Friday, July 28, 2006

Sounds good to me

I like JP's keyboard idea.

Food post for a muggy day

My kid, he's not one of those picky eaters. Sure, Ben likes chips, sweets, fast-food burgers and fries, and that sort of junk food, but he's willing to venture beyond. We were shopping at Trader Joe's this afternoon, where he loves to visit the sample counter. Today's offering was grilled ciabatta topped with brie, prosciutto, baby arugula, and thinly sliced cantaloupe. He liked the sample so much, he wanted another—but other customers were snapping them up as fast as the guy could make them. He really, really wanted to have more, so he selected a wedge of brie from the refrigerated case and then, when prompted, a package of prosciutto. I picked out a cantaloupe (though watermelon is the only kind of melon I like), and figured multigrain bread and baby spinach would suffice for the other bits. Had to grill up an open-faced brie, prosciutto, spinach, and melon sandwich as soon as we got home. "Mom, you have to cut off the crust," nagged the picky kid within Ben. (He plucked the crust off the bread himself.)

I hope Mr. Tangerine likes this recipe, too (he shares my distaste for cantaloupe), because I sure won't eat it. Prosciutto = red meat + salt (no can do). Brie = salt and mildly assy taste (thanks to my friend Kristin for the handy cheese adjective "assy"—she calls it that even though she likes the assy cheeses, but I do not care for assy flavors and aromas). Bread and spinach, well, I can put them to better uses than to layer them with those other ingredients.

Speaking of salt, I've had to watch my sodium intake of late. Do you know how much salt is in nearly everything sold in packages in the grocery store? Not just chips, cheese, lunchmeat, mac and cheese, bacon, and the like, either. Cold cereal! Eight bowls of Cheerios with milk gives you all the salt you should have for the entire day (of course, the average American probably eats two or three times as much salt as doctors recommend). So if you're hardcore about watching salt intake and you're not inclined to eat, say, well-marbled steaks cooked in unsalted butter, you end up with lots of produce (fruit, salad with little or no dressing), chicken or fish with salt-free seasonings (if you feel like cooking, because anything you buy prepared at the store or a restaurant is probably salted), unsalted nuts (yum), a little health-food-brand granola, and not a ton else. It's definitely a challenge to adhere to a very-reduced-salt diet.

But! There is a "but." It's a great way to lose weight. I didn't aim to give up fat (unsalted nuts, low-salt peanut butter, ice cream, and peanut M&Ms are rich in fat but low in sodium). I didn't give up carbs (fruit, bread, sugar wafer cookies, yum!). You could drive yourself to the brink of insanity reading nutrition labels in the effort to avoid sodium, but I've found myself about 5 pounds lighter in two weeks of watching my salt but not starving myself in the slightest.

Maybe I should write a diet book: Orange's Desalinization Plan: Guaranteed Weight Loss. Ah, forget it. People are too hooked on salty food to follow my plan.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh, spare me!

You know those companies that bowdlerize DVDs, stripping out all the non-G-rated language and sex to make movies more palatable to those viewers whose constitutions are so delicate that they can't confront such things? (And nor can they just live without the movies—hypocrites!) Wasn't there just a court ruling that those "editing" companies are illegally violating the filmmakers' copyright?

I bring this up because we got a phone call at home this evening. Caller ID said "toll-free call," which is rarely anyone I need to speak to. But I wasn't busy at the moment, so I picked up the call. "Cammy from the Dove Foundation" was calling for Mr. Tangerine, whose first name is sort of gender-neutral. I tried to screen her out, but she persisted: "Are they home?" (Have you ever heard someone asking for an individual as "they"? It's new to me.) I said, "They? Who is this 'they' you're looking for?" "Well, may I speak to the lady of the house?" Okay, she had me dead to rights. I'm not technically all that ladylike, I suppose, but I am wearing a skirt.

So Cammy launches into her spiel, trying to drum up fellow travelers for the cause. The Dove Foundation is all about cleaning up that filth that Hollywood puts out so that there's more "family-friendly" entertainment. (Hell, aren't there enough books to pass the time between G-rated movies? Did I miss the part in the Constitution guaranteeing everyone the right to movies and TV that are sanitized for their protection?) Anyway, I couldn't help but laugh as I informed Cammy that she really had the wrong issue for me and no, I wasn't fixated on cleaning up entertainment.

