Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MOON cake

I wish I could go to Hong Kong and get some. Look at the whole collection here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Decline and fall of print journalism

Here is the saddest story I have heard lately.

I am writing a column on trap-neuter-return management of feral cats. One person I interviewed said that she went to Dayton to trap some cats, and they had a problem because they line the traps with newspaper, and Dayton doesn't have a newspaper anymore.

I love the internet, but you can't line animal cages with it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


This is a photo from my last column by AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin. She took this one too, which is of course better because it has two pugs in it, but, wow, huh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Plant one!

Lilly entered a trick contest at an event run by the store where she goes nearly every day to beg for cookies, Living Ruff. She did a routine of all her tricks in a row, starting with the dance, including the wave bye-bye and ending with this, the Plant One.

The judges sitting at the table are Mary Alice of Charm City Cakes, famous for the tv show Ace of Cakes, Jen, famous for the Silver Spring Penguin, and some guy. He does something really worthy with therapy dogs at Walter Reed but I don't know his name, and in this picture, I am standing so you can't see him. Sorry, Some Guy.

Lilly won second place, which had a $30 gift certificate prize. She can buy her own damn cookies for a few weeks.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adventures in local journalism and fried dough

See that unassuming metal building on the far side of the courtyard?

It just looks like an equipment shed or something boring like that. But inside is the whole summer's worth of food preparation for a Greek church festival, like these five foot tall carts full of moussaka and pastitsio, ready for their close-up:

In the church basement (where it is much warmer than in the walk-in freezer), a bunch of ladies are punching dough:

and rolling it out:

and cutting it up:

and frying:

Unfortunately this story doesn't have an end yet, because I left before they finished filling the rest of the big plastic trays with the fried diples and putting honey and nuts on them:

Stay tuned and maybe next weekend there will be a final picture, but I might be too busy eating the other fried dough thing that I like better.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What writing is good (or bad) for

Harvard once considered hiring Nabokov to teach literature; Roman Jakobson, then a professor of linguistics there, is supposed to have asked whether the university was also prepared to hire an elephant to teach zoology.

That is from an article by Louis Menand in the June 8/15th New Yorker. I just got around to going through three months' of New Yorkers to cut out the cartoons. I didn't find any cartoons, but I liked this quote.

I had a moment of terror realizing that I had kept the magazines since June, because I fear that if I went off the deep end, I'd become one of those people who hoards reading material until they can't walk around the house and are eventually found dead under a fallen-over stack of magazines. This fear has been aggravated lately by reading a bunch of papers on the related disorder of animal hoarding and also by a review of the latest E.L. Doctorow novel, which is about a couple of famous hoarding brothers in New York who died in the 1940s in just this way.

But more to the point: THREE months of New Yorkers with no cartoons I wanted to cut out? Is it them, or me? Are they no good anymore? Or am I old, and have read so many cartoons in my life that I am harder to please? I don't know, but there's still a list of web cartoons in the sidebar over there that I enjoy every morning, you know?

Friday, September 4, 2009


There is an asteroid named after Bruce Springsteen.

There are so many asteroids, I wonder if one could aspire to this goal. Previously my highest concept of fame was the dream that someday I'd publish a book and see a stranger reading it on the subway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why sometimes a person just gives up and goes to Starbucks

Recently I decided there is no excuse for someone who works at home, with a full kitchen, to go out to Starbucks in the afternoon for a chocolate banana smoothie. However, the chocolate banana smoothie, which is under 300 calories, is a pretty healthy afternoon snack. So the plan was to figure out to make the same thing at home.

The first obstacle was that I don't have a blender. We threw out the blender when the kitchen was being remodeled. It was a new blender that I had bought after careful research of reviews from trusted sources, which, when it arrived in the mail, I discovered had a glass container that weighed about a hundred pounds. And which didn't always screw onto its bottom properly, resulting in its liquid contents spilling out the bottom all over the blender base. There was absolutely nothing good about this blender. So when faced with the prospect of finding someplace to store it during the remodeling, I jumped at the chance to throw the damn thing out.

Now, I do have a stick blender, which I bought as a replacement, not being willing to buy another stand blender after that traumatic experience, and thinking it would take up less space and be useful for blending things without dirtying another container. It turns out that is great for things that are already being prepared in some kind of container, but stinks for making drinks because you can't really put it in a drink glass. It might work if we bought the right kind of container to use it in, but at the point of considering that, it becomes clear that what we need is a regular blender.

So, first I went out and bought a blender.

Then, I went to Whole Foods to find a chocolate protein shake mix. There's one made with soy, but sometimes soy milk gives me a stomachache. So I looked at the other, made with whey protein. WTF. They sell this at a store called "WHOLE foods"? There appears to be no entire food anywhere in this product. There was also that warning that they put on aspartame, although I couldn't find aspartame in the ingredients. I got no idea what's going on here with micro-filtering whey and having to warn phenylketonurics not to eat the stuff, but no way I am buying it.

So I decided, if the alternative was something that started with milk and then processed it beyond recognition, why not just make the thing with milk?

OK, fine. I have milk. Now I just need a way to make it chocolate flavored. So I go look at the chocolate milk powders. To make a long story about factory ingredients and the quality of chocolate short, it turns out that the only one that I find acceptable is made of just cocoa and sugar.

Well, I have cocoa and sugar at home. So never mind buying that product either. Now remember, real cocoa powder does not dissolve in cold milk unless processed in a factory, so using real cocoa means that I am going to have to make a paste of cocoa, hot water and sugar every time I make a shake. Or else find a recipe for cooking that into a syrup that will keep a little while.

Then I go buy some bananas. Which reminds me, there's this other whole problem which is that to me, bananas are only at an acceptable stage of ripeness for about five minutes. OK, for a shake, I'll eat them a little riper, so they might be OK for about a day. What are the odds that when I want a shake, A, I will have bananas, and B, they will be exactly ripe enough? Yeah.

So, chances are, every time I want a shake, I will have to go to the store to buy a banana. Then I will have to make a paste of cocoa and sugar, then I can put all that stuff in the blender. Then I have to wash the blender, and all the equipment that I used to cut the banana, make the cocoa paste, etc.

There is no way that it will be faster to go across the street, buy a perfectly ripe banana at Whole Foods - assuming they have one that day - and come home and do all of that, than it would be to walk another block and wait on line at Starbucks for a shake in the afternoon when they are usually not busy. It's also unclear when, factoring in the cost of the blender, it will start being cheaper to make it at home. I don't have the energy left to try to do the calculation, even if I knew exactly how many tablespoons of cocoa I am going to want to use and so on.

I give up. Some things are best left to a professional.