Archive for December, 2008

la cucina povera

A nice post, though I don’t know if they’re really living up to the “cucina povera” dealio on their blog, with all of the meat-filled recipes they feature…


As for me, one of my New Year’s resolutions is sticking to 3-buck-Chuck and a slightly tighter (read: simpler) food budget. *sigh*

But practically speaking:,0,4672867.htmlstory


Home vs. home

I have been Home (parents’ house) for a whole week now, and am headed home (my house) in two more days.  Things at Home are pretty much as they were when I was a kid, which is to say, rather different from how home is. But also oddly the same.  For starters, here are some things that I have been up to while Home:

1. Eating.  My roommates emailed me (three ways) to tell me that they are having a “sugar party” at their respective homes.  While I do indulge in chocolate a bit more when I’m Home, my family goes in more for the “cholesterol party.” Over the past week, we have had eggs with pork sausage, cheese, and fried potatoes for breakfast; pork tenderloin for dinner; pizza with pork sausage last night; and assorted frozen (fried) appetizer dishes for another dinner. On the docket is a beef stir-fry, beef chili, and leftover pork.  In other words, more meat than I have eaten in a long time.

Granted, we do have veggies too… my mom made a great broccoli- carrot- spinach soup that would have been vegan had I not added some cheddar cheese to the top 🙂

2. Watching Television.  My parents watch a very average amount of television– perhaps even a bit below the amount that the average American watches.  I watch some TV occasionally at home, downloaded from iTunes, but that doesn’t have any commercials, so the commercials are a real novelty for me.  I like to see what is being advertised (and how); that said, after a couple of shows the ads are all pretty redundant.  My stepdad hates (hates, HATES) ads, so he mutes the TV during the commercial breaks.  We all take that opportunity to creatively reinterpret the ads, speaking in place of the characters and making up what product they might be selling before they actually announce it.  Hilarity ensues.

3. Catching up. I met up with the two guys I dated in high school (oy vey) and one of my good friends from middle/high school.  Ex #1 is in his second year of med school at Rush and seems to be doing really well with research and everything. We planned a meeting downtown Chicago, as we hadn’t seen each other in 4 or so years, and had parted on (more or less) amicable terms.

I inadvertently ran into Ex#2 in Starbucks.  Quite honestly, I had hoped that his family had moved out of town and that I would never have to see him again. Alas, no such luck.  As it turns out, he tried to start a theater company in Chicago with no success, and then moved home to study for the LSATs.  His LSAT scores were less than stellar, and he did not get in to law school.  He’s living at home and working at the Starbucks where I ran into him. I’m trying really, really hard not to take so much glee in this. But really, he was a jerk. (As far as I know, he doesn’t know what I’m up to, since he didn’t ask… but it’s a small town and news travels).

My friend is still super cool and is living in Madison.  We just did our yearly catch-up (apart from birthday greetings).

4. Exercise. My mom is an amazingly fit 50-year-old woman. Seriously.  You read what we ate this week– if you saw my mom, you wouldn’t believe it. She looks like she lives on some macrobiotic vegan fare, or something.  In truth, she is super-disciplined (hopefully it comes with age… I’m trying, at least) and gets up at 6 am almost every day to go to this exercise class accross town.  When I’m Home, she drags me (almost literally) with her. Its usually pretty fun, though over T-giving when I went I wanted to kill myself. This time it was great, and I felt really energized afterwards. Woo!

5. [Not] Reading. I brought Home a whole pile of books (mostly ethnographies that my advisor had told me in so many words that I should read over break), but have read only one, a novel by my favorite-author-of-the-moment: Birds Without Wings by Louis de Berniéres (that should be an accent grave, but I couldn’t find the right key).  I started it a couple of months ago at a conference, but haven’t had much time to read until now. Unfortunately, I left my glasses at home (stupid! stupid!) and after a little while my vision is too blurry to read very much.

6. Detox. My mom and I decided that we both drink too much caffeine.  Granted, I drink an entire French press before noon (followed by at least a half of another before 4 pm), and she drinks one cup of regular in the morning, followed by half-caf or decaf later on.  In any case, we both quit cold turkey. We’ve been making decaf in the morning (which is maybe cheating a little bit, since there’s a trace amount of caffeine in it still… maybe even a tiny bit more than “trace” amount).  This might also account for my blurry vision, come to think of it. And some random aches and pains. Miraculously, I have not yet had the debilitating “caffeine headache” that I’ve gotten in the past. Maybe that’s because I’ve been getting 10+ hours of sleep a night, too.

That about sums up what I’ve done at Home.  Here’s the plan for when I get home:

1. V.E.G.E.T.A.B.L.E.S. A lot of ’em.  Mmm, kale and collard greens and spinach and broccoli and cabbage and carrots and squash.  I plan to make a veggie pizza for New Year’s Eve (maybe with some chicken sausage too), and there are a variety of veggie soups I want to try.

2. Reading (for real). I need to get those ethnographies read. Or at least skimmed.

3. Bike maintenance. I bought some fenders for my single speed 29’er to commute on, and plan to make some tire chains to help out with the ice/ snow. I want to get my two road bikes tuned, as well, and do a once-over on the 26’er mountain bike.  Ideally, I would get the old parts ripped off of my Schwinn single speed- to- be, but that might be a bit of wishful thinking.

4. Organization. I want to clean out the garage to the point that I can pull my car in (makes for easier shoveling of the driveway).  I also want to organize the part of the basement where I keep all of my tools (yes, I have tools)– I have peg board and the pegs, I just need to, uh, synthesize them.  How great it will be to know exactly where a hammer/ screwdriver/ particular- sized nail is.