Undeterred, Cammy continued with her blah-blah-blah, so I interrupted (she didn't pause) and hung up. Turns out Mr. Tangerine (the famous "they") had picked up another extension and heard the whole conversation. He thought Cammy must've been a recording because she completely talked over his interjections of "Buenas noches!" (That's his standard line to use when Spanish-speaking survey people call here, as they are wont to do.)

If you're like me—a snarky liberal with a potty-mouth—check out the Dove site and mock it yourself. They deserve your abuse because they have neglected to review Wordplay. Come on, Dove! Tell us if the crossword documentary is family-friendly or not.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Where did the hobbits go?

You know how real estate developers tend to name new subdivisions after the nature that was wiped out in order to build on the site? The Oaks, with new saplings only; Fox Hollow, with no more foxes; Deer Crossing without deer. Well, now there's a subdivision called The Shire, and I can't help but wonder where the hobbits and elves are buried.

Oh, wait. We know where they're buried—in the adjacent landfill, an EPA Superfund site. You'll note the developer's site mentions only the wooded environs, and not the landfill. But it would fit right in! "Kids, don't ride your bikes past Lorien Court. Don't go to Mount Doom—I don't care if your friends are going there, I don't care if the fate of the earth depends on it, just don't go near Mount Doom." The neighborhood kids will be split into two school districts, so they won't all ride the schoolbus in the same direction. I just don't see how that's going to bind the residents of Middle Earth toward a common purpose—but I don't know which school district is the orc one.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

News bits

I just read in the NYT that the death toll among the U.S. military serving in Iraq was outstripped by the number of Iraqi civilians killed—in a single month. The civilian casualty count in June was 3,149, up sharply from the casualty count in January (1,778). Terry Gross talked to NYT journalist Dexter Filkins on her public radio show, "Fresh Air," yesterday—he talked about the reasons the Shiite Iraqis, who have more power there than other sects do (the Sunnis were in charge under Saddam Hussein), are fighting the American occupation that keeps them in power. It's all convoluted, and sadly, thousands of civilians are paying a heavy price.

Israel vs. Hezbollah? Man, I don't want to get into that. More bloody war, more bombs.

Also from the NYT, in an article about sexy tableaux enlivening new condo ads in New York, a real estate developer named Highlyann Krasnow was quoted. Hey, that's a line from Wordplay! (Will Shortz greets NPR Sunday-morning host Liane Hansen with "Hi, Liane.") Hi, Leigh Anne! Li, Lee Anne! Hi, Leann Rimes! Just call me Highlyamused.

Moving to the food section, Austrian white wines, hooray! I like a good grüner veltliner or riesling. As Terry Theise (avid booster of those sweet Austrian wines) says, “A dash of salt in your soup isn’t to make it taste salty; it is to awaken flavor, to make it taste more like itself. A similar dash of sweetness in a wine both enhances flavor, extends fruit, provides another voice to the dialogue of nuances, reduces alcohol and in many cases makes for a more elegant finish.” Yes, indeed! (Of course, Theise also says, "These wines don’t so much meet you halfway as show you a third place that’s neither You nor Them, but somewhere you meet in truth only by dissolving your respective walls." Uh, yeah.)

I'm currently reading Michael Specter's fantastic New Yorker article on the Gates Foundation and the fight against malaria. It was published in the October 24, 2005, issue (hey, it's all I can do to stay current on Entertainment Weekly's fluff)—and looky here, you can read the article yourself at the writer's website. Distressingly, the world's failure of imagination and failure to care enough about African lives has allowed malaria to kill about 1 million children a year, and malaria affects a half billion people in all. Fortunately, the interventions that will prevent malaria infections—which are particularly deadly in young children, who haven't yet developed an immunity to the Plasmodium falciparum parasite—are relatively inexpensive, and the Gates Foundation can buy and deliver an awful lot of $4 mosquito nets. Say what you will about how Bill Gates earned his wealth and how Microsoft has used robber baron tactics—the Gates Foundation is putting more money toward fighting malaria and other tropical diseases than any country, and they're able take action without first having to build a political consensus to do so. It's a hell of a philanthropic venture, and it's great that Warren Buffett is adding some of his spare billions to the cause, too.

