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Friday, January 30, 2009

[Hannah]: YUM

I made this tagine for dinner in my dutch oven. I used raisins instead of plums, and slices of lemon instead of fancy preserved lemon rind. It was REALLY good.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large chicken, cut into eight pieces
Fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder (optional)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger or powder
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon, rind only, flesh discarded (available from Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Avenue, near 28th Street or Dean & Deluca, 560 Broadway, at Prince Street)
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 prune plums, quartered and stones removed
1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons almond slivers, toasted

Cooking Instructions
Place a tagine (or large heavy-bottomed casserole) at least 10 inches in diameter over high heat, and add the oil. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place the chicken pieces skin-side-down in the pot. When the oil starts to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon each of the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder (if using) over the chicken. Cook until the chicken is golden brown, about 15 minutes. (Check regularly to make sure that the chicken is not sticking to the pan.)

Spread the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes on a cutting board, and season generously with the salt and pepper. Add them to the tagine, covering the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder. Add the lemon rind and chicken stock, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the plums and cook for a further 15 minutes or until chicken is tender. (It may take a little longer if you’re using a tagine.)

To serve, place about ½ cup of couscous on each plate, top with a few pieces of chicken, and spoon some cooking liquid and vegetables over each plate. Garnish with almond slivers.

Jethro escapes, twice!

My ex-husband and I owned 28 acres in the neighborhood, and after we split up we also split the property - he built a house at one end and I built mine at the other. My deerfence runs along the property line which separates us; his side is wooded, ranging behind the strip of houses along our neighborhood road.

Our son Ezra is still using the path through the woods, so he has to untie and re-tie the gate often. For some reason, he forgot on Wednesday, and when I came home Jethro the donkey was gone. I put out a panicked email on our neighborhood Yahoo group, got a phone call, and set out with Jethro's halter and lead line.

As it started to rain, I spotted him (even though he's sort of forest-colored) lollygagging around in the woods. He came to me willingly and we went home.

But yesterday he escaped again. Ezra denies leaving the gate open again, leaving me only the hypothesis that Jethro untied the string. I got a dry message from my ex: "Your donkey's over here." I followed the sound of hysterical dog barking (dogs usually hate Jethro) and found Jethro eating my ex's decorative bamboo as fast as he could choke it down as my ex's little kid looked on in astonishment. Not good.

A decade's detente has been rather attenuated lately, but in the interests of getting Jethro out of his bamboo, my ex gave me a giant carrot, a successful lure.

(Picture: Jethro in a more malleable mood.)

Wild and drunk with freedom, he made the trip home hard on both of us. I'm really banged up, each of us fell in quite a few rotted holes in the woods, my hands are a mess; add this to the huge Warner-Brothers-cartoon bump I have on the back of my head from falling backwards HARD on the concrete a few days ago when we had a difference of opinion about the direction our walk should take - and the numerous times I banged that very same place building a shelf under the stairs - well, I've had enough. I'd like a day in bed.

Owning a big opinionated donkey is not for the faint-hearted.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 things about me.

I first did a meme like this in 2005, but as a good lurker, I did 100 things about other people, still one of my favorite posts.

Kelly from Byzantium's Shores tagged me (this time on Facebook) and even though it's sort of embarrassing, I want to play. So,
  1. I'm having more fun playing the fiddle now than ever before in my life, but I never practice because I get lonely playing by myself.

  2. I supported myself for three years writing sonnets.

  3. My house is full of friendly ghosts, my memories of all the guys who ever hammered nails or sweated pipes here while we were building. I remember them all by name and sometimes see them around town.

  4. Most of my best friends are good with their hands.

  5. I like wearing clothes until they are worn out.

  6. Throwing or giving stuff away is as much fun as getting new stuff, maybe more.

  7. I hate suspense and often read the end of a book early on so I don't have to wonder what's going to happen.

  8. I no longer try to prove anything to anybody.

  9. I stopped coloring my hair in the year 2000 when my son got cancer.

  10. I'm not so good with right/left and east/west. Nonetheless, I'm an excellent navigator.

  11. I grin every time I hear the words "President Obama."

  12. I love to dance but wonder if I'll ever get the chance again.

  13. I like watching other people have fun almost more than I like having fun myself.

  14. I don't drink, never have, and never did any drugs. Reality is nutty enough.

  15. I put my kids through college on the money left over from my mother's great-grandfather's bootblack empire.

  16. I'm very proud of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. My dad's folks have been in York County Pennsylvania since the early 1700s. (Two of my Pennsylvania Dutch first cousins also converted to Judaism, as I did.)

