Sep 30, 2008
My friend Bronwyn gives the greatest compliments. Sometimes she says something nice to you about you, and other times she tells you something nice about someone else.
I love how she notices things (both little and large) that other people don't, acknowledges them out loud, and provides the details that both edify and make you realize that she really knows what she's talking about. Her compliments are worth something extra, because I know that her opinions are well-founded. (The same applies to her criticisms.) And also because there's a decent chance that I wasn't aware of the thing she's complimenting until she's pointed it out. (Add to the fun, she rarely gushes. Her deliveries are almost always matter-of-fact.)
When I catch myself giving an especially good compliment, I often think she inspired both my willingness and ability to do so.
So anyway, back to this blog. My request/offer to you: tell me something good about someone -- either for something they did recently, or something about their nature. Feel free to be superficial or substantial. Feel free to name names, but don't feel obligated. Multiple entries permitted. Likelihood of winning is based on the number of entries you submit. The more you submit, the more you win.
Sep 27, 2008
"I know Henry Kissinger. Dr. Henry Kissinger has been my friend for thirty-five years."
Perhaps you caught the debate tonight? I got a chuckle when they were disagreeing on Henry Kissinger's stated or likely opinion on engagement with Iran. When McCain said, "I wish Dr. Kissinger could listen to this conversation," I expected Obama to reply, "He probably is listening to this conversation."
When McCain repeated, "Henry Kissinger and I have been friends for 35 years," I wished Obama could have done like Woody Allen did shortly after 1:55 in this clip from Annie Hall:
One thing about this clip that surprises me on re-viewing. The Columbia guy says less about McLuhan than I remembered. And McLuhan is less comprehensible than I remembered. Have you read any of his work? I tried once (in ~1991) and understood nil. For me, the medium had no message.
Sep 25, 2008
Dear Mr. Obama / Dear Sen. McCain
Late last month, a video titled "Dear Mr. Obama" was released by Iraq veteran Joe Cook.* See below for his video (which has now been viewed ~9.5 million times) and further below for the new "Dear Sen. McCain" video, released today by Iraq veteran and Durham resident Jon Kuniholm (256 views so far). Note the parallel "walkaways" at the end of each video.
From what few stats I've seen, military voters are split different ways between McCain and Obama. In an August poll, the majority of current military and veterans were clearly in support of McCain. But if you split by age, younger military voters are pulling for Obama. I recently saw an article about the US Naval Academy, and unless my memory is way off, the pull quote showed midshipmen preferring Obama to McCain by a wide margin. If I recall, it was an informal poll from earlier this year, before the Democratic primary was complete. None of them were pulling for Clinton.**
*Cook is uncredited in the YouTube notes, but his name is mentioned in coverage elsewhere.
**in an October 1992 poll of my executive MBA class, the ~60 of us voted for Clinton, Bush I, and Perot in almost exactly the same fraction as the US electorate voted a few weeks later. As my Republican friend and classmate said at the time, "It's hopeless. If we can't win here, we've got no chance."
Do you remember Divaville on WXDU? Of course you do. And of course you know it's now hosted at KMHD in Portland, Oregon, ever since Christa broke three thousand east coast hearts with her three-thousand mile move to the Pacific Northwest.
Above from last night, a shot of Tony Starlight hosting Christa on the stage of his Supper Club and Lounge, during their second Divaville Listener's Party. I can't recall whether he was serenading or speaking to her in that particular moment. With Tony it could be either.
I'm enjoying a short visit in Portland with all its nice people, rich culture, and fantastic scenery. Last night at Tony's it was fun to see several dozen of Christa's local Divaville fans treat her like the celebrity that she is. Despite the cool weather up here, people find ways to be warm. I shared a table with two of Christa's friends and two new acquaintances who had each come solo to the evening, open to making new friends.
Photo taken with Christa's little Canon, I think. A fantastic little camera with a "twilight photo" setting, which I used for this shot.
Sep 23, 2008
Here's some YouTube video of what I saw today in Portland -- Vaux's Swifts checking into the Chapman Elementary School hotel:
The actual evening show is around an hour long. Tonight, a peregrine falcon gave us an interesting ten minute exhibition on how hard it is to catch a swift, especially when they occasionally turn the battle around and chase after the predator. The woman next to me with binoculars saw it finally catch dinner before flying off.