Maybe you don't all share my interest in infectious-disease epidemiology topics, but I encourage you to read Specter's article. You think Darfur hasn't gotten enough attention in the media? Well, malaria's much deadlier, year after year after year, and we don't hear a whole lot about it here. (And this time, you're lucky—you can read about a dire set of circumstances that compel action, and then sit back and do nothing because the Gates Foundation is corraling its resources to wipe out malaria.)

Ooh, lucky girl!

News item: Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock to wed July 29.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quick link

Dooce conveys the importance of spelling.

True story

A few days ago at the grocery store, I saw a bin of baby cucumbers. They're so wee! Six inches long, tops, and about an inch wide. Knowing how much Ben likes cucumbers, I asked him, "Hey, do you want a baby cucumber?"

"No. I want a man-sized one," he chirped.

Can you top that vegetable story?

Monday, July 17, 2006

A lingering question

I just reread Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine article from May 7, "Contra-Contraception." (It reviews the current anti-contraception movement afoot in anti-abortion circles.)

Shorto quotes Kimberly Zenarolla, the director of strategic development for the National Pro-Life Action Center, who converted to Catholicism a couple years ago:

"I tell people I became Catholic because of the church's teaching on contraception. We are opposed to sex before marriage and contraception within marriage. We believe that the sexual act is meant to be a complete giving of self. Of course its purpose is procreation, but the church also affirms the unitive aspect: it brings a couple together. By using contraception, they are not allowing the fullness of their expression of love. To frustrate the procreative potential ends up harming the relationship."

Catholic doctrine is opposed to birth control and opposed to sterilization. In my particular case, I'm married and of childbearing age, but a pregnancy would wreak havoc on my health (and any fetus would face high odds against being born healthy). My question is this: If I were Catholic, what would the Church want me to do? Here's a multiple choice quiz the Pope can use to advise me:

A. Go ahead and use that birth control, sister—your life and well-being are worth preserving.
B. I can't get on board with birth control, but you/your husband should undergo tubal ligation/vasectomy. I'm not crazy about sterilization, but this is a tough spot to be in.
C. Don't use birth control, but don't risk pregnancy either—enjoy a celibate marriage! If celibacy is good enough for My Eminence, it should be good enough for you.
D. Don't use birth control, but carry on with the conjugal relations. If God wants you to get pregnant, then it'll also be God's will that you should suffer the ill health effects. But hey, you never know—miracles can happen. You could always find yourself suddenly cured of your ailment. Or you could die—and get to heaven ahead of schedule! It's win-win, baby.
E. Other (please describe).

Seriously, I don't know if the official Church doctrine would be option D. Would it?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tough act to follow

That last post elicited some lively comments, with numerous revelations about individual anatomical variants (in sum: full buttcheeks, a possibly protuberant clitoris, and flat, wide boobs), and a general consensus that underwear manufacturers are on crack because nobody's crotch lines up with the cotton crotch panel. (The appear to be laboring under the misconception that the cotton panel's job is to catch butt drippings rather than standard vaginal discharge. Who will alert them to the error of their ways? And does anyone own cute underwear that actually has the liner in the right place? Pony up some brand names if you've got 'em, girls.)

Tragically, the idea I had this evening for a follow-up post was to pool you about whether you own an iron and whether you actually use it. (I own one—the only person who ever uses it is a friend who's an occasional houseguest. Things that need to be ironed will either be sent to the cleaners to extricated from the dryer before too many wrinkles have set in.)

I suppose I could be ein bißchen (a little bit) brain-fried because I spent a few hours editing an arcane medical review article. You'd think a topic like stem cells would be straightforward and interesting, but it turns out there's a lot of crazy, nigh-incomprehensible technical detail involved. The highlights so far come from the list of references: (1) There is a an author of a medical journal article named E. Lagasse (Bam!). (2) The German word for "head" is Kopf, and Dickkopf is a medical term (full disclosure: in German, that means "thick or big head," or "stubborn"). (3) Somewhere, there is a medical researcher named Dr. Clopper (somehow the old Saturday morning TV theme song about Dr. Shrinker is lodged in my head because of this).