  17. Translating Yiddish stories and books into English is incredibly exciting.

  18. I often think I was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or possibly on the wrong planet.

  19. I'm writing this list instead of taking Jethro on a walk.

  20. I'm incredibly proud of my kids and considering the mothering I've done to be my finest achievement in life.

  21. I've had more than my share of everything in this lifetime, and am pretty content, though a bit lonely.

  22. I don't mind getting older but it makes me sad to see it happening to my friends.

  23. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  24. I'm a lousy but very enthusiastic carpenter and electrician.

  25. My kids are funnier than anybody else I know. Or at least, I think they are. How lucky is that?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dirt is Good for You.

Extracts from
Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You
by Jane E. Brody for the New York Times, January 26, 2009

When my young sons were exploring the streets of Brooklyn, I couldn't help but wonder how good crushed rock or dried dog droppings could taste when delicious mashed potatoes were routinely rejected.

Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you.

In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with "dirt" spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma.

These studies, along with epidemiological observations, seem to explain why immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries.

Training the Immune System

"What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment," Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, "Why Dirt Is Good" (Kaplan).

She points out that bacteria are everywhere: on us, in us and all around us. Most of these micro-organisms cause no problem, and many, like the ones that normally live in the digestive tract and produce life-sustaining nutrients, are essential to good health.

"The typical human probably harbors some 90 trillion microbes," she wrote. "The very fact that you have so many microbes of so many different kinds is what keeps you healthy most of the time."

She deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water are all that are needed to become clean, she noted.

One leading researcher ... said the immune system at birth "is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction... Children raised in an ultraclean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits. Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat."

Children who grow up on farms and are frequently exposed to worms and other organisms from farm animals are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Teaching chickens to beg.

Somebody asked for an update on my chickens. Of the current batch, which originally comprised a dozen, I still have eleven - a hawk got one, I was lucky to see it swoop down and carry off its silent feathered bundle while the others squeezed themselves under wheelbarrows and into flower pots (they were smaller then). Hawks have to eat, too.

Happily, the chickens are now too portly to be swept off their feet (I hope). They command a wide range, poking, grabbing, squabbling, grazing the day away in languid counter-clockwise sweeps around the house. They have certain hotspots: Jethro's piles of poop briquettes, for instance, the garden, the back porch where I leave their scratch...

[Scratch is a combination of cracked corn and wheat, and it's junk food for chickens, but this batch of hens, just like the last batch, scorns proper chicken food. I used to worry, but since they munch omnivorously all day, I no longer worry about their nutrition. The name refers to the annoying reflex which causes chickens to stand in their tidy pans of scratch and scratch all the scratch out of the pans all over the porch.]

They also like to rush over when Jethro gets fed, because he can't pick up every single bit of the oats and "sweet feed" (junk food for donkeys) we give him, and they are devoted gleaners.

Long ago the chickens discovered that I save the best food for their wild cousins the chickadees and cardinals: black oil sunflower seeds (they swallow them whole).

They first discovered sunflower seeds flung out of the birdfeeder by over-excited customers into the patch of irises below. They scrounge there and then waddle around the porch scarfing up outliers.

Seeing that, I started to throw them handfuls of sunflower seeds gratis. Now, though, I've decided to demand more entertainment, because they're pricey, sunflower seeds, they don't grow on trees you know, so the chickens must learn to beg. I'm trying to train them to tap on the glass of the kitchen door.

This isn't easy because
  • chickens are incredibly stupid;

  • they are also incredibly skittish and fearful. Even though I feed them every day and provide them a regal life, all the worms they care to eat, they act like I'm going to put them in a pot or something. Racial memory? They certainly seem to intuit that they are on everybody's shortlist of good dinners.
It's been pointed out to me that if all eleven chickens learn to tap, or even half of them, things could get mighty annoying around here.

