Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bringing Paris Home


I don't even know what to say but SUCCESS. I succeeded not only in making bread, but making really fucking good baguettes of the type I have only tasted in Paris. I am not even quite sure how I did it. It took 3 days, endless kneading, and was completely worth the 10 minutes that it took me to devour most of what you see in this picture.

Now, won't you ask me, "Shane, dear, aren't you gluten intolerant? Isn't white bread anathema?" And my answer would be, "Absolutely. This amount of AP flour will make my tummy hurt for the rest of the day. AND I DON'T EVEN CARE." That is how good these are. 

My life is complete.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Of Mice and Women

I am a New Yorker. I am tough. I am totally cool with huge rats running beneath me when I am standing on the subway platform. 

What I am not okay with is a mouse in my bedroom. The way it scurries across the floor when the room goes quiet makes me scream. Loudly. And trying to sleep when I know it is there is damn near impossible. I discovered that I was sharing a room with just such a rodent Saturday morning, when I went to grab a protein bar for my ride and found one half-eaten in the box. There is a difference, however, between having evidence that it's been there and seeing it for yourself. Over the weekend, I filled out a maintenance request for pest control, and slept soundly since I didn't see or hear anything else.

Yesterday was a different story. Having relocated my box of bars to a high high high shelf, the mouse no longer had anything to feed on. The pest control guy came yesterday, and sniffed around my radiator. But the cover requires a screwdriver to remove, and he had nothing with him, so he set a trap and bid me good day. Everything was peachy until last night, around 8:30, when I shut off the sounds on my computer, things got quiet, and the mouse decided to come looking for food. In the middle of my room. It peeked its head out from underneath my desk, and sitting on my bed I caught a glimpse of it and screamed bloody murder. It's completely irrational to have such a fear of such a small animal that poses me no harm. I accept that, but I am afraid anyway. Other people (boys) are just going to have to accept my point of view. I don't like things that dart to and fro.

It's also hard to explain exactly why I am so afraid, but it has something to do with the dorm room set up. When we had mice in the kitchen at home it was no big deal. Partially because my dad dealt with it. Partially because they were in the kitchen. NOW THEY ARE IN MY BEDROOM. I spend time in here sleeping, eating, working, and pondering the big questions in life. It's a small space. There is only room for one person. Not one person and a mouse. I'm the kind of obsessive person who can't sleep unless all is well in the world. I don't want to hear mice scurrying across the floor as I try to go to my comfortable place and fall asleep. 

Anyway, after seeing the mouse, I decided to do a little more to lure it to the trap. It didn't appear that there was any bait in the trap. So I went to the kitchen to grab a small piece of cheese. Unfortunately, as I was dropping it onto the trap so it wouldn't close on my finger, the trap SNAPPED shut on the cheese, breaking it in half and causing me to scream for the third time that night (there had been a second mouse sighting before getting the cheese). I called housing for help. They told me to come pick up some more traps. My nerves being frayed as they were, I was extremely happy to find out that the office of housing services gives out glue traps, rather than snap traps. So there would hopefully be no more loud noises for the evening. Of course, to put up the glue traps I would have to get close to the mouse (mice?). 

I was just lucky enough to be heading back into my building at the same time as a guy I know well enough to ask for help. As he does not possess the same irrational rodent fears that I do, he was able to set them under my desk near the radiator, with a smear of peanut butter in the middle. He is the hero of the evening. 

As soon as he left, I packed a bag as quickly as I could and headed out the door. Riding the 50 blocks to Liz's in 40 degree weather sounded like a much better idea that sticking around waiting to hear a mouse get stuck on a big thing of glue.

And such is life. The glue traps are still sitting in my room. Although I am moved back in, I am not quite brave enough to check if they caught anything. I'm waiting for the Columbia Facilities man to come back and look for me (and inspect the radiator). Please, come back sir. Save me from my own imagination.

UPDATE 11/16: The glue traps didn't catch anything. The exterminator instead came and patched up the hole between my wall and the floor next to the radiator. So no mouse death at my hands, but no more mouse either! Hasta la vista, Jorge!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Autumn is here!

Thursday is both my favorite and my least favorite day of the week. Thursday is my favorite morning. Thursday is my least favorite afternoon. I have the most class and scheduled time on Thursdays, and the least amount of time during the day to sit around and think about all of the things that I am not doing. But Thursday morning is the farmer's market on Broadway and 114th St, and furthermore, the one day of the week that Ronnybrook Farms is outside my door ready to sell me the best milk and yogurt that I've ever tasted. 