There is various lore about the Vaux's Swifts at Chapman Elementary School. The story I liked best was how the school used to freeze its kids for several weeks each autumn, as they wouldn't crank up their heating system until the birds had moved on. For more pedestrian yet still interesting details, fly yourself to the Audobon Society of Portland.
I'm here for a short week to visit my friends JudyBat and AnnRay, with their kids The Boy and The Girl. It's so lovely to see them. JudyBat surprised me with tonight's outing. Her only clue was that "we are going to a uniquely Portland event", which of course it was.
It was fun to see several hundred friendly Portland people gathered on the hill with snacks and meals and binoculars. Were I the ambitious travel journalist, I would have interviewed folks about what they brought to eat and drink, and would have asked them to share their favorite Tom Swifty jokes. But I am not so ambitious, so I settled for enjoying the show and the company of friends and nearby hillmates.
The swift migration through Portland lasts for several weeks each year, and I love the idea that so many people are out at the Chapman School every evening, kicking around a soccer ball, sliding down the hill on cardboard boxes, or just hanging out with friends and food, all for the occasion of hanging out with nature. No tickets. No scheduled show. No PA system, nor even any electricity. Just birds at sundown doing their thing.
Sep 18, 2008
Stupidity and Laziness vs. Ego and Greed
A modest debate: can more corporate problems be credited to stupidity and laziness, or ego and greed?
I vote for stupidity and laziness. Some of my debate partners in San Francisco vote for ego and greed.
Given the differences in our respective markets, we may both be right. San Francisco sits at the far end of the corporate behavior curve. It's one of the first places you'd want to be if (you think) you've got the brains, imagination, and drive to make it big and quickly. As for the Triangle (and many other "mid-cap" or "low-cap" markets), we don't have nearly the concentration of the corporate ambitious.
I'm sort of OK with that, especially since I have the freedom to spend time in either place.
But back to the debate, if you were to frame it nationally rather than by locale. Stupidity and laziness vs. ego and greed: who "wins"?
(By the way, I want to claim Scott Adams for my side, given his explaining theory for nearly everything: "people are idiots''.)
Sep 17, 2008
"Does 'ten' sound about right?"
...is Dave's answer to, "How many cookies are in a serving?"
Mmmm... Ginger snaps.
Some of my Denver pals made a fine batch while I was visiting, so I snagged a copy of their recipe:
Missing, though, is one magic ingredient: "the help of a sweet little boy". I assure you it makes a big difference.
In Dave's San Francisco kitchen, I could find neither the sweet little boy nor the molasses, nor a full bin of sugar when I was making the dough, nor the attention to notice about salt. Thus the light and dark cookies were made with a few substitutes:
Light cookies: 3/4 to 1 replacement of brown sugar for molasses, no salt
Dark cookies: 1 to 1 replacement of honey for molasses, 1/2 and 1/2 white sugar and turbinado instead of all white, no salt.
And a couple more minutes cooking time on both.
In case you're wondering, both recipes turned out yummy. (I mean, they're cookies, for goodness' sake.)
Nota bene: I know that no one reading this blog needed all the detailed cooking notes, but it was a nice excuse to (a) talk about sweet little boys and (b) show how some people are pigs. Thank you for your patronage.
Sep 16, 2008
Help the Indy, Win $600. Survey.
Posted for my pals at the Independent Weekly:
Folks, Earn a chance to WIN $600 and other prizes
while helping the Independent Weekly serve the community.
Fill out our survey to enter the drawing for the
INDY ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE
To enter, go to http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/
Scroll down the home page and click on the red and blue survey logo.