In the mean time, though, I'm highly amused by holding up a small handful of seeds to the window; when one of them gets up the nerve to try and peck through the glass, I quickly open the door and fling the seeds outside. At first they would all then rush/fly/scramble away in consternation, but now they stand their ground and wait for the reward. Tentative tapping has begun.

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No-knead bread, my way.

I started this, too, the night before.

No-Knead Bread

2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 package of yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
Flour for "dusting"

Combine flour, yeast, salt, and almost 2 cups of water. Add the water gradually, stirring, till it looks right, the dough should be sticky.

Cover bowl (I used a damp tea towel and a cutting board) and leave on the counter overnight.

Lightly flour a largish kitchen towel (not one with terrycloth nubbins). I used one with chickens printed on it but that is not necessary.

Without popping the dough bubbles, roll the dough blob gently out of the bowl onto the flour and roll it around a bit so it's lightly floured all over and holds into a sort of ball.

The dough ball should be on one half of the towel. Flour the top of the dough ball and fold the cloth over it. Turn a mixing bowl over on top of it and leave it for two hours.

(Half an hour before the bread is finished rising:) Heat a covered dutch oven or other heavy pot, with the lid on, in a 450-degree oven for 1/2 hour.

OK, it's time: Gently roll the bread blob upside down and leave it for a moment while...

When my daughter made a version of this bread, it was delicious but it stuck to the pot like barnacles. So after I took the very hot pot out of the oven and removed the lid (be CAREFUL! it's HOT IN THERE), I put some cooking oil in the bottom and swirled it around and up the sides a bit.

... tip the dough ball gently into the dutch oven (now it's back right side up again). It probably won't reach to the walls of the pot, which is good.

Cover the pot and cook for half an hour (still at 450 degrees). Take the lid off and cook for another 15 minutes, or, see below.

My lunch guest was 45 minutes late (he'd said he'd be half an hour late, so he precisely followed my ex-husband's rule of thumb: if someone says he will be x minutes late, he will actually be 1.5x minutes late) and I was busy practicing Hungarian tunes for a gig this weekend, so I forgot and cooked the bread for almost 45 minutes longer than the recipe said. It was just fine.

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Lamb stew in a crockpot

I started this last night, to make for lunch today.

Lamb Stew in a Crock Pot

1-1/2 pounds New Zealand Lamb Leg, boneless roll
2 large onions
6 cloves of garlic
half a medium cabbage
the rest of a bag of baby carrots
8 small potatoes
bay leaf, basil etc.
3/4 carton of organic beef stock
white wine
one small can diced tomatoes with chiles

Trim fat off the lamb, cut into chunks (the Platonic Ideal is a 1-1/4 inch cube), dust with flour and brown on all sides briefly in a frying pan in hot oil.

Put the chunks aside, in a bowl, and put wine and some of the beef stock in the hot frying pan to dissolve the juices.

(Many stockpot recipes advocate just throwing the meat into the cooker without browning. I've done that, and it works fine, but Ez complains that the sauce is not thick enough that way. This way, too, the sauce has a more interesting flavor.)

Chop the onion, garlic, and cabbage (I used a Cuisinart) and saute in a bit of oil or butter until they are limp. (To hasten this process, I put a little water or wine in the pan, cover it, steam them briefly, then remove the lid and saute the excess moisture away.)

Put the vegetables and lamb in the crockpot and add liquid. Cut the potatoes in half or so, and put them on top. Cook on SLOW all night. In the morning you may want to add more stock.

Note that I do not recommend adding salt. I did, because the recipes I saw online did, but it ended up too salty, because the stock has salt in it and it got rendered down overnight and there is nothing you can add to take the salt away but water!

I added the can of tomatoes in the morning because the stew had become so dense. The tomatoes have salt too, though...

This was pretty darn good!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Climbing."


The slender loris is a magical little prosimian of the Asian rain forest. While my picture might suggest this loris is jumping, in fact they do not leap. They are, however, fabulous climbers. For more information see Duke University Lemur Center.

Acrylic on canvas.


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What happened to the money I already gave you?

Extracts from
Former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain resigns from Bank of America amid bonus scandal
by Helen Kennedy for the Daily News, Thursday, January 22nd 2009, 8:56 PM

The CEO of Merrill Lynch was abruptly ousted Thursday after it emerged that he had spent $1 million to decorate his office - including buying a $1,405 trash can - and rushed out billions in executive payouts just days before his firm went under.