This is how it goes: 7:30 my alarm goes off. At 8 I actually rouse myself after the usual three snoozes on the alarm. Maybe I'm lazy. But maybe I really just like hearing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" blaring out of my cell phone (it's my alarm ring). By 8:30 I've eaten and have freshly-brewed coffee in-hand. I search through the NY Times website for something interesting to read.  About 8:45 the caffeine is cycling through my bloodstream and I decide it's time to do the work that I set my alarm so absurdly early for (8am is early in college-speak). My keyboard goes clickity clack for an hour as I try to come up with something that resembles a finished piece of writing. Then, I decide I better head outside so that I can get through the farmer's market and be back before I need to leave for class. So I throw on a sweater and some flip flops--because it's that perfect kind of weather this week where you can do such a thing and feel like you might once again be living in Cailfornia--and head up the street to 114th and Broadway. 

I have to say, the lady that works at Ronnybrook is possibly one of my favorite people in the world. She always has a smile on her face, and sometimes even gives me a discount. Plus, she comes bearing the maple vanilla yogurt that is closer to chocolate chip cookies than that bland Yoplait shit on the scale of one to delicious. Then, I work my way down the line. I grab some apples, some butternut squash, a head of purple cauliflower, and some greenbeans from Samscott. And a mini pumpkin. Because, bitches, it's Halloween. My last stop is Meredith's Bread for a loaf of spelt bread. It's delicious, and it doesn't make me feel gross all day long. What more could you want from a bread?

Finally, I go home and pat myself on the back for being productive in the morning. If you were wondering if I had a point, I don't really. But fall is here and I'm excited! Perhaps I'll make butternut squash soup here pretty soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

GF Meatballs

I'm back! It's for real this time, or so I would like to think. My life's been a bit tumultuous in the past few months. As a good Ferro child, I've kept it all welled up inside. I'm breaking through it again. I want to write again. I'm cooking a lot and need somewhere to keep my recipes. Tonight: Gluten Free Meatballs. Meatballs are so easy, I can't believe I don't make them more often. And delicious. Nom nom. If you are on a gluten free diet, it's not totally necessary to make them with breadcrumbs, especially if you like them on the meatier side. These don't hold together quite as well as a traditional meatball, and it gives them a bit of a different texture, which adds up to something between a meatball and a slider. But when is beef, starch, and seasonings not a good mix? Never.


1 lb. ground beef (I used 85/15)
1/2 cup cooked rice (I used the precooked brown stuff from Trader Joe's)
1 egg, large
1/8 cup green onion (the white part), minced
Spices to your taste (I used soy sauce, pepper, and sesame seeds)

Scramble the egg in a small bowl. Put all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mash it up until well blended. Spoon out the meat mixture and roll into balls. Cook to your taste. They can be grilled, cooked in a skillet, put in the oven, thrown in the slow cooker with some broth and a few veggies for a nice soup, or probably even microwaved.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I promise.

One of these days I am going to come back to my blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Someone please remind me this is self-inflicted pain

Two days ago, I did the previously unthinkable: I woke up and thought to myself, "I think I'll run today." That may not be quite so unthinkable if you knew me in high school or even freshman year in college. But now it's a bit different. I haven't run since the last time my bike was out of sight for an extended period of time, that being last December in Paris. That was almost eight months ago.

Why all of the sudden did I feel like picking up my shoes and bobbing up and down on the uneven pavement of my Chinatown neighborhood for 40 minutes? There are a few reasons, but they mostly boil down to the fact that I've been cycling nonstop since I returned from Paris in January. In addition to being just plain tired of cycling, I've also been living downtown, which requires a 20-30 minute, 70 block cruise to Central Park if I want to even think about having a nice ride on my bicycle. I usually go after work, which means I commute to the park through rush-hour traffic. Add in the extra annoyance of the "protected" bike lanes on 1st and 2nd Avenues, which far from making me feel safe actually have me thinking about how a head-on collision with a delivery boy would feel at 15 mph, roughly every three blocks. Not fun.

Being fed up with two months of the slog from here to the Park, not to mention only being able to go to the park to ride, I picked up my running shoes and thought to myself...hmm, no commute to start, better views, able to explore the neighborhood...and 20 minutes later I found myself in Brooklyn. Which was really great, until I started heading back to Manhattan. It's not usually the best idea to test your running shape by setting out on a 40 minute run that doesn't really have an early exit strategy. But I wanted a view, so I headed to the Manhattan bridge, which is about 5 blocks from my apartment. 

The problem is that the Manhattan Bridge is segregated: bikes on one side, pedestrians on the other. But there is no super clear signage about that. So I started running up the ramp closest to where my street dumps out onto Canal St., which I now know is the bike-only lane. I thought something was fishy when I didn't see ANY pedestrians near the ramp, but there was a nice-enough-looking hipster fixing the whole foods backs roped to the back rack of his bike midway up the ramp. I asked him, quite clearly, whether the ramp was for ONLY bikes, or if pedestrians were allowed too. "Oh, both," he said. Okay. Taking his hipster-word as fact, I set off running again, up the bridge.

