. While finishing up the Native American history section on my comps list, I reacquainted myself with a great song that was highly appropriate -- Chief. Patty Griffin is so, so good. I started listening to her years ago in New York, while working at the now non-existent Time Cafe, and I love rediscovering her every year or so and re-listening to all her music. This morning I found a song that I actually didn't already have -- I think it was only recently put on Itunes -- My Dear Old Friend. Beautiful, sad, haunting, for some reason it also goes well with the current crop of readings. Rather hard to listen to 80s pop while reading this stuff, but something appropriately melancholy, with a touch of the tough survivor, is perfect. She has a new album coming out in a few weeks, which I want right now. I love how narrative her music is, every song is a self-contained story, like Mother of God, or Long Ride Home, or Mary, or Making Pies, or Sweet Lorraine, or Florida, or Top of the World. OK, I'll stop. It doesn't hurt that 90% of her music is about the experience of being working-class or poor and female in the U.S. Basically, it's about "throwaway people" as S. would say, gay teenage boys or white trash girls or older people (lots and lots of songs about older people). Right -- back to the books.

What music do you listen to while reading?

13 January 2007

Props Away

Props to several people for big news yesterday -- for some reason it was the day of prop-worthy news:

1) Courtney! After a stressful months-long job search adventure, C. has procured her ideal job, working for an awesome organization serving refugees in Liberia, where such services are much needed. And she's leaving next week. Kind of puts other life changes or stress in perspective. Well done, Court, and way to parlay the somewhat unhelpful experience of the CIA...um, Peace Corps...into a job that both pays and allows you to do the kind of work that puts the rest of us to shame. Fact I learned about Liberia: it currently has the highest population growth in the world. C., just be safe -- we'll miss ya.

2) Elise -- for getting into the final group of potential hires on one of the hottest shows in Las Vegas. You will escape B.C. You will. And if anyone I know would actually flourish in the Vegas, it would be you. I would die like a Christmas tree in January, but I promise to make the effort and visit. Fingers are crossed!

3) Saru -- for procuring a teaching gig at another college in addition to teaching her own class at her university. While I know it does not really compensate you according to your value, it is still a terrific achievement for a grad student! Teaching your own class is always a good thing. I wish I could sit in and watch the radical feminist machine at work.

4) Sort of, me. I guess. I found out yesterday that my test prep corporate overlords named me one of the West Coast regional teachers of the year. Apparently this comes with a gift certificate for a Mountain Dew or something comparable. Well, it's better than that, but I know how much money they made off each and every class I taught, so I'm not really feeling the love unless I can afford to buy a plane ticket with it. I had a moment where I was wondering whether this was something I should even put on my c.v. and then I reminded myself that this is actually exactly the direction universities are heading. Maybe fifty years ago, or even twenty, they would have judged this kind of thing negatively, but now? I think they'll eat it up -- she knows how to sell a potentially boring subject to a bunch of corporate-consumer-minded students who see a degree as a more expensive version of a handbag/Xbox/car? Perfect! This doesn't really make me feel great. So, deeply ambivalent props.

Props to those of you reading this also, just because I think all four of you are very, very special.

12 January 2007

Newsy Bits

The snow is still here. It is still pretty. It is also damn cold. I love my wood pellet stove in a major way. The cat and I have power struggles for positions in front of it. I win.

I have developed an unhealthy fondness for audiobooks and podcasts about history that I listen to (and mentally correct when they are inaccurate -- or more precisely, when they are insufficiently complex in their explanations -- God, I'm such a grad student) while I do things like grade or read news or blog. While typing this I learned that the first Battle of Saratoga in the American Revolution took place on my birthday. Sweet! I'm not sure the obsessive multitasking is going to help me absorb every single thing I read for comps, but it reassures me a little. The more you know about a subject, the more you remember. Um, supposedly.

I am going East again! Saru and I put together a panel for a conference on Law and the Humanities at Georgetown at the end of March and it was accepted. It happens to coincide with spring break, so there will be some visitations. To my NY/DC/PA peeps -- you had no idea you'd be so lucky as to get C-Lo twice in the space of three months! Yeah, I promise I won't give you the plague this time. I think the first visit didn't really count anyway, given that I was voiceless and toasted on hot toddies and cold medicine.

