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I hosted book club. It went really well. However, the reason I am writing about it now is to record for posterity the comments that a couple of the guys made after coming back from my bathroom.

My bathroom dates back to before when making bathroom renovations was a major part of the yuppie lifestyle, or really anyone's lifestyle. Bathrooms were functional locations where you went to do your business, nothing more. Bathrooms were not described as sexy (here I am thinking of a condo building in the Uptown area that advertised "sexy bathrooms"). You did not showcase your wealth in your bathroom unless your house as a whole was showy. My bathroom is small; renovated bathrooms these days expand and co-opt nearby closets or parts of rooms. My bathroom has exposed pipes, and crumbling plaster; modern renovated bathrooms do not. My bathroom still has tile from the seventies. You can tell the tile is old. Bathroom renovations generally make it a point of replacing floral-on-seventies-dark-yellow tile. In fact, my bathroom probably would have gone the way of the dinosaur and been updated by my landlord if the pipes allowed it.

Having never really thought about this before, however, I was not prepared when two of the guys from my book club commented that my bathroom was an experience and had character. My bathroom an experience?, I inquired. A hole-in-the-wall, yes, ran the thoughts in my head, but an experience? One guy described it as the sort of bathroom you expect to see in small apartments in New York. The other guy expanded the description to include Soviet-block housing. And then the first guy described it as "Berlin, 1945". I had never really thought either that my bathroom was that terribly bad before, or that it was particularly reminiscent of those locales. I mean, Berlin after WWII? There haven't been any bombing raids on the Twin Cities recently, or significant Communist uprisings. I don't think the guys were trying to be purposefully insulting because they appeared so enthusiastic about it.

I've traveled and seen a lot, including a lot of bathrooms, in my time. It had never really occurred to me that affluence as manifest in bathroom design is so widespread that there can be people for whom my bathroom would be a novelty.
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Good news: Joss Whedon returning to the airwaves! Woohoo! With Eliza Dushku and Tim Minear!

Bad news: It's on Fox. What the heck!?!? After the way Fox treated Firefly, I hope that Joss did some serious negotiations to make certain he would have more control of how the series is presented.
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Kitty-cat is scared of my feet when I put on my puppy slippers.

I am amused.
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....at least according to my brain at this very moment.

This recipe for Tres Leches Cake made with Bailey's.

Clearly I need an occasion to make it. Possibly the next book club, which I'm hosting, but making it seems like showing off.
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I bought a lot of green beans at the farmer's market on Saturday because I was planning on bringing green beans and hummus to book club on Sunday. Unfortunately, I arrived after someone who bought hummus and pita, so very little of what I brought was eaten, leaving me with a heck of a lot of green beens that, to be perfectly honest, didn't taste like much of anything. Thus ensued a trip through all my cookbooks to find some sort of a recipe that would leave the green beans in less than their component parts because I didn't feel up to eating that many separate green bean entities on my own.

I found a recipe for green been puree in Fresh from the Garden by Paula Meyers. It called for the green beans to be boiled for twelve minutes before being pureed with dill, basil, or some other herb, a few pats of butter, and 1/4th cup yogurt. Then it called for flour to be cooked in corn oil until brown, and then the puree added it it and cooked, and then finally finished off with some Parmesan cheese. Well, I don't much like the taste of dill in large quantities, and I didn't want to do basil because I've done so much basil this summer, so instead I went to the supermarket and smelled herbs, trying to figure out what I would most like in this recipe. My conclusion: a medley of parsley, lemongrass, and cilantro. I used enough herbs that it tasted so good I decided to forgo adding the flour and oil or the Parmesan. More or less, the taste was a combination of the sour yogurt flavor and the herbs, and the green beans just served to add very mild tasting green vegetable mass. Excellent.
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Kitty is on my lap as I type this, occasionally wiping her nose on parts of me that are convenient. She has been quite the attention hog as of late. Unfortunately, a lot of that has consisted of piteous-sounding mewing.

She more or less stopping eating over this weekend. This naturally made me quite worried. When I tried to direct her attention to the food bowl and water bowl, mostly she would just look up at me and mew piteously. I was mystified as to why and talking with the vet didn't help, but then I talked to a friendly person at the Humane Society who has fostered kittens, and it turns out that when felines have upper respiratory problems and can't smell their food, they won't eat it. The women at the Humane Society suggested shutting the cat up in the bathroom with water vapor from either a humidifier or the shower. So kitty has been spending the larger part of each day in the bathroom. She mews piteously when I pick her up and put her in the bathroom, mews piteously when I come into the bathroom, and tries to escape when I leave the bathroom. This is naturally quite difficult, because I only have one bathroom and have to go into the bathroom regularly, not only to satisfy my own needs but also to run water for her to inhale. Then, when she has been out of the bathroom for a while, she mews piteously at me because, well, she can feel her upper respiratory problems. It's quite the situation. However, she seems not to hate me permanently, because she likes climbing into my lap and getting petted. I just hope that her upper respiratory problem goes away.
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Amongst the many reasons I like Minneapolis is the fact that it is a tea mecca. I've posted before about Tea Source, which sells tea blends, and Tea Garden, which makes excellent bubble tea, but I only just learned about Mrs. Kelly's Tea . Mrs. Kelly's Tea makes custom blends of tea. I mentioned something to the woman at the fair about a rooibos chai and she immediately said that they could make some for me. They don't have a retail location, but they do go to the Farmer's Market and occasionally have tastings. I am currently drinking their African Fruit Bowl tea, which contains banana, passionfruit, mango, cornflower and stevia with a rooibos base. The flavor is pretty amazing. At the fair I also tasted an almond and cherry white tea and smelled a number of interesting blends, including a chocolate raspberry mint.
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1. Go to "http://www.careercruising.com/".
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.