Yes, up. Being that both Manhattan and Brooklyn are more or less at sea level, bridges over the east river are basically man-made hills. That was my second "Oopsies, maybe not the best idea for my first run in 8 months." But I put one foot in front of the other and continued on. Of course, the hipster was wrong. Once I got onto the bridge I could see quite clearly I was the douche running in the bike lane, and all of the other runners and walkers were having a grand old time across 4 train tracks and 3 lanes of cars on the other side of the bridge. That meant that in order to minimize my self-hatred as a generally cyclist-friendly person, I should stay as close to the rail as possible, and just continue running in a straight line until it was possible to cross over, meaning in Brooklyn, over a mile away over a hill.

In the end it turned out to be worth it. When you are running, unlike when riding, it's generally possible to take in your surroundings without crashing into a pole or another person. So you can appreciate the wonderful sunset over lower Manhattan from mid-East River. 



It was so wonderful, in fact, that I decided to do the same run again last night, taking care to actually go over the correct way this time. I thought it also might help alleviate some of the soreness in my quads from the first run. WRONG. It was a great run. It was beautiful. But as far as helping me be able to walk today, not so much. I woke up this morning feeling like a truck ran me over. I stumbled into the kitchen barely able to stand. I may be forced to skip class today because I'm not totally convinced that I will be able to make it down two flights of stairs in my building plus two more in the crowded subway station. The running gods are punishing me for ignoring them for so long.

But still, I think that photo's worth it. And I'll probably run today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh, and your apartment is the size of a closet, too.

"Hi. May I please speak to _____?"

"I'm sorry he's in a meeting/on another call/not available. Can I take a message?"

"Sure. My name is Shane Ferro. I am a reporter from Real Estate Finance & Investment. I received a press release about ____ and I'm calling to follow up and perhaps ask a few questions to whomever is available."

"Right. Well let me get your contact details and I'll have him call you back [in a week, or a month, or never]."


That's a cold call right there. An endless series of Hello, and My Name Is... That's what you do when you are a new journalist. You make cold calls and you wait. You wait sitting by your phone and wondering what you should be doing. Your list was so long an hour ago, and now that you've got ten calls into ten people, none of whom actually were available to talk, your list is gone and you are left with a blank word document and an abundance of time.  

That is, of course, until they start calling you back and then you've got three interviews for the same two hour window. Then you have three stories to write with only an hour left until you are supposed to go home, knowing if you leave it until tomorrow you are going to forget half of what they said that was important. But you go home anyway, because after all, you are just an intern and you don't get paid enough to stay longer. So then you go into work in the morning and you in fact, have forgotten most of the juicy stuff that was said, and then you feel like a bad journalist until you remember that you are, after all, just an intern and not a journalist at all.

And then, just as you feel like you are getting a grasp on what this is all about. You actually understand the meaning of CMBS and you know a guy at Prudential and a guy at CBRE and a few guys in London. Someone actually CALLS you for once. Well then, that means it's over. It's September. Time to go back to school and forget everything you learned and file this away on your resume as an "experience" with a reference and a phone number and that's it.

That's it. You're done. No more.

Welcome to summer in New York. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Great American dessert

Two days straight of making pie. "Why..." you might say, "would you be making pies at the tail end of a major heatwave in your crappy little apartment with barely-working air conditioning?"

That's a very good question. This is why. The Great American Pie Off. I found this in Time Out NY on Thursday and decided that it was an opportunity that I just couldn't pass up. On Thursday after work I broke out the mixing bowls, went out and bought a pastry cutter and a rolling pin, and set to work making dough. It's been a while since I made a pie crust: longer even than it has been since I've blogged (!). Beyond the simple fact that I wasn't sure I remembered how to roll out pastry dough, I was also unsure about how the dough was going to react to the hot/humid conditions, so I wanted to make sure I had time to make more than one pie. So Thursday night was crust night, last night was the first try, and today was potentially reserved for the final try.


Sure enough the first one I made came out less-than-spectacular, though that was more because I didn't put enough flour in the topping than anything else. In the picture it actually looks pretty good, but in reality the topping is soft and greasy rather than crunchy and delicious, so I opted for cutting into this one and making another for the contest. It came out much better. 

And now it's off to the races! Or to the Pie Off, rather...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Look at this fucking fire escape view.

I am sitting on my terrace (read: fire escape) watching the night pass by. And pass by it has. I am half a block from The Box, a swanky burlesque club, and half a block in the other direction from Freeman's, a swanky restaurant/cocktail bar, and a block and a half from the Bowery Ballroom, not to mention all of the other LEs bars and dives frequented by Manhattan's finest bros and hoes.

Let's just say if I had a better camera that could handle night shots I would have a lot of material for Look at This Fucking Hipster [dot] com.