The other two live-in members of the BCC are getting a cell phone. This is actually a present from Erin for Jake's birthday in February, so I'm trusting everyone not to mention it to him (Jessica, that's mostly for you, since you'll see him this weekend). Anyone who has ever waited for them to show up or tried to coordinate a meeting with them when they were on the road will be very excited about this.

Does your bread have human hair in it? The funniest thing about this article are the comments. Man, some vegans are psycho. And I say that as the worst. vegan. ever.

11 January 2007

Unproblematic Whiteness

Snow day! OK, they're not actually letting us out of school, but still. As Jake says, a student will have to die before D.F. delays classes like every other government entity in town. And it's not unproblematic, but when I start thinking about the people without heat I just get depressed. We've set up a blanket box for our neighborhood stray on our porch, but our oppressive indoor cat will never allow him inside. But still, it's so pretty! And it's supposed to be 19 degrees for the next few days, so we get the (brief) feeling of being back in Boston. This is especially nice because it was virtually balmy when I was on the East Coast in December and we've hit 60 many times in the last few months (what global warming?) so it's nice to get a little dose of "real" winter. Unless, you know, you don't have heat, which is not required by law here as it is in Boston. OK, I really am Debbie Downer. On a lighter snow note, I recommend listening to "This American Life" from last week about "The Super" -- particularly the second act which involves a carrot-nosed snowman who can bench press hundreds of pounds. It's worth it. And the third act says as much about the alienation inherent in capitalism as Marx. Good times.

10 January 2007


I have a very ambivalent relationship with my department at the moment. The GM slipped a change into our contract a few months ago (and the union rep and I only found out when the professor we're both working for this quarter mentioned it in a meeting two days ago) increasing the number of students we have to grade from 70 to 85. That in itself is annoying, but not enough to generate real anger. However, sneaking it in, and then justifying it by saying the following, is:

1) It was originally 100! (Classic post-facto negotiating non-negotiation)
2) We should feel lucky to even have funding! (Fuck you)

The real reason they did this was to maintain their enrollments so they could maintain their budget level, which they cannot do normally this year because they failed to admit enough incoming graduate students (not to mention particular kick-ass applicants, you know who you are). Yes, schadenfreude and all, but I wish they would just acknowledge that they are taking their bad decisions out on us rather than these lame justifications.

On the other hand, I found out what the salary is for the summer class I'm teaching in July, and I was shocked. But this time in the good way. It's more than three times what they pay us normally, which makes sense, given that you're running your own class. But I was totally expecting it to be the same as our current salary, and, if anything, I just had my fingers crossed that there would be a few hundred extra tacked on, or that it wouldn't be less than the standard salary. So while I'm thrilled I won't be working at the Nascar store at the mall this summer, I'm amazed at how a few years here has trained me to devalue the work we all do to the point where I'm grateful for any crumbs they throw our way. It's like the inverse of what law school/law firms train you to do, which is to overvalue your time to the degree that it seems, if not reasonable, at least expected that the firm will bill clients for your time at hundreds of dollars an hour and then pay you a portion of that. This is especially absurd when 80% of your time as a summer associate is spent at lunch. It's not that the university doesn't also charge the students a pile of money to take these classes, it's just that they don't actually do the "paying us a portion of it" part. Did I just say that a private company was better at caring for their employees (at least financially) than a public educational institution? Yuck.

I feel the urge for a strike. But I think I would have to be in a different career for that to happen, because students are just not important/productive enough to have much impact, UNAM aside. I have my grandpa's genetic need to lead wildcat strikes and get blackballed for being communist (though I thankfully don't have a predisposition to Stalinism). Instead, I think I'll just try to stay as far away as possible from the department this quarter while I read for comps and remind myself that I'm lucky to even have funding.

08 January 2007

First Day of School

Today was the first day of classes after winter break, and as I was going to and from a meeting on campus, I had the following interchange from my beloved Buffy run through my head:

Snyder: I mean, it's incredible. One day the campus is completely bare. Empty. The next, there are children everywhere. Like locusts. Crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating. Destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist.

Giles: I do enjoy these pep talks. Have you ever considered, given your abhorrence of children, school principal was not, perhaps, your true vocation?