Sep 13, 2008
A Barack Obama Comedy Fundraiser, Sunday Sep 21, Carrboro
From Graig Meyer:
Carrots in Coconut Milk with Turmeric
Some twenty years ago, my Auntie Tini made an appealing salad that included carrots and turmeric. It was served cold and had a bit of acid zing to it but I remember almost nothing else.* From that inexact inspiration comes this completely different recipe for carrots in coconut milk with turmeric. I've made it twice now and hope you might try:
Carrots in Coconut Milk with Turmeric
Ingredients (more or less)
2 lbs. carrots
2/3 lb. green zucchini (yes, I know it's yellow squash in the photo)
1 lb. firm tomatoes (like romas) or else cherry or grape tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1-1/2 tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. ground cardamom
Preparation and cooking
Cut carrots and zucchini into sticks, and cut tomatoes into manageable chunks, erring on the larger side.
Place all ingredients except the zucchini and tomatoes into a pot and bring to a simmer, and let carrots cook for a few minutes.
Add zucchini and let simmer for a few minutes more, until the zucchini begins to soften.
Add tomatoes and let simmer until warmed through.
Serve with rice (or naan or a similar moist eastern bread).
Note: the hope is that when you're done, the zucchini is cooked through, the carrots are firm (neither soft nor crunchy), and the tomatoes have not fallen apart. The first time I made this, I used the full complement of ingredients listed. The second time, I didn't use any of the optionals. I suggest you try the simpler recipe first, then taste.
*When my Indonesian-restaurant-owning Auntie Tini (not related by blood, but the wife of my godfather Nurdjaman) made this for my family back in ~'88, I really liked it and asked what was in it. But I didn't understand half of what she said, nor did I remember half of what I understood. All that stuck with me was that turmeric plus carrots = good, an idea that sat for twenty years before I got around to doing anything with it.
Repeated story: I meet something yummy in a restaurant (or in someone's home, or in a magazine), I don't know (or have access to) half the ingredients, so when I get home I make something inspired by the original but fairly much different. Tell me this hasn't happened to you.
Sep 12, 2008
William Zinsser on Writing -- "It's One of the Hardest Things That People Do"
I'm interrupting an afternoon of tortured writing work to quote the great William Zinsser, whose book "On Writing Well" is now in its 9th or so edition:
Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this as a consolation in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do.
This quote was in the introduction to some of this book's early editions, but it disappeared by somewhere around the 5th. Too bad, but at least I can share it with you here.
For the Archer Pelican I don't rewrite nearly as much as I might like to -- and of course that's OK. But sometimes I write for work and on those days I often dream that I were the kind of person who writes drafts quickly and without anguish, thereby leaving time to do the necessary (and very fulfilling) rewrites before the due date.
If wishes were hours, I'd have many of them. Back to work...
Bronwyn Merritt -- Linocuts and Land at Community Realty in Carrboro
Round Table, linocut, 1998.
The multitalented Bronwyn Merritt is showing new and old art at her Carrboro Realty office (corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets), beginning with tonight's Artwalk from 6 to 9.
And see Bronwyn for all things real estate at her extraordinary firm:
"Carrboro Realty is dedicated to the support of local non-profit agencies. That means when we buy or sell your home we donate 100% of the profits to local charitable organizations such as EmPOWERment, a non-profit that empowers people to control their own destinies through affordable housing, advocacy, community organizing and grassroots economic development." (from the website).
Sep 11, 2008
Alice Apple Pie
Back in college I used to make a lot of apple pies. I forgot about them for about twenty years but now they're back. Two weeks ago I kicked off the re-start with a pie for my young friend Alice, for whom I put a nicely cut "A" on the crust.
Having been out of the baking world for a while, I had to look up some basic recipes online for both crust and filling. I got two good ones from allrecipes.com, and then tweaked to my tastes. Here's what I've been cooking with reasonably consistent success:
Alice Apple Pies (recipe for two):
Apple Filling Ingredients
3.5 to 4 lbs. Granny Smith apples
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. nutmeg
Pie Crust Ingredients
4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbs. sugar
12 tbs. butter
10 tbs. vegetable shortening
2 tsp. salt
12-16 tbs. ice water
In one big bowl, blend all ingredients except the water with a pastry knife. Add water bit by bit, stirring until you've got everything nicely mixed. Finally blend all together by hand into a ball of even consistency. Remove ball from big bowl and place in refrigerator to chill.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Peel, core, and slice apples. Blend with remaining filling ingredients in the big bowl (you know, the one that you just did the pie crust dough in).