My slightly odd and slightly predictable results )
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1 cup of lentils
Vegetable broth cubes or loose vegetable broth to make a slightly more intense than usual 3 cups of broth
1 1/2 onions
A few tablespoons olive oil
1/2 head of celery
Mushrooms cut into small cubes(I used about half of a package of mushrooms, but I might use a whole package if I made this again)
One clove chopped garlic
Some small amount of tomato substance (I used chopped sundried tomatoes because that's what I had on hand, but you could certainly use a roma tomato or tomato paste)
A lot of powdered sage
Some powdered thyme
Some powered curry
A little more dried basil
A small handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped (I hadn't planned on buying parsley at the farmer's market yesterday, but this group of schoolchildren was getting passed up by other customers. The parsley turned out to be a very good flavor contribution.)
3 tablespoons (ish) of flour to thicken

1. Saute 1/4ish of an onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Use the time to chop the other ingredients.
2. Add in the cup of lentils and mix with the onions until coated in olive oil. Then add in three cups water and the broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer.
3. In a wok or the largest pan you have, saute the rest of the onions and the celery for about ten minutes, or until the onions are mostly translucent.
4. Add mushrooms to the celery.
5. Add all of the spices except the parsley.
6. Add the tomato substance.
7. Wait until the lentils have been cooked to the point where they are well-cooked, but there is still some liquid left. This might entail turning off the burner for the celery mixture while the lentils cook. Then add the lentils and liquid to the celery mixture. Mix the lentils and celery.
8. Add in the chopped parsley.
9. Using a spoon, slowly sift the flour onto the top of the mixture (the key is not to add the flour in one big clump). Then mix the flour into the mixture.
10. If there is still any liquid left, let cook a little more, or if not, it's done.

Serve with mashed potatoes in a shepard's pie or with rice or some other grain. Tastes even better the second day.
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So I've been to two different events at the Central Library where there were a lot of people baby boom age or older blaming our generation or younger (generations X, Y, and Z) for changes in literacy-related services. The first was an event discussing the future of the publishing industry, featuring laments that my generation does not read; the second was a class last night discussing changes in the newspaper industry locally and nationally. The class featured one former Pioneer Press writer and one former and one current Star Tribune writer. Nationally, compared to older adults, the percentage of 32-25 year olds who read the newspaper is dropping, and the percentage of 18-24 year olds who read the newspaper is dropping even more. The Star Tribune has changed their look and their content to try to appeal to a younger audience, with the net result that they are alienating their core readership of older readers and seem not to really be attracting younger readers. (An additional element of that change is that the investment company that recently bought the Strib has done away with a huge percentage of its journalistic staff, so there is substantially less reporting going on.)

The Star Tribuners talked about a three hour long meeting that they had been forced to sit through on market research. The Star Tribune identified five audience segments, and chose to focus on only a few of them. They figured that they could ignore their core readership, the middle-aged and elderly who get the newspaper daily, because, in the words of a boss at the Strib, "they couldn't beat them off with a stick." They also figured that they could ignore the "elite readership," which they defined as people who got their national news from the New York Times and turned to the Strib for local news, because they were such a small percentage of the readership, about 5%. And instead, they decided to concentrate on attracting the market segment that gets their news from a wide variety of sources, which is disproportionately young people. In particular, they wanted to attract young women.

So they held a bunch of market research sessions on young people, and young women in particular. They discovered as a result that young people want news that is relevant to their life. As a result: the "experience" newspaper, with one parts information that young people will find relevant to their lives to two parts content. However, in the words of one of the reporters, if you are a young person and don't already know where to go in the Twin Cities to get laid, an article on the subject isn't going to help.

The market research also discovered that their favored market niche, young women, want entertainment news, aka news on Britney Spears et al and updates on their favorite television shows. Alas for the Strib and the people who have altered the newspaper to reflect those preferences, if young women want entertainment news, they will most easily satisfy that need by buying magazines and tabloids in the check-out line, not the newspaper. So the Strib is driving away it's core constituency in order to try to appeal to people who probably won't really read it anyway.

One of the themes throughout the presentation was that newspaper editors nationally have learned that presenting controversy will not play well to their corporate owners, so a lot of journalists who would otherwise do hard-hitting journalism have learned to avoid it because it won't get printed. One of the points made by a generation X guy in the audience is that he gets his news from the Daily Show because it is willing to actually present controversy.

