29 January 2008


sunday night, j(wh) and i had one of those long late night conversations in which you end up talking about all kinds of things. and one of the things that came up was the end of my friendship with my childhood best friend. k and i were best friends from the time we were very small. we went to church together. we spent friday nights with each other at least once a month if not more. almost every saturday i went to her house to play and, starting when we were about eight, we'd walk to the mall together to go to the bookstore to get a new book for the week. but we didn't go to elementary school together.

i spent a lot of energy wishing we could go to school together. elementary school was okay the first few years. i think i was too much in my own world to pay much attention to who the popular kids were, what clothes kids were wearing, who was going to whose birthday party, etc. that changed once i hit 3rd or 4th grade and the kids more openly made fun of me. 5th and 6th grades were just nasty. i'd come home from school crying sometimes. and my poor mother had no idea what to do to make it better other than to hug me and tell me she loved me.

k was my lifeline then. because even if the kids at school were vicious and mean, i had this best friend who loved me outside of school. i was so excited that she was going to come to junior high with me. so when she told me at the end of my 7th grade year that we couldn't be friends anymore--well, that was devastating. i knew it was because i wasn't cool enough. not pretty enough. i didn't have the clothes or the stuff or the interest in music or the interest in boys. i was clearly a liability when it came to the market of popularity. and i knew it. but it still hurt.

it's a common story. nothing really special about it. but thinking about it again actually made me tear up, which surprised me a bit--how much the memory of childhood pain could hurt still. but it also made me realize that i sometimes psychically flip off all those kids i went to school with. sometimes i catch a glimpse of how interesting my life is; or i see myself with new eyes that show me my own beauty and style; or i understand how much i've accomplished. and every once in a while when i do, i remember the kids at school and how they thought of me and i mentally laugh in their faces.

24 January 2008


think about a single day, what it might cost for you to live the way you do. and think about the hundreds of thousands of people who live on less than you do in your own country. and then think about the hundreds of millions of people who live on a few dollars a day, maybe even less. and then watch this:

and ask yourself what you would have done with those $720 million dollars spent every single day for nearly five years. even if you would have spent that money in iraq, think about the effectiveness of war as a means of transforming a society as opposed to humanitarian aid in its various forms.

is it worth it? that $720 million every single day? the $500,000 every single minute?

{thank you to j(wh) for sharing this video. and to the american friends service committee for making it available.}

10 January 2008


i live a very secure life. i have my moments of personal insecurity--as many as most, a few less than some, a few more than others. i've experienced enough cognitive dissonance to spin me into depression that has kept me from fully functioning. but i live a very secure life. i know there are evil people in my world--not the world, my world. i'm sure there are people in my community who have committed unspeakable acts. i may have even encountered them. but i do not fear that evil. that's not to say that i don't take reasonable precautions or that i live in a self-generated bubble in which i think i could never be the victim of an unspeakable act. it's simply to say that such unspeakable acts are not a daily reality i must confront.

on tuesday, as i listened to my usual dose of NPR while getting ready for the day, i heard a story about healing women and children who have been raped as an act of war, followed by a story about an american doctor affiliated with harvard who has tried to help her congolese colleagues. when the story started, my tendency to socially conscious outrage was immediately piqued. as was my academic interest in feminism and women's issues. but i couldn't maintain the distance necessary to have those reactions. these stories recounted such unadulterated evil that there was no way i could simply listen in outrage and interest. instead i stopped what i was doing, sat down and cried as i listened to stories about women and girls--little girls of 10 or 11--who had been brutally violated as an act of war. and about people who give everything to help them.

those 15 minutes of radio time forced me to realize how very secure my life is. and how very helpless i feel about making any difference. i don't know yet what i can do--which organizations i can support, what work i could do remotely, how i can speak up about the cause to my own government. i plan to find out and, when i do, i'll share what i learn. but in the mean time, i'm asking you to take 15 minutes and listen. it will be hard. these are devastating stories. but please--honor these women and girls, and the people trying to help them, enough to know their stories.