Remove dough from refrigerator, cut into quarters, roll two bottom crusts, fill pies, and roll top crusts, reserving a little bit of dough for decorations. Pinch edges appropriately. Use the reserved dough to make a nice initial for the person you love most at that moment, or maybe some hearts or whatever. Wet with a bit of the filling juice (still in the bottom of the big bowl, of course) before laying onto the top crust. Punch many fork holes in an attractive pattern. Ring the edge of your pie crust with a bit of tin foil.
Place on center rack (or on a tray on the center rack -- I'm told that different trays yield different results for the bottom crust, but I don't know what they are) and bake for ~50-55 minutes, removing the tin foil edging ten minutes before it's done.
If you like, throw on a quick glaze with five minutes to go: a 50/50 wash of corn syrup and hot water, dusted with coarse sugar.
Serve with a bit of cheddar or Wensleydale and a bit of whiskey if you'd like to be from Yorkshire. Else tea. I think that ice cream with pie is overkill.
Confession: tonight's pie was a bit more moist than I had expected. I realized while typing this recipe that I had forgotten to poke holes in the crust. D'oh!
Sep 09, 2008
West Coast Bull
To commemorate my dinner with Bull City peeps who are coincidentally traveling in San Francisco, here is some West Coast Bull that I saw a few days ago. Just north of Death Valley, on the turnoff from Highway 95 to Highway 266 you see this:
They are not kidding. Because twenty miles later, after seeing nobody else on the road, you'll pass a few dozen of these:
Sep 08, 2008
Meat as Footprint -- Transport, Production, and Sales
NO MEAT TODAY.
According to a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, foregoing red meat and dairy just one day a week achieves more greenhouse gas reductions than eating an entire week’s worth of locally sourced foods. That’s because the carbon footprint of food miles is dwarfed by that of food production. In fact, 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food consumption comes from production; transportation represents only 11 percent; wholesaling and retailing account for 5 percent. Source: Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42(10):3508–3513.
-from Conservation Magazine, which has a fantastic graph in The Problem of What to Eat -- Organic farming and eating locally make intuitive sense. But does conventional wisdom about eating sustainably hold up to the science? I was surprised to see that grains, fruit, and vegetables have a modestly higher carbon impact than fish, eggs, and poultry.
I know there are many ways to debate what people choose to eat and why, but the one consistent thing is that people need good data if they want to make philosophically meaningful decisions. Hooray for data!
Sep 06, 2008
I'm not a huge fan of our weird way of electing presidents by delegate counts. But that's the way it is, and with McCain and Obama essentially tied in the popular vote these days, I'm kind of relieved. Why? Because Obama still leads in the electoral predictions. (Still, I appreciate/worry-over Barry R's recent comment, "The election remains Obama's to lose. If he keeps running his campaign out of the Dukakis playbook, he may just do that.")
So where to get the intel and the coverage? Various places, including the New York Times, RealClearPolitics.com and Pollster.com.
Here's some electoral poll commentary from today's SFGate.com, "McCain, Obama in dead heat, poll says" (oddly titled, seeing how they spend significant time on the electoral college non-dead-heat):
Electoral College is key
RealClearPolitics.com, for example, has state polls giving Obama 238 electoral votes and McCain 174, with 10 states with 126 electoral votes listed as tossups. Pollster.com, which also aggregates state polls, gives Obama 260 electoral votes, just 10 short of the 270 he needs to become president.
"It's difficult to say the race is really tied," said Schnur. "If McCain and his advisers thought he was in the driver's seat, they wouldn't have made the type of gamble selecting Sarah Palin (as the vice presidential nominee) represented."
While there are still a few national events ahead - most importantly three presidential debates - both campaigns will concentrate their efforts on a handful of states that can flip the Electoral College numbers on election day.
"Now McCain and Obama are going to spend the final two months fighting for a relatively small number of white, working-class voters," Schnur said. "Most of the action is going to be in states where you can see a Big-10 football game, places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota."
--- p.s. look at the maps and oh no, maybe Florida as the decider again.