All of this makes me dour at my own generation, for casting me in such a negative light, and dour at the Boomer generation, for not being sufficiently aware of the situational factors that have led to changes in my generation's reading patterns and then blaming my generation for these developments.
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Your Score: Matt Parkman

You scored 58 Idealism, 37 Nonconformity, 29 Nerdiness

I don't want to be a chump.

Congratulations, you're Matt Parkman! You're a great person: caring, hard-working, and honest. You might not have the best of luck, but you do your best in all areas of life. Your kind and responsible nature is rare, and you should be proud of it.

Your best quality: Heart
Your worst quality: You may take more abuse than you deserve

Link: The Heroes Personality Test written by freedomdegrees on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Jul. 26th, 2007 09:26 pm
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Anyone know anyone looking for a place to live in the Twin Cities? Send them here.
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Also, I'm now looking for a new roommate. My old roommates, a couple who somehow convinced me to let them live with me in spite of my advertisement specifying a 20s-ish female, gave notice on the 30th and started moving out the next day. I've decided to stick with this place. I love the location and the white open feeling, and the other places I looked at when I was conducting a search would cost substantially more. If any of you know of a suitable female in her 20s looking for a place to live in the Minneapolis area, send her my way.
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Frackity frack. I'm pretty frustrated right now because I've been procrastinating, and I have a lot of schoolwork on my plate right now given that I'm going up to the Boundary Waters this Wednesday through Monday. Two pages of discussion questions due today that I'm almost done with, paper due in cognitive psych tomorrow, an outline of the book to prep as study material for while I'm on the trip, and a project and two midterms the week I get back. I just have to drive myself harder because it should be do-able, just not with much margin for error.
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I'm in the middle of American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. I was expecting something a bit more.. rant-like. Instead, it's a well-argued piece of writing that looks back on the factors that have contributed to the fall of various empires throughout history and argues that those same factors are present today in America and its relationship with the rest of the world. The author is a conservative unblinkered by nationalism or American exceptionalism. I find this quite refreshing since it's hard to find anyone, conservatives especially, outside very marginalized progressive journalism in our internal political discourse today who does not profess some form of it.

The first section addresses the role that the pursuit of oil has played in US foreign policy. It makes clear in no uncertain terms that the reason that we are in Iraq is because of oil. It's quite remarkable to me that the Republicans, in conjunction with the Dems and big business, have managed to control the media to the point that very few members of the American public regularly see the connection between our presence in Iraq and the oil politics necessary to sustain American fuel consumption.

(Sidenote: I've read a few exposes in the New York Times and other forums by journalists who have been systemically denied the opportunity to attend press briefings by the Bush administration after they have published something contrary to what the administration wanted published, or even simply asked difficult questions. Under those conditions, news becomes increasingly a report on what politicians said rather than a thorough investigation into the issues. The Bush administration denies that the reason we are in Iraq is because of oil. It's remarkable the things that politicians get away with denying, and that the public will just believe them because that's the patriotic--or easy--thing to do.)

The second section starts with a case about the importance of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians to the current Republican regime-duh. But then it goes on to examine what it calls the Southernization of America. Very interesting analysis of the immigration patterns of various religious groups.
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So I hadn't been watching this season of Veronica Mars because I don't get television reception. But then recently I figured out that I could watch recent episodes on the CW website, which reminded me enough of the wonders of Veronica Mars that I started purchasing individual episodes of VM from Amazon Unbox. I very much dislike paying to watch the episodes twice, first via the one-offs and then by paying for the DVD set, but sometimes the $6 for three episodes is worth it.

Thus far I've watched the first six episodes of Season three and the latest two. I've started to enjoy it very much. I was very much hoping that season three of VM would be like season four of Buffy: the loopy college years season, flimsy plots but fun to be had nevertheless. In the arc of the Buffy storyline, the silly college year season was sandwiched on either side by the gritty business of navigating middle adolescence beforehand and the confusion of fumbling through the first few years of adulthood after.* VM would be redeemed by a solid, high quality fourth season, and preferably several more seasons to come. But instead it looks like Veronica Mars is going to end on a low note, its most inept season yet.

*There are more parallels to be made: season one of Veronica Mars defined VM as a show and as a character as season two (Buffy's first full season) defined Buffy as a show and as a character. Veronica's search for Lily's killer, and her investigation of the characters and motives of everyone around her, created her defining (mostly platonic) passions and obsessions while Buffy's love affair with Angel created out her defining (largely romantic) passions and obsessions. Season one of VM and season two of Buffy were about the protagonist's fight for their own identity. And then, for both characters and shows, the following season had the main character coming out more into their communities. Sure, their individual struggles were foremost, and both characters were accused by their friends of being self-absorbed, but the seasons nevertheless represented the protagonists learning to relax a little more and coming to terms with themselves and their place in their community. Of course, when I think of the central character struggle the protagonist goes through in VM season three and Buffy season four, I'm coming up blank. Probably the all-important decision that every woman who lives in a TV show has to make between good boys (Riley, Piz) and bad boys (Angel, Logan). To Buffy and VM's credit as feminist shows, they also throw in a third possibility: sexual aggressors/assholes (Parker, the rapist). And yet, romantic and sexual decision making is not quite as universal or compelling a character arc as coming of age.
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