Yes, I was in the locust camp with Snyder today. Don't get me wrong, when they're in my classes I usually get absurdly, sentimentally attached to them, and I do really love teaching and working with them individually. And yet sometimes, especially after campus has been serenely empty for a while, the sight of students en masse is just overwhelming. Like a swarm of hungry rats is overwhelming. Introvert moment over. I have the impression many of the faculty fall into the same camp.

Also, the new Kleenex commercial makes me cry. And I love the fact that I can get free books from publishers because I might be assigning them in the class I'm teaching this summer. Especially because legal history books are often $40 a pop or more! Ah, the sweet, sweet perks of academia. Sure, we get paid in sawdust and old coffee grounds, but, free books! OK, I think I've dorked out enough for today. Back to reading those lovely, lovely books. Mmmmm, typeface on paper.

07 January 2007

Where Would Jesus Crap?

Today's answer: on our lawn. This is a follow-up to a recent conversation regarding where Jesus would park. The answer to that was also, on our lawn. Our fundamentalist Christian neighbors have bible study at their house every single night of the week and have all their fundy friends park on our lawn for it. And now, they've taken to walking their dog right into the middle of our front yard for his daily business. We assume they hate us because they have never said a word to us, we decorate for Halloween, we have a sign on our door that says "Black Cat Commune," and there are three adults living together without any legal relationships to one another so this is obviously some sort of Satanic brothel of gay communist witches. But I still always thought, from my sketchy knowledge of the New Testament, that Jesus was not the kind of guy to park and crap all over other people's lawns. But then I don't have a close personal relationship with him like half the country apparently does. Whatever. It could be worse, we could have E. & R.'s neighbors.

05 January 2007

I Don't Have A Phone

Lots of fun at the BCC last night! Good food, good wine (yay Jeff!), followed by 80s dancing the night away. We also played a rousing game of "Would You Rather..." and one question in particular had an interesting gender breakdown. In response to "Would you rather be with someone vain or someone with a very poor self-image?" all the ladies picked the vain partner immediately while all the guys were apparently looking for a lady with low self-esteem. When Jake was mercilessly grilled on it later it turned out he had a different conception of vanity than we did (he viewed it as being mean/judgmental toward others, not just a superficial image preoccupation), so maybe it was a coincidence. As E. and I both noted, much easier -- and more entertaining -- to knock a vain person down a few pegs with some well-placed teasing than to constantly be reassuring someone with a crappy self-image. I just don't get it. Would anyone really rather be with someone with no self-esteem?

E. has excellently listed most of the highlights of the 80s dance night here. I am adding "I don't have a phone" to my list of good responses to pickups. It's short and to the point, without being too mean. It goes on the list next to "Are you that kid from Malcolm in the Middle?" (saved for complete tools) and "What's your opinion on gay marriage?, which was frankly just a helpful sorting tool in Boston. I have yet to use the Romy and Michelle best-pickup-line-response ever: "Excuse me. I cut my foot earlier and my shoe is filling up with blood." Sadly, if you know me and footwear, that's true 80% of the time, so there's no good reason I haven't used it yet. Someday. It also requires limping away from the scene of the attempted pickup with a straight face, which is the bigger challenge.

04 January 2007

Three Things I Love Today

1. This pasta. Cooked in a whole bottle of wine until it turns a gorgeous red (I don't know, that just seems insanely decadent to me, and it was), with some sauteed garlic and broccoli rabe. It is the yum. And despite the cooking guy's assurances that the heat cooks all the alcohol out, Erin and I still felt like we had just taken shots after dinner -- there's something different about a buzz from food as opposed to a beverage buzz. Save time -- have your wine and meal in one dish!

2. Podcasts. Yes, I'm late to the game, but I just discovered the wonders of having my BBC news podcast on my Ipod when I'm out for a walk. Not to mention the podcasts of Cass Sunstein speaking at Princeton, or This American Life, or tasty bits from the Economist. Yes, I'm also a huge dork.