In other news, I have spent the last few days working on a new website that, like my current environs, is very swanky. I am hoping to be live by the end of the weekend.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last days home






Monday, May 24, 2010

Hanging out at the Tour of California






I had a great time at the Tour of California circuit race yesterday. In my typical unable-to-focus state, I spent time in a few different places. I started at the TO Mall, where the racers came to check in (and sign autographs). As you can see above, the tiny red carpet is where I got most of my up-close-and-personal shots of the racers. I was situated such that the racers walked right past me up the stairs to the stage to check in, then subsequently turned to face the crowds, giving me a perfect ass shot. You can see what I'm talking about if you skip to the photo of Mick Rogers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dirty clothes

I'm doing laundry right now and it's one of the most exciting things that has happened to me in a long time. Not only did I not have to hoard quarters for a week, but I also don't have to walk down 5 floors to a scary basement. AND I don't have to have wet clothes hanging over every surface available in my room. I can actually hang them in the laundry room.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Project memory lane






I'm working on two things while I am home for the next three weeks: one, not sitting around the house being bored all the time, and two, cleaning up the mess that is our photo closet.

Lounging with my pillow collection

So it's over. I'm home. This morning I sent in my final paper of the semester. I now lay in my own bed at home, listening to the weird sounds that my house makes and thinking about high school. I am looking at my pillow collection. Most of the time I forget that I have a rather intense collection of decorative pillows. Maybe because it is a tiny bit embarrassing. Or because they are impossible to bring to school. Anyway, they are kind of cool. I don't really remember where I got any of them. Only that they are here in my room now in a variety of different colors, . They take up a lot of space. They aren't useful since they are too decorative to be used for actual pillow functions. They therefore represent everything I would hate to have in a New York apartment. But I guess that is what the suburbs are for.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thoughts from a sleepless brain

California is a funny place.

The train station at the Burbank airport (yes, it exists) is MAYBE a quarter of a mile from the baggage claim. All signs point to you getting a shuttle there. You realize once you get on the shuttle that the walk to the shuttle is half way to the train station. And you spent 5 minutes waiting for the one specific shuttle. You should have just kept walking.

There is no easy pedestrian access to anything.

When you get off the plan, you are embraced by a warm, fuzzy combination of smog and fog that just screams childhood.

Less than 3 hours until I'm home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finals week almost half over.

Je suis fatiguĂ©e.






Fin.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Louisiane

I started writing a fabulous blog entry about New Orleans. And then I got distracted thinking about Cajun French. And I watched this. And it was a little bit hilairous (while also terribly sad). And then I decided I should maybe do my homework. Fin.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Don't let the terrorists win

Some people may have heard that there was a bomb found in Times Square on Saturday evening. Terrorism usually scares people. That's what it's meant to do. Even Saturday night was probably not so much about the bomb as it was about the threat of the bomb. Because it almost happened, the city will spend millions of dollars on new security protocol and this and that will, while perhaps not actually doing any good, will at least make us feel safer. There has been one terrorist attack carried out in the past 10 years. I would say that's a pretty good record. Zero in the past five years (assuming this foiled one doesn't count). The thing is, no one can know whether that number is low because NYC isn't a target, or because the security system we already have works pretty well. Since we can't know, we will throw money at it to make people think that someone knows.

I digress. How the City of New York spends its money is not really my business until I stop being lazy and change my voter registration status from its current headquarters at 1051 Rancho Vista Lane. I am much more worried about the way that others fear death-by-terrorism. I know that my maternal grandmother is rolling over in her grave right now; she would have been on the phone with me the first thing Sunday morning when she turned on the news, worried about my vulnerability to terrorism. The first thing I probably would have said to her would be that there's no need to worry about my safety if we are talking about things that go on in Times Square. I avoid the area like the plague. I don't even like to switch trains at 42nd St. But beyond that, though living in New York probably ups my risk for being near a car bomb as opposed to Ventura, that's like saying by putting two of my toes in the tide as it comes in I upped my risk of being attacked by a shark as opposed to standing on the dry sand.


You see, the number of mortalities in New York City every year is somewhere around 50,000 and 60,000 every year. That's 550,000 give or take a few thousand in the last decade. The number of people that have died as a result of terrorism in the city: 2,746 (according to the City of New York). All of those deaths were related to the World Trade Center disaster. While I'm not trying to discredit the lives of those people who did die in that terrorist attack, my point is that they were a mere 0.5% of the deaths this decade. And that's taking it way back just to be able to have a straw to grasp. The number of terrorism-related deaths in 2008 (the latest numbers available): 0. The number of terrorism-related deaths in the past 5 years: 0.

By contrast, almost half of the deaths reported in 2008 were caused by heart disease (24,000 out of 54,000).  Or even, I could be one of the 388 people who died in 2008 as a result of "accident falls." Or the 390 who died of "injury from firearms" (not including homicide or suicide). I don't really go around playing with firearms. But it's entirely possible that I could have an accident fall. I'm not exactly the most stable person to grow a pair of legs. I occasionally trip over cracks in the sidewalk. Way more occasionally than I see other people trip now that I think about it...