5. More oranization. I am about 1/4 of the way through electronically cataloging all of my articles.  I’m through the “G’s. My goal is to get them all entered into EndNote, along with their PDF versions. Makes for much easier biliography-writing.

6. Devise some realistic New Year’s Resolutions. How ’bout some more exercise?


Happy Winter Solstice, first day of  Hanukkah, and fourth Sunday of Advent (if you count those sorts of things)!

I celebrated by taking 6 hours to drive from Ann Arbor to Chicago. Why? To visit my parents. Oh, you mean why did a 3.5-hour drive take 6 hours? Oh, you know, a little bit of snow on the west side of Michigan. Something we all like to call “winter weather” here in the Great White North.*

Things were pretty nice up until about mile 90 headed west on US 94 (note that the exits count down as you head west on 94… mile 90 meant I had 90 miles left before I hit Indiana).  Then, the snow started drifting across the highway. It was pretty at first; it looked a bit like smoke from dry ice, or fog or something.

I’ve read somewhere that being able to appreciate the beauty of disasters is a sign of good survival instincts. As in, you’re not so focused on the disaster that you’re flipping out, and are therefore more likely to keep your cool and get through it.**  I like to think that my appreciation of the snow drifting across the highway (and, at times, my car drifting across the highway along with it) was a sign that I was calm, cool, and in control of the situation. Or at least, in control of my car.

Around mile 60 things got bad.

How bad? I paused to take a picture to illustrate my drive:


Can you see the trees in the distance? How ’bout the lights of the car in front of me? Yeah, neither could I.

I drank too much coffee at the start, and needed to take a, um, pitstop. I spent 10 miles trying to exit, but couldn’t see the ramps.  Finally I managed to find an exit, thankfully with a Panera.  Lucky me, they had closed off part of the highway just after I exited for a 100-car pile-up. I managed to miss most of that traffic while taking my soup-and-coffee break.

Amazingly, I saw cars *flipped* on the side of the road. FLIPPED! Do you know how fast you have to be moving to flip your car over?! Pretty fast. I averaged about 30-40 mph for roughly 50 miles. That is fast enough to slide off the road (which luckily I did not do) but not exactly fast enough to flip my car (I don’t think…). Maybe in an SUV or a van.

The white-out abruptly ended about 10 miles past the Indiana border. I’ve never been more relieved to be driving in the Chicagoland area. And I doubt I will ever feel that way again.

*Southern Michigan/ Northern Indiana and Illiniois is so NOT the Great White North. But apparently, peeps from more southerly climes seem to think it IS. Oh, so funny.  So innocent.

Back up your Mac

About three weeks ago now (Thanksgiving weekend) my computer started taking a looooooonnnggg time to boot. Like, 45 min or so. And then a loooooonnnnggg time to run applications. And then, suddenly, certain applications stopped running altogether. Applications like Word. Not cool.

In a slight state of panic, I took my computer in to the Mac Geniuses at the mall. After an hour passed and my computer still had not booted up, they informed me that the hard drive was dying.

Lucky me, I hadn’t backed up a single document. And I had three papers due the next week. Brilliant.

So I ran home and waited for the computer to boot up, unwrapped my completely unused backup hard drive, hooked ‘er up, and yanked as much as I could off of the failing drive.  I was able to get everything except for a handful of pictures… mostly of the cats.

A friend was nice enough to lend me his iBook (he recently bought one of those really pretty new silver-shiny MacBooks… hi P.!) and I made it through finals.

Coincidentally, I bumped into another MacBook user the very next day– the guy that I sat next to on the bus at SNRE orientation, and who happened to grow up in the same (small) town that I had, and graduated from the same high school as I did, but 10 years earlier. He told me that *his* HD had crashed that very morning! And that the IT folks had seen three *other* white MacBooks in with the same problem earlier that week!!

The folks at the Apple store just told me it was “hit or miss” with HDs, and that this was “bound to happen.” I don’t doubt them, but c’mon. 5 white MacBooks’ HDs crashed within one week? And they were all purchased a year and a half ago? Whatever. I’m not switching back to a PC, I can tell you that much.

I guess I should stop carrying my computer with me everywhere.

And back everything up! Early and often!

(I got my faithful compu back today with a brand spankin’ new HD, and an OS upgrade to Leopard! Sadly, I also had to buy new versions of Word and photo-editing software, as I had used up the registration keys on the old ones :P)

UTZ Certified

I’ve developed a nice little morning routine of getting up, making coffee (doing chores while coffee is doing its thing), and plunking down in front of my compu to digest the daily news. Now that the election is over, there are so many more interesting things going on!

I was reading a series of articles on about environmentally-friendly ways to make coffee, environmentally-friendly cups from which to drink your coffee, and environmentally-friendly sources for coffee beans, when something caught my eye.

The Fair Trade vs. Organic article listed a handful of fair trade alternatives, including one called UTZ Certified. Now, it looks like some random acronym, right? You wonder what U-T-Z stands for, right? Well, “utz” also happens to mean “good” in a couple of Mayan languages. Could just be (probably is) a coincidence, right?


I went to their website and poked around a little.  Indeed, they mention the etymology of their name: “UTZ means ‘good’ in a Mayan language…” Uh, yep. A couple of Mayan langauge, in fact. At least they didn’t say “Utz means ‘good’ in ‘Mayan.'” As if there were only one Mayan language, or something 😛

Apparently this certification is only in Europe, and their customers are a little questionable (Wal-Mart?!).

Kinda random, kinda interesting.