Sources said the main reason was Bank of America's growing horror at the true extent of Merrill's financial weakness, which forced the bank to beg for another $20 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money last week.

Thain's firing also came hours after a news report detailed how he went on a lavish decorating spree last year, including an $87,000 area rug and a $35,000 "commode on legs" - even as Merrill was slashing thousands of jobs.

And those extravagances pale next to the estimated $4 billion in bonuses for executives of the failing firm that Thain pushed out in December just before Merrill's fire sale to Bank of America.

Merrill's fourth-quarter $15 billion loss was much worse than anticipated. Bank of America, which already got $25 billion of the TARP Wall Street bailout, had to go ask for more.

Last year's mounting losses didn't stop Thain from ensuring a hefty payday for his execs.

The Financial Times revealed that in December, just days before the Bank of America takeover, Merrill rushed through $4 billion in bonuses, which are typically given in late January.

Thain had tried to get $10 million for himself, too, arguing that he saved the company from a total dissolution like Lehman Brothers. But he gave up the idea as public fury grew over the excesses of Wall Street executives.

Thain also paid his chauffeur $230,000 a year from the company till, CNBC reported.

Patience and Wisdom...

... two of the greatest virtues.

Sent to me by my stepmother...

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Climbing."

This is my biomorphic dream memory of what my daughter Hannah's apartment in Berkeley looks like. Climbing the stairs to get to the bathroom was very noisy, they squeak like crazy.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A good new soup.

My son Ezra and I had a dinner party tonight for my ex-brother-in-law and his wife, and my fellow Pratie Head and his girlfriend. It was a success: the conversation was lively and there was a lot of laughing!

I set the table with a tablecloth and napkins I bought in 2000 when (due to extreme stress) I was on a jag of buying table linens on eBay at 4 in the morning. They've been on a shelf under the stairs for 8-1/2 years; this was the first time I used them, which shows I haven't been doing much entertaining.

Ez made a dip out of cranberry chutney and cream cheese and served it with celery sticks and nan (like pita from India). It was a hit.

I invented the soup below, which got hoovered up completely.

Sweet Potato and Cabbage Soup

One large onion, chopped
Five cloves of garlic, chopped
Oil and butter (to taste or according to your level of austerity)
Four sweet potatoes cut into 1/2" dice
Half a medium sized cabbage, chopped
One carton organic mushroom broth
Grated ginger (I used a scant teaspoon)
Juice of a lime
Salt and pepper

In a dutch oven, saute the onion, garlic, and a bit of salt in half oil/half butter (I used a couple tablespoons total) until almost soft.

Add the diced sweet potatoes and saute, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes start to soften. I added another tablespoon of butter, so sue me.

In another pan, saute the cabbage and a bit of salt in a more modest amount of oil and butter, covered, until almost soft. Cook uncovered a while and then add to the dutch oven. Cook all the vegetables together, stirring, until the sweet potatoes are mashable with a wooden spoon.

Add the rest of the ingredients (I actually didn't use the entire quart of stock, I just stirred it in gradually until the soup was as thick as I like it to be). Simmer half an hour.


Friday, January 23, 2009

[Hannah]: A Theorist of Conspicuous Consumption Considers Pets

"The cat is less reputable than [the dog or the fast horse] because she is less wasteful; she may even serve a useful end. At the same time the cat's temperament does not fit her for the honorific purpose [i.e., glorifying her master]. She lives with man on terms of equality, knows nothing of that relation of status which is the ancient basis of all distinctions of worth, honour, and repute, and she does not lend herself with facility to an invidious comparison between her owner and his neighbors...

"The dog has advantages in the way of uselessness as well as in special gifts of temperament. He is often spoken of, in an eminent sense, as the friend of man, and his intelligence and fidelity are praised. The meaning of this is that the dog is man's servant and that he has the gift of an unquestioning subservience and a slave's quickness in guessing his master's mood.... He is the filthiest of the domestic animals in his person and the nastiest in his habits. For this he makes up in a servile, fawning attitude toward his master, and a readiness to inflict damage and discomfort on all else."

-Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption, 1899

(Weird, he doesn't mention donkeys anywhere.)

Young@Heart - a five-star movie and a five-star chorus

I just saw Young @ Heart on Netflix and it's the first movie I've given five stars since March of the Penguins. My friend and fellow musician David DiGiuseppe recommended it to me ages ago, but I was reluctant to see it: a movie about a geriatric choir doing songs by Sting and the Rolling Stones? He was right, though, the movie sucked me in and I watched it one and a half times.

This is Bob Cilman, who's directed the Young at Heart Chorus for a quarter century, almost half his life.

He writes: When the Young@ Heart began in 1982 the members all lived in an elderly housing project in Northampton, MA ... The first group included elders who lived through both World Wars. One of our members had fought in the Battle of the Somme as a 16 year old and another, Anna Main, lost her husband in the First World War.

He teaches them songs like "Schizophrenia" and "Yes We Can Can" and they work really hard - and do the whole show by heart, something I've never been able to get my chorus to do - and they have a fabulously good time, and they're accompanied by a fabulously good band, and the effect is mesmerizing.

The movie follows them as they learn new material for an upcoming concert tour and do a couple of performances, one of them at a local prison where the prisoners grin from ear to ear and cry and give them a standing ovation.

These last two screen shots are from one of their music videos. I forget the name of the song but I remember one of the lines: "We may be lost but we're making good time..."

Since I would like to be making music when I'm in my 80s, I was rooting for them every second. If it weren't so late, I'd watch this lovely, heartbreaking, inspiring, heart-fortifying movie again right now.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In which I struggle to understand the relationship between Earthlink and Time Warner Cable.

I'm a long-time Roadrunner subscriber. Used to be, I had a $30/month "introductory rate," and I squeezed a second one out of them, and then a shorter $45/month rate for a while, but when I called this morning they were unwilling to extend even this partially-discounted ISP rate. "You have had three special rates already."

I pointed out that Verizon and Earthlink were both advertising cheaper rates. The guy wouldn't budge.

My first bit of research revealed that, even though Verizon frequently sends me postcards advertising high speed internet at a good cost, actually Verizon service is not available in my area. They could save a lot of money on postcards by not sending them to folks who are outside their Pale.

On the other hand, Earthlink IS available. The Earthlink equivalent of what I have now costs $30 per month, so I did an online chat with "Dan," who had trouble understanding the following question: "If I sign up with Earthlink, will you have to bury a new cable to my house?" After I asked it several times he wrote "No," so I signed up with Earthlink, and "Dan" told me the next step was to wait for their installer to call me.

A couple hours later I got a call from Time Warner Cable: "We are calling to schedule your installation." "I don't understand, I already HAVE Time Warner cable, I am trying to cancel it because I've just signed up with Earthlink." "Well, this is the regional number. If you already have Roadrunner, then you must talk to the local people."

I am so perplexed: Why did I need Time Warner's local installation people if I was trying to get Earthlink installed?

I did as they commanded and called the local people with my confirmation numbers, but the phone rep who answered (after 20 minutes of loud Muzak) couldn't handle the situation. She said, "Hold on while I get my supervisor." I held on for another ten minutes, but when she came back on the line, I could hear her but she couldn't hear me (or else she was pretending not to hear). I hung up, called again and waited another 20 minutes.

This time the lady asked, "Have you signed up for Earthlink within Time Warner, or Earthlink from the outside?" The question made no sense to me. She told me Earthlink was PART of Time Warner! But there was also "outside Earthlink." I didn't understand, she couldn't do anything for me, so...

... I called a number I hadn't yet tried, the regional number given by Earthlink in the original chat. Yet another Time Warner person answered! And sent me back to the local people again.

My last local call was not friendly. The lady tried, hard, to upsell me bundled services that would cost three times as much as what I currently have; then she tried to get me to have my current service downgraded to a slower speed so she could offer me a $30/month price. I pointed out: "Earthlink will give me the same service I have NOW, but for $30/month." She got hostile and said nastily, "Well, you can't cancel your service with us until you drive down to our office and surrender your modem."

"The Earthlink people said there would be no interruption in service." "Well, we won't cancel your service until we have our modem back, so you'll be paying for two services at once."