3. Coffee without sugar. OK, I know I constantly am quitting coffee (helped along by the fact that the other BCC members don't drink it and therefore judge it -- R., S., E., all other honorary BCC members/coffee drinkers, I need you!), but this time I decided to start again when I wasn't even really craving it. It's all based on my brother's recent information that coffee prevents Alzheimer's. Some of you know I am obsessed with not getting Alzheimer's (and if you don't want a similar obsession, never ever ever watch the movie Iris), and given all the other good things coffee does, I can't really fight it anymore. Plus I've just discovered that coffee doesn't need sugar -- which kind of negates all the health benefits -- to taste good IF it's actually good coffee to begin with and not total crap. This is a revelation to me. My new obsession: finding really good coffee.

03 January 2007

No Need to Knead!

I'm sorry. I usually don't embrace puns, but I am feeling silly today. It may be the luxury of all of us having days off with nothing to do but read, watch cooking shows (today: paella! somehow I find it fascinating even though it's entirely made of stuff I don't eat), play board games, do crafts, and eat. The last few days at the BCC have seen a bounty of homemade goodness: yesterday's lunch alone was moroccan chickpea soup with oregano-crusted pita and this afternoon was an unbelievably good homemade minestrone with homemade rosemary-cornmeal bread. Tonight I make pasta cooked in a whole bottle of wine. I view it as a personal challenge. Yeah, we obviously don't do that new year's resolution crap around here.

In the spirit of the bread we just enjoyed I give you my new favorite recipe -- it makes fresh bread that is the match of those $5 breads at fancy markets out there (you know what I'm talking about) and that costs approximately ten cents to make. It takes a grand total of five minutes of your time as well (no exaggeration) and three whole ingredients. You just have to start it the day before -- we've started to just constantly have a bowl of dough rising because Erin's brother materializes to help us eat it every time we pull a new one out of the oven. The reason it turns out like the fancy bread is 1) the extended rise time, which takes the place of kneading, and 2) the preheated pot that gives it an awesome crustiness. You can mix it up and add herbs, different flours, garlic, cheese, whatever floats your cork. I know out of the five people reading this, maybe one of you will ever make it, so, Saru, I'm really typing it up for you. To the rest of you -- enjoy the wolf moon tonight! Go on a midnight full moon hike! Howl!

No-Knead Bread

3 cups flour (ideally bread, but regular has worked fine for us, wheat, etc. will also work)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended -- dough will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12-18 hours (preferably 18, we've left it even longer).

2. Dough will be dotted with bubbles. Place on a lightly floured work surface and fold it over itself once or twice (that's it!). Cover loosely and let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Shape it into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with flour (or wheat bran, or cornmeal) and put dough seam side down on towel. Dust top with flour, cover and let rise 2 more hours, until double in size.

4. Half an hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot in the oven as it heats (we've use a Pyrex bowl with a cookie sheet as a cover to good effect, until we someday purchase a covered pot). When dough is ready, turn it over into the heated pot, shake it out, cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15-30 minutes more (15 is closer to right). Yum!

02 January 2007

Shut Up and Read

E., M., and I went to the Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up and Sing" yesterday, and we all left with huge girlcrushes on Natalie Maines, who is awesomely loudmouthed and opinionated in addition to having an amazing voice. Great movie. I also enjoyed a morning viewing of "Little Miss Sunshine" yesterday to kick the new year off right. It is still as excellent as it was when I saw it this summer. Possibly more so. For some reason I got all teary at it multiple times this viewing. I also got teary at the Dixie Chicks movie though, despite being fairly certain the death threats would not in fact be acted upon. So apparently I'm starting the new year off as a sentimental fool. Admittedly, that's not a big change for me. Now I should probably focus on reading instead of watching a lot of movies, though I have greatly enjoyed taking a few days off since I got back from my trip.

We also watched "Thank You For Smoking" this weekend, which was not as good as the other movies. Eh -- I'm sure it's interesting if you don't usually have to deal with the cynicism inherent in the structure of arguments, but I dealt with enough assclowns like that in law school to last me a lifetime. So I just felt like it was two hours of my life wasted watching a story entirely populated by morally bankrupt jackasses. Not recommended.

Scene after dinner at my brother's house last night: my five-year-old nephew Jack, who was avoiding bedtime, sitting on my brother's lap, sticks his little feet next to L.'s face and says "Smell my feet!" L: "I don't think so." Jack: "No! They smell like flowers! They smell like really good flowers!" So a five-year-old made the basic point of "Thank You For Smoking" in a fraction of the time and with substantially more adorability.

To the books!