On a slightly more serious note, there are 320 people who died in 2008 from motor vehicle accidents. Since I don't see it anywhere else, I can only assume that this means bike accidents as well as car accidents (and many probably include both unfortunately). That's a valid concern perhaps, though I still see the puny 320 out of 54,000 (out of the 8.3 people still alive here in the city) as a better chance to take than the 24,000 that die of heart disease. Biking is a short-term risk perhaps, but a long-term investment in my health.

Now, if I was really going to take a good, educated look at this data, I would need to zone in on my age group. The leading cause of death for residents of NYC between the ages of 15-24 is homicide (164 in 2008), and then accidents (84). But then you break that down into sex, and you realize that of that 164 homicide number, only 12 of those were female. The leading cause of death for 15-24 females is cancer, sitting at a hefty 32 people in 2008. And the thing about cancer is that, well, who says they are worried about their ___ who lives in NYC because she might die of cancer?

*Disclaimer: I am not a statistician. Nor am I a sociologist. I realize that there are a lot of ways of interpreting data, and the risk assessment process for vulnerability to terrorism may be slightly more complicated than "it hasn't happened in the last 5 years so the risk is 0..." My source for these numbers is here. And the larger NYC vital statistics resource website is here. Notice how the website splits space between mortality statistics and most popular baby names. How cutesy.

Also, how cool is this?? I'm just glad that I didn't live in New York between 1830 and 1930...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bike racing according to Murphy's Law, aka a day on the train to NJ

Yesterday's route: 

Room >>> Bike ride to Penn Station >>> Arrive at Penn Station dripping with humidity >>> Walk around the maze of Penn Station to get to NJ Transit >>> NJ Transit to Metuchen >>> Train station to Carrie's house >>> Car from Carrie's to Colts Neck, NJ (involving multiple U-turns to to poor highway planning and signage) >>>  Ride around to warm up only to be told the race starts in 5 minutes >>> Race hard in circles, mostly on roads, one time in the dirt due to poor turning abilities of the cat 4 field (Bingo square) >>> Narrowly avoid a crash in front of me for the second time of the two times I've ever had an uphill sprint finish in a race >>> Privately celebrate my top 10 before looking for my teammates >>> Realize my teammates are nowhere to be found >>> Ride around in circles, finally find one >>> embark on an epic journey to find out if any race official or organizer knows who crashed and what hospital they were taken to >>> Realize no one knows anything >>> Finally figure out it was indeed my teammate, and the other one must be in the ambulence with her >>> Spend 20 minutes trying to figure out what hospital she could be at >>> Spend 20 minutes driving to the hospital >>> Accidentally walk into the senior care center, the hospital is down the road >>> Walk in the hospital to find another cyclist being treated. Not my teammate. >>> Another half hour to get to the second hospital, where we have finally confirmed we know someone >>>Arrive only to find the entire parking lot blocked off by a fundraising event >>> Park in emergency parking >>> Sit in the hospital for four hours waiting for someone to realize we are sitting in a hallway with a bleeding person >>> Realize sitting in the hospital is fruitless >>> Two people walking three bikes from the hospital to the train station >>> Have many thoughts about how the Shore kind of looks like Carpinteria >>> Finally get a train going to Penn Station >>> Sit in train for almost two hours >>> Train to subway, local only of course >>> Room! Shower! Bed! >>> FIRE ALARM >>> Stairs down >>> Wait >>> Stairs up >>> Bed.

That being said, I think the fire alarm was the worst part of my day. All of my skin is intact. And I couldn't have spent the day with better people. So I'll label it an "exciting day." Not good, not bad, but certainly exciting.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A pleasant jaunt along River Road this morning

Today on my normal Saturday ride, I took a moment or two to collect real proof that I don't spend all of my time in an urban jungle. Sometimes I venture out into the suburban forest. Occasionally I see trees that weren't planted by Olmstead. And so I present to you the best of a spring morning in Piermont, NY.

Tweed from below.

The Tappan Zee Bridge in the distance. My favorite bridge north of Manhattan because I like words that start with "Z."


A state park. That I've never been to, but I ride near it sometimes.

Trees, oh my!

Monday, April 19, 2010

It was a sunny day today

Things that happened to me today:

-- I got in a pseudo-argument with a guy in my Law, Science, and Society class about whether or not FGM is analogous to plastic surgery. He tried to tell me that most of the plastic surgery done in this country is to fix people's hideous disfigurements that would otherwise leave them ostracized from society. I told him that while I didn't have numbers, I was absolutely sure that I was right. After growing up in Southern California, moving to New York, and being rather fluent in the culture of the American television industry, I probably overestimate the number of people on the planet who have undergone cosmetic surgery. But I am not naive enough to think that there are enough hideous scars on the planet to pay for the kinds of cars that populate a cosmetic surgeon's office parking lot (besides, those people just build lairs under the Paris opera house, or are secretly Gerard Butler).