It's gonna be hot hot hot in Chicago for the next week. The Gay Games are in town, and I feel for the poor saps who will be doing the triathlon Sunday morning. (More fortunate are the ice skaters and other indoor athletes.) If you happen to live in the Chicago area and you're looking for a non-sports air-conditioned activity to occupy one evening this week (or a Sunday afternoon), consider the energetic and entertaining AMEBA Acrobatic and Aerial Dance show. It's a great show for kids and adults alike, and the dances include trapezes, bungee cords, elegance, agility, and humor. Seriously—it's a completely unpretentious modern dance show that makes the audience laugh at times.

In sum: Underwear, I don't iron, I haven't forgotten all the German I once learned, weather, sports, culture. Also? This post should get nominated for a Blogpocalypse Award for Crappiest Post.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More cottony goodness than ever!

See the fine print from my underwear? It reads "Crotch liner, 150% cotton."

Speaking of cotton panels that go above and beyond the call of duty, what about those cotton panels that fall short? Ladies, tell me if you're always mystified that the cotton panel stops an inch shy of where it ought to be. If you haven't observed this, then it would appear that my sister and I are anatomical mutants whose crotches are positioned too far forward and should be moved to the aft. Which one's in the wrong place—the underwear's crotch or mine?

(Pardon the over-sharing—but you know you love it.)

Technical help

Hey, you know how sometimes a long Typepad or LiveJournal post will have a "cut" or jump-cut thingamabob, so the blog page displays a short post and the reader has to click a "continue reading" link to see the complete post? Do any of you know how to code a Blogger/blogspot post to do that trick?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Recent observations

If you were a man with gynecomastia (say, a C cup) and smooth, almost hairless limbs, I'm not so sure that a long ponytail would be your best option for a hairstyle. Were it not for the five-o'clock shadow on the ponytailed man at the airport today, I would have been convinced I was looking at a woman.

Parts of Minneapolis have a heavy concentration of hippies. Not to mention large numbers of white people, particularly those of the blond-haired persuasion. I felt like I had time-traveled to 1973 in some sort of crazy Aryan sci-fi hippie world.

When your child exuberantly cheers, "Yay! I get to spend the weekend with Daddy!" before you leave for a few days, it doesn't mean he won't start missing you the following day.

Having a kid who's not afraid of needles is a good thing. Ben's cellulitis resolved rapidly with a single antibiotic shot last Friday. Why take oral antibiotics for 10 days when a single shot can be so effective? And why doesn't the pediatrician lay out the options up front? She was just going to prescribe a course of oral antibiotics until I asked about a shot. My brave high-pain-tolerance boy opted to watch the needle go in—can you imagine??

Why is there a Fox News Channel store at the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport? Seriously. You can buy magazines and snacks there—it appears to be a standard airport concourse shop, only emblazoned with the Fox logo. (Ick.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Five things

1. I'm going to Minneapolis for the weekend, sans husband and child! A dear friend lives there, and she has already acquired some tempting-sounding Italian white wines to swig.

2. You know what gets me about thong underwear (which I still am not convinced aren't icky, even though a friend swears they feel fine)? It's the fact that so many women who wear thongs are now walking around with their pants or shorts wedged deeply in their buttcracks. That. Is. Just. Wrong. If you wear actual underwear, you can wear your jeans, shorts, pantaloons, or other trousers for days on end before they need a washing. With a thong? No way. I thought one of the functions of pants was to hide your buttcrack, not to call attention to it while simultaneously chafing it.

3. My boy has got himself an infection in his arm. I'm hoping the antibiotic shot this evening knocks out the bacteria, because (a) I want him to get better quickly and without incident, (b) I'd feel guilty leaving town when he's ailing, and (c) if the shot doesn't do the trick, he could need IV antibiotics, in which case I'd be spending the weekend at the hospital rather than in Minneapolis.

4. The crossword fever, it's rampaging faster than avian flu through a flock o' ducks. If you've got the fever and you find yourself doing the New York Times puzzle, but you need a little help, you can often find (or ask for) a little help at my other blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend. If your local paper is not the NYT but runs the NYT crossword in syndication, the daily puzzle is probably printed on a six-week delay, so the Fiendish archives might come in handy.

5. Confession time: I am no longer an assiduous blog reader. I have fallen behind and don't make it to all of y'all's blogs as often as I'd like to. It would appear that I have reached the saturation point and can absorb no more blogs. But I do stop in at your sites when I can—honest. Give me a smack upside the head if I need one, will you?