I went back to do another chat at the original Earthlink site. The guy assured me their own person would contact me in 3-5 days, everything would be just fine, Earthlink would deal with all the equipment issues.

Half an hour later I got an email from Earthlink saying, "Contact your local Time Warner installers to schedule an appointment."

I post this in hopes somebody else will know why this is happening.

UPDATE: Next day, I get a robocall from Time Warner - it says "PLEASE STAY ON THE LINE." I got robocalled to be put on HOLD??

A lady answers, "This is Time Warner. We are calling to schedule your installation. I must ask, do you currently have any Time Warner Cable services?"

I patiently repeat what I've told them several times, that I have basic cable and Roadrunner.

She says again, "You have to surrender your modem first."

"But yesterday Earthlink told me they would take care of that for me."

"I don't know about that, let me transfer you to customer service." She puts me on hold again for a while and then comes back: "OK, now I'll transfer you."

She hangs up and I hear the prompt, over and over: "AGENT I.D., AGENT I.D." and I don't have an agent i.d. so the phone disconnects.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Menticia's letter to President Obama

My mentee is in a class called "AVID," which stands for "Advancement Via Individual Determination," here's a bit from their website:
AVID is a fourth- through twelfth-grade system to prepare students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility. It has a proven track record in bringing out the best in students, and in closing the achievement gap... Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.
Everybody in her AVID class wrote a letter to Obama, and here is hers:

President Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President Obama:

I am a 13-year-old Hispanic girl, and an eighth grader at Smith Middle School. Getting involved in school is something I enjoy doing, especially when it comes to sports. Being athletic is something I take as a challenge as well as a fun game. Challenging myself is something I like. Being known by my teachers as a great student-athlete is something I appreciate. Just by knowing there is somebody looking after you gives you more confidence and that helps me to achieve more.
I am sure there are many people who will watch you as president. These people voted for you because you will be a good president. Congratulations, I was hoped that you would win. I wish you best of luck on the years that await you. Good and bad things will happen in the next years, but I am confident that you will do a wonderful job.
In my AVID class we are reading a book called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens”. It shows as how to keep organized and how to not let bad habits get in the way of our goals. I would suggest that you, Put first things first. By having lots of important things to do, you can’t do them all at the same time. For a start you can start with the promises that you made in your campaign. We the people have the confidence that you will do the best to make America better place.
Now that you are in charge you may have times that make you frustrated. That happens to me when I play sports. Don’t be a quitter is something I tell myself when I feel like doing that. I make sure I continue to participate and ask tons of questions until I understand everything. Not being a quitter is something I taught myself and it has helped to make me stronger. Believe in yourself.
Once again, I hope you enjoy being president, never quit, and remember that we are expecting you to do what is important to make our lives better.


[Hannah]: On the "vice" of luxury, 1700s

"It is happy for us to have Fear as a Keeper, as long as our Reason is not strong enough to govern our Appetites.... But since I have seen something of the World, the Consequences of Luxury to a Nation seem not so dreadful to me as they did. As long as Men have the same Appetites, the same Vices will remain. In all large Societies, some will love Whoring and others Drinking ... those that cannot purchase Hermitage or Pontack, will be glad of more ordinary French claret. Those that can't reach Wine take up with worse Liquors, and a Foot Soldier or a Beggar may make himself as drunk with Stale-Beer or Malt-spirits, as a Lord with Burgundy, Champaign or Tokay. The cheapest and most slovenly way of indulging our Passions, does as much Mischief to a Man's Constitution, as the most elegant and expensive."

-Bernard Mandeville

Monday, January 19, 2009

Where is "where is it written" written?

This is a very hard question to Google...

My mom used to ask this rhetorical question frequently, e.g. "Where is it written that only mothers can empty the dishwasher?" She was quite the Boston Yankee type; it never occurred to me at the time that the phrase had a Jewish ring.

I ran into the phrase in the Yiddish book I'm translating:

"What do you mean, you've already filled your school?" Khyene complained. "Where is it written that a teacher can have nine students and a tenth is forbidden?"

So, I am entertaining any answers, whether academic, faux-academic, or whimsical. Thanks for opining!

UPDATE:Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti wrote:
I didn't search too hard, but thanks to Google Book Search I was able to find "Where is it written in all the word of God that wee should not weare bayes upon our heads?" in Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition of the Prophesie of Hosea (1643), p. 567.