Sure enough, when I looked it up, of all plastic surgery done in 2008, 12 million surgeries were cosmetic and 4.5 million were reconstructive. More interesting perhaps, of hte cosmetic surgeries, over 5 million were Botox. Breast augmentations are the most common invasive surgeries at just over 300,000. Of reconstructive surgeries, 3.8 million of the 4.5 million were tumor removals. Only 160,000 were scar revision (full report but the American Society of Plastic Surgeons here). Booya. It is interesting to me that more people get poison pumped into their faces than get tumors removed from their bodies.

I won't say much on the subject of FGM, mostly because the jury is still out for me (read this if you are flabbergasted as to why I would say such a thing). On the one hand, I certainly wouldn't want it done to me. One of the major issues, and the reason I was arguing it's nothing like plastic surgery in this country is the lack of consent before the procedure. But then again, there is a sort-of generation-gap of consent in that mothers consent for their daughters up to 95% of the time after going through the process themselves. There is also an argument to be made for "consent" being irrelevant when it is something that you have to do in order to become a full member of a society. Not to mention arguing the consent angle begs the question of male circumcision in this society, which is certainly not consent-based. Nor would talk of banning it be legitimately heard. So, onward and beyondward with things from today.

-- I went to the doctor to see why I felt like my uterus was going to explode during both of my races this weekend (I've ticked off "DNF" to my series of humiliations for the season. If I get a "crash myself out" I've got bingo). She told me that I was probably fine and perhaps I should get more electrolytes. But do her a favor and try avoiding dairy for a couple of days. Three hours later, as the first spoonful of my Monday fro yo hit my lips, I remembered this request. Having already shelled out $2.25, I decided that dairy-free must be starting tomorrow.


-- We talked about blackface in Music Hum. I was appalled at the number of people who had never heard of it or didn't know what it was. Has no one seen the third episode of season three of Mad Men?  It's just shameful. After feeling superior for roughly 4.3 seconds, I learned that blackface theater was the first form of entertainment to be seen by the entire country, because the troupes traveled around the country, rather than just performing locally. This helped to support a growing nationalist spirit in the late 1800's. Basically, it was the American Idol of Reconstruction. The question is, did Geib not tell me this, or was I not paying attention? I refuse to believe that Bailey could have failed me. Perhaps I forgot.

-- Backstreet Boys were playing in Duane Reade. I walked out significantly happier than I walked in.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Hiatus. Over.

    This one is for Noah.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    It's all about cycling now

    I've been writing, just not here. But here and here.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Off to the races muffins!

    When I get stressed, I bake. When I have to have food prepared for a whole weekend, I also bake. Since I couple these two issues with having absolutely no money in my checking account, I searched high and low for a recipe that included only ingredients that I happen to have at the moment. This recipe originally called for butter, but olive oil (which I actually had) seemed to work just fine, and was a heart-healthy option.
    These are my "off to the races!" muffins.
    Ingredients
    2 small ripe bananas, mashed
    4 oz plain yogurt
    2 small cooked sweet potatoes, skinned and mashed
    1 cup white sugar
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup applesauce
    2 eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or gluten free mix)
    1/2 cups oatmeal
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    Method
    1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two standard muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the bananas, yogurt, sweet potatoes, and sugar. Mix on high speed until lightened in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla and mix until well-combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.
    3. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them a little more than halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    This morning

    6:30 am. Black ice. Crunch. Ouch. Full day ahead and still have to do my actual workout. I believe I'm unfortunately going to be stuck in bitch mode until March 13th. Ugh.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Conveniently, I think Al Gore should go away but leave his message on the table.

    Al Gore has an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this morning. I saw that and I laughed a little inside. Al Gore's public history is mostly hilarious. I think people on both sides of the aisle laugh at Al Gore, if for different reasons. That being said, he made some salient points about climate change, addressing two of the most glaringly inaccurate public assumptions of late: 1. that the controversy over the data of one specific study somehow disproves 150 years of science pointing towards anthropogenic climate change, and 2. that two weeks of snowstorms in the Northeastern U.S. are enough evidence for conservative pundits to declare climate change a hoax.