04 January 2008


about a month ago, i heard a report on NPR regarding the possibility of economic recession in the u.s. that report included a recording of our dear president in which he argued that if americans will just keep spending, we'll spend ourselves right out of any possible recession.

this argument really bothers me. i have no problem with people spending money. i understand the desire for nice things and have no problem with indulging that desire within reason. but i do have a problem with the degree of consumerism i see in american society. i do have a problem with the extent to which americans willingly go into debt not for housing or education or necessities, but for luxuries. and yes--cable television and high speed internet are actually luxuries, not necessities.

hearing bush make the comment about spending our way out of possible recession reminded me of his similar response to 9/11. one of his responses was that americans should spend spend spend--rather than save their money and conserve their resources--to demonstrate our strength and to avoid economic collapse in reaction to the devastation of 9/11. i don't understand this response--that we'll somehow be stronger (both as individuals and as a nation) if we run through our money and consume our resources than if we save our money and conserve our resources.

the advice to spend to stave off economic downfall seems particularly ill-advised in light of the recent problems in the housing market which have contributed to our current economic situation--the problem of sub-prime mortgages which are caused precisely by americans spending more than they should, rather than carefully building and preserving a financial cushion even as they invest in real estate. buying more house than one can afford clearly has much more to do with consumerism and keeping up with the joneses than with investment. even someone as inexperienced in investment as myself knows you don't invest in such a way that you leave yourself no security if the investment fails.

given americans ever-growing tendency to over-spend, i'm interested in ways to incentivize savings and preservation of resources as opposed to spending and consuming resources. so as i've heard all of the post-iowa coverage today, i've been struck by mike huckabee's proposed fair tax in place of the entire existing tax code. in a nutshell, the idea is that the federal government only taxes people based on their consumption. no income tax of any variety. no capital gains tax. no taxes on inheritance. no payroll tax. just a tax on what people spend. you get the idea. here's huckabee's brief explanation:
The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities. That means people below the poverty line won't be taxed at all. We'll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn. We won't be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.
i like the idea of a tax system that rewards people for saving their money rather than spending it frivolously. i like the idea of a tax system that encourages investment and retirement planning. so i'm intrigued by the idea of huckabee's fair tax. but i'm also very leery of any proposed reform that includes the sentence "when the FairTax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness." really? really? a magic wand?

huckabee argues not only that his proposed fair tax would encourage savings; he further argues that the fair tax would immediately render american goods and businesses "12 to 25% more competitive because the cost of those goods will no longer be inflated by corporate taxes, costs of tax compliance, and Social Security matching payments." such an argument epitomizes the kind of political sleight of hand that leaves me disgusted. does huckabee actually think that the elimination of corporate taxes and the cost of tax compliance, etc., will result in american corporations dropping prices by 12 to 25%? perhaps what he means is that american corporations will have more flexibility in setting prices so they can be more competitive if necessary. that makes sense. but it would be foolish to expect that the elimination of taxes would automatically result in prices dropping across the board.

huckabee further argues that such a tax would remove the incentive to export jobs overseas. again, this seems nothing more than a pipe dream. even reducing the cost of doing business by 12 to 25% is not going to change the fact that labor is much cheaper overseas. or the fact that compliance with safety and other standards is more expensive in the states than it is in places where such standards are either non-existent or sub par. the fact of the matter is that as long as the bottom line drives business, jobs will keep leeching out of the u.s. as long as we continue to support double standards, insisting on one level of safety and health standards in the u.s. but turning a blind eye to exploitation overseas, no amount of tax reform will be a magic fix.

and then there's my concern over maintaining and bolstering social welfare programs. in many ways fiscal conservativism appeals to me. i think those in office and those who work for the government have a responsibility to do everything in their power to run government programs as efficiently as possible. but it doesn't make sense to me to cut just for the sake of cutting. i believe very much in the necessity of government sponsored programs meant to provide a security net for american citizens. and i can't help but wonder how much a program like huckabee's fair tax would tax such social welfare programs.

03 January 2008


last spring i spent the night at RAF and JP's duplex in l.a. for the first time. and on saturday morning, RAF made chocolat chaud--french hot chocolate. just imagine smooth, dark hot chocolate that's intensely rich and perfectly delicious. with toasted challah to dip in it. i fell in love with the first sip.

sometime in the summer after RAF had made me more chocolat chaud one morning, i asked him if a hand mixer would whip up the chocolat chaud well enough. he thought not, but suggested using a traditional blender since i didn't have an immersion blender (which the recipe requires). and then for my birthday in september, RAF and JP surprised me with my very own immersion blender. bless them!

last night i introduced j(wh) to the beauty that is chocolat chaud. i had some 80% cocoa christian constant chocolate bars RAF brought me from paris and we picked up whole milk and some brioche at trader joe's. j(wh) gamely went along with my plan for dipping toasted brioche into hot chocolate, though he later told me he'd been a skeptic when i suggested it. he was quickly converted. you may initially be a skeptic, too, but i think everyone should know the beauty of chocolat chaud with toasted bread (an egg bread works best, thus the challah or brioche). so here's the recipe:

chocolat chaud (hot chocolate)
adapted from the recipe used at ladurée.