Mark does Illustration Friday: "Pale."

On Saturday I took a trip to the Conservators' Center, Inc. near Mebane, NC, where I saw lions and tigers and the New Guinea Singing Dog. What a wonderful place with beautiful animals.


acrylic on canvas

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Friday, January 16, 2009

"Sponsor an Executive."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Pie

This recipe is from Hannah's boyfriend's mother. I haven't made it yet but loved it at her house. Mmm!

Chocolate Mousse Pie

3 Cups chocolate wafers, crushed
1 stick unsalted butter melted
1 lb semi sweet chocolate
2 fresh eggs room temperature
4 egg yolks room temperature
4 egg whites room temperature
6 T confection sugar
4 cups heavy whipping cream

Crust: mix wafer crumbs with butter and press into 10 inch springform pan. Place in the refrigerator for one hour to set.

Filling: melt chocolate in double boiler and cool until lukewarm, then add 2 eggs and mix.

Add 4 egg yolks and mix.

Whip 2 cups whipped heavy cream and confection sugar to soft peaks.

Beat 4 egg whites until stiff.

Slowly mix the cream and egg white mixtures together. Fold the chocolate and cream/egg whites mix together. Pour filling into the crust.

Cover pie with wax paper and set in refrigerator overnight.

Next day: whip the 2 remaining cups of heavy cream. Spread on pie (after removing the wax paper) and then undo the springform and serve.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I finally manage to get The Incredibly Miserable Boy laid in his coffin...

I've been spending a few hours here and there translating a Yiddish novela for a friend. I finally crawled over the finish line five minutes ago; the Incredibly Miserable Boy is now in heaven with his pious mother.

The enervating effect this story has had on me reminds me of a big bummer of a class I took at Yale: "The Rise and Fall of the Byzantine Empire."

OK, so you know when a class is called Rise and Fall that it's not going to end on a cheery note - and it's history, so everybody already knows the outcome, there's no final surprise twist - yes, on the last day of class the "barbarians" (that would be our ancestors) swarmed over the walls and fin.

Even forewarned, though, I found it surprisingly hard to force myself to go to class -- considering I didn't even like how things were going when they were at their best. I didn't think the Byzantine Empire was my kind of place. So when the steep, decadent decline descended - well, one thought about sleeping late and initiating one's own decline.

Back to this novela - as I've explained to my patron, translating is like building a house: the first 95% of the house takes 5% of the time, and the last 5% of the house takes 95% of the time. I've only been working on Yiddish for a couple years, and there are quite a few words and passages in this story that I got "mostly right," maybe 95% right. To get them utterly 100% right would require a lot of expensive face time with our local Yiddish professor Sheva Zucker.

Also, it has to be decided how much of a rewrite to do. The author was Mr. Purple Prose, and he used a fairly limited vocabulary - perhaps because his intended readership was busy, poorly-educated housewives. How many times per page can a speaker "shriek" - should I wield a thesaurus lavishly or stick with the original? He was also a master of badly constructed run-on sentences. Do I try to imitate his, uh, Byzantine structures or do I insert a sturdy number of periods?



Ikk! Ikk! Get them out of here!!!!

Oh no, one of my Yale classmates posted this horrifying clip from Busby Berkeley's 1934 musical "Dames." A frightening dancing face, photoshopped into thousands, and girls in white that look like insects, like those butterflies dripping and crawling all over the trees in Mexico. If I had to watch this, why shouldn't you, also, have to suffer?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Contained."

Mark had to leave before he could write about this picture, but I can tell you two previous pictures are contained in it. The first one was monkeys in a cage. But they're gone now.

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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Contained."

I had to tape the box closed to keep the cream of wheat contained when I put it on the scanner.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

[Hannah]: Dept of Corporate Statements that Shouldn't Need Making

In an interview before his speech Wednesday, [Microsoft Chief Executive Steven A.] Ballmer bristled at the suggestion that Windows Vista was a disappointment and that PC operating systems in general are becoming less relevant to consumers as more functions are being handled on the Internet. “I don’t worry about Windows being relevant,” he said. “It is highly popular and very important to the people who own Windows computers.”