    He basically goes with, a let's calm down and go back to actual facts people argument. But as I got to the end of the rather lengthy piece and found myself nodding along with the points he was making (until he made some allusionary statement about the truth being inconvenient, at which time I simply buried my head in the crook of my arm and groaned), I began to question the effect of this article. In recent weeks, after feeling assaulted by the misinformed media questioning climate change, I welcome a well-reasoned Op-Ed piece on this issue. It was definitely needed. But in the Times coming from Al Gore? There is too much political controversy surrounding his political persona for anyone to take him seriously. He made his point in An Inconvenient Truth. After that, you are either for him or against him. He has political credentials, not academic or scientific ones. Therefore, if you are politically against him you are automatically going to be inclined to be against all of his ideas. That's just the way that the political system works here in the United States. So the argument becomes political fluff, making the Times' readership (most of whom I'm going to guess don't have much trouble buying the climate change argument anyway) feel better about themselves without actually making any moves towards reaching the people who could use convincing.

    Climate change is an issue that really gets to me. I mean, it really gets my panties in a bunch. I spend a substantial amount of my time studying it. The science behind it, its effects on world weather patterns, the potential global economic problems that it could cause, the different ways of predicting what is going to happen, and how to deal with what is happening.

    The first thing that sends me into a tizzy is when people refer to it as "global warming." As in, "Gosh, it's snowing outside, this must be proof that global warming is a myth made up by Al Gore." [It's funny because I started writing this post before Gore's Op-Ed showed up in the Times.] One, this is a logical fallacy. Two, just because Al Gore made a movie about it doesn't mean that he was the first one to believe in anthropogenic climate change. Three, the term global "warming" comes from the fact that there is an observed (very real and not debated at all) warming of the AVERAGE temperature of the earth. The question is why it is warming, not whether it is warming. And AVERAGE means over the whole earth, over the whole year. One snowstorm in Washington, D.C. does not a colder Earth make. But anyway, the term "global warming" was acknowledged as a misnomer quite a few years ago. It's climate change. Because there is a lot of climate changing going on that goes beyond you feeling like this summer was warmer than last. Changes in rainfall patterns are much more worrisome than two or three more super hot days in the summer (not really an indicator of climate change, that's regular weather patterns people).

    In the words of this morning's piece:
    The heavy snowfalls this month have been used as fodder for ridicule by those who argue that global warming is a myth, yet scientists have long pointed out that warmer global temperatures have been increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, putting significantly more moisture into the atmosphere — thus causing heavier downfalls of both rain and snow in particular regions, including the Northeastern United States. Just as it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees, neither should we miss the climate for the snowstorm.

    You would think that basic high school math and/or common sense would be a prerequisite for getting a job sharing your opinion with the world. For example, let's take some of my favorite people, Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin. O'Reilly recently sat down with once-governor of Alaska Palin and discussed her exercise routine, terrible taste in movies, and a recent vacation that her family took to Hawaii (real policy concerns, ya know?). The discussed how terrible it was to go on vacation because they are so famous. And he suggested that next time she book a private Caribbean island, or go to Botswana. From that conversation I might assume that both understand the basic concept that there are places in the world that are on the whole warmer and more pleasant than say Washington, D.C. or Alaska. They are generally further towards the equator than we are here in the northern part of the country. What I don't understand is how one could reasonably make a conclusion about global temperature from one snowstorm in the winter (snow is normal!) in Washington, D.C. when one clearly understands that there are many different places in the world, and they all have weather too.

    That point being made, there are veritable arguments against anthropogenic climate change; that being that it's not anthropogenic (doesn't stem from human industry). Well, that's pretty much the argument. Because doubting that the climate is changing is kind of like trying to argue that 2+2=5. You might be able to make some theoretical math argument for it, but in the real world, if you have two apple muffins and two blueberry muffins, you don't have 5 muffins. Thousands of years of climate data, plus basic physics, shows that the climate of the earth changes (remember Ice Ages?). This is a really cool map that shows a bunch of things, including changes in the orbit of the earth around the sun and the stages of glaciation (more or less ice in polar regions) over the last 1,000 years. All of these things vary. They go up and down. "Climate change" as such is not a new phenomenon (again, remember those things called Ice Ages?). So, therefore, there is an argument that climate change is not anthropogenic. But there isn't an argument that climate isn't changing.

    Now, that's not to say that there is a strong argument that the climate change isn't anthropogenic. There just is one that can be made scientifically and intellectually. But the thing is, there is this thing called the greenhouse effect. It's not really new. We've known about it since the 19th century. We know basic physics. And basic physics tell us that if the radiation that gets to the earth from the sun were to be the only warming effect on the planet, California would feel more like Antarctica. So there has to be something else going on. That is where this nifty little map comes in. There are a bunch of gases in the atmosphere. Gases are made up of molecules. Molecules interact with energy (heat, radiation). So part of what the atmosphere does is reflect some of the energy coming in from the sun. Electromagnetic radiation, which is light, which is the energy coming from the sun, is emitted from the sun in different wavelengths. Some wavelengths get through the gases in the atmosphere without interacting with the gases. Some don't make it. The earth absorbs energy from the sun. Then it also emits radiation. The same thing happens going out. Some energy goes through the gases, some gets radiated back to earth, some get absorbed by the gases in the atmosphere. That extra radiation is what makes the earth a hospitable planet on which to live.