3 cups (750 grams) whole milk
1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar
6 ounces (175 grams) bittersweet chocolate (at least 80% cocoa), finely chopped

to make chocolate:
bring the milk, water, and sugar just to the boil in a medium saucepan. remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. the hot chocolate needs to be blended at this point. at ladurée, this is done with a hand-held blender (also called an immersion blender). if you have an immersion blender, leave the hot chocolate in the pan and whip it for 1 minute. if you don't have an immersion blender, transfer the hot chocolate to a traditional blender and whip on high speed for 1 minute. serve the chocolate immediately while it is still hot and frothy.

to reheat chilled hot chocolate:
the chocolate can be made up to two days ahead and kept tightly covered in the refrigerator. to reheat, warm the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring gently, just until the first bubble pops on the surface. pull the pan from the heat, whip the chocolate for 1 minute with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender), and serve immediately.

to make cold hot chocolate:
chill the hot chocolate until it is very cold, then stir in 3/4 cup (200 grams) cold milk. whip the cold chocolate for 1 minute with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender). serve the cold hot chocolate over an ice cube or two. the cold hot chocolate allegedly makes for a yummy ice cream float, too.

make yourself a pot of chocolat chaud, toast yourself some strips of brioche, and indulge in a perfectly decadent breakfast or late night snack.

01 January 2008


my new year's eve usually goes like this:
  • help make lots of finger food.
  • play games with family.
  • help eat lots of finger food.
  • make some half-hearted noise at midnight.
  • go to bed shortly thereafter.
sometimes they're not even that exuberant--i've been known to go to bed well before midnight. new year's just seems like a holiday to be celebrated with others. for years, i haven't had friends around with whom to go dancing or to a party--not since my high school best friend got married when i was 21. and my family aren't so much party people. or dancing people. and, to be totally honest, i never have anyone to kiss at midnight, which bothers me way more than it should.

this year the pajamas came out early, but not for early bedtime. they were the attire of choice for atomic ballroom's new year's eve pajama jammie jam. so, after ramen (yummy) and wandering around isamu noguchi's california experience, j(wh) and i headed to atomic to change into jammies and dance the night away. when i told my mama that the party was a pajama party, she was duly horrified. she seemed to think it would be okay if it were just girls, but... Apparently men and women aren't supposed to see each other in pajamas. so i figured i needed photographic evidence of The Great Pajama Scandal of 2007 (i needed some scandal of the year; good thing atomic stepped up and provided a last-minute opportunity).

the good people at atomic do know how to throw a party. big screen video gaming for those needing a break from dancing (not something i was interested in, but i suppose some people appreciated it). brightly colored helium balloons. streamers, party hats, and noisemakers. a breakfast buffet spread out not only on the table, but also hanging overhead (little boxes of cereal hung from the ceiling). an 11:00 midnight-in-arizona toast toast (in other words a toast made with toast). and of course great music and lots of dancing.

i spent most of the night dancing. everyone at atomic is so nice--especially for putting up with me and my beginner efforts at dancing. it helps so much to dance with leads who know what they're doing. if only i could follow better... someday.

of course we took a break from dancing at midnight to ring in the new year with streamers and noisemakers and a sparkling cider toast. so much fun to be part of a group welcoming a new year. and of course so much fun to be there with j(wh). and i was right--new year's is much better with someone to kiss.

it's hard to pick a highlight of the night. but if i had to choose, i think i'd say it was the food i shared with j(wh). we bypassed the cookie cereal and just put oreo cookies in a bowl and poured milk over them, let them get good and soggy, and ate them with a spoon. yummy! yet more evidence that j(wh) is a man after my own heart. and i'm pretty sure the milk-soaked oreos are responsible for his beautiful arms. either that or the quaker oats.