    The problem comes with the exact count of molecules in the atmosphere. Each of the different kinds of gases (there are a lot of them: water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, CFC's, ozone, etc.) have a different absorption rate of energy at different wavelengths. Carbon happens to absorb a lot of energy at the wavelength that the earth emits it. That's why we talk a lot about carbon in the atmosphere and not a lot about methane and water vapor (even though those are important, too). The general idea is that the more carbon that is in the atmosphere, the more of the earth's radiation will be absorbed, and the warmer the planet will get.

    Two questions stem from this. The first is the carbon question(s): why is there so much carbon, isn't carbon good, aren't we made of carbon?

    Carbon is good. If you think back to basic chemistry or biology, life is made of carbon. Carbon is the basic component of organic material. We definitely couldn't live without carbon. But we need water, too, and that isn't really relevant to whether we should be waterboarding people. Too much can be stifling.
    Wikipedia has this great little diagram of the carbon cycle. I think the basic question, though, is where does all this carbon come from that we are talking about, and why do us libs get so excited about it and "green energy" and all that crap? A lot of the excess carbon in the atmosphere comes from burning fossil fuels: oil, coal, natural gas. They are called fossil fuels for a reason. They are made from dead plant and animal life. Compressed for hundreds of thousands of years. Yes, you do burn dead animals when you drive a car. So see the very bottom of the carbon cycle, where the carbon appears to be stored in the ground? We are digging that up and burning it, putting it directly into the atmosphere. So there is more than there would normally be in a regular cycle. Because we are burning fossil fuels faster than they were created.

    So we know we are disrupting the carbon cycle. Not really disputable. We know that carbon molecules absorb a lot of radiation from the earth. More carbon + lots of absorption = more energy on the earth. Which, theoretically, will lead to warmer temperatures. That's when it gets tricky. The earth is not a regular kind of place. What happens at the equator is totally different than what is happening 30 or 60 degrees higher in latitude. There is still the question of how much warmer it is going to get. How is that warming going to affect water evaporation of the oceans, leading to more rainfall in certain places and potentially less in others? That's where the scientific debate is right now. That's where there are real questions. That's what we should be talking about rather than letting ignoramuses who never bothered to pay attention in high school science or, furthermore, simply google the greenhouse effect, sway our opinions.

    Come on, America. We are supposed to be good at science.

    For more on the climate debacle currently going on outside the mainstream American press (for fear of stirring up the ignoramuses, I suppose) see the extensive coverage by The Guardian in the UK. The homepage is here.

    P.S. First image comes from a powerpoint by John Mutter for my Science of Sustainable Development class. The last two are wikimedia commons.

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Rain, rain go away...

    I look at this and I die inside a little. There will be lots of mud wrestling with the bike this week.


    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Less than full faith and credit

    • The freedom of speech
    • The freedom of the press
    • The freedom of religion
    • The freedoms of petition and assembly
    • The right to keep and bear arms
    • No quartering of soldiers
    • Protection against unreasonable search and seizure
    • Probable cause for warrants
    • The right to a grand jury
    • Protection against double jeopardy
    • Protection against self incrimination
    • The right to due process
    • Protection against property seizure without just compensation
    • The right to a speedy and public trial
    • The right to an impartial jury of peers
    • The right to be confronted with witnesses
    • The right to counsel
    • The right to trial by jury
    • Protection against excessive bail or excessive fines
    • Protection against cruel and unusual punishment
    • The enumeration of Constititutional rights
    • Other rights to the people and to the states
    • The right to privacy (implied by others)
    • The right to citizenship for all persons born or naturalized in the United States
    • The right to life, liberty, and property through due process
    • Protection against the State infringement of the rights and privileges of citizens of the United States
    These are the civil liberties guaranteed to the people by the Bill of Rights (plus that sticky 14th amendment). In my Law, Science, and Society seminar last week our professor asked us which of our civil liberties we would be willing to give up in the name of "security." I put security in quotes because it is such a relative term. It is one of those things that you can only really be sure of when the worst happens. But I digress.

    Civil liberties. It's a very politically charged phrase. The funny thing is, how many of us can really say that we even know what our civil liberties are? When my professor asked the class to start naming them we came up with the first amendment (speech, press, religion, petition, assembly; they roll off the tongue quite nicely in that order. I figured that out when memorizing them for AP Gov). One or two more got put on the table. In typical Columbia fashion, someone tossed out "The right to bear arms," snidely and pompously. But really, those of us with an internet connection were furiously googling the Bill of Rights to find the decent portion of them that we had forgotten.

    I thought to myself, "It's pretty great to have so many rights so ingrained in the system that functioning citizens studying American politics (there are several poli sci majors in my class) at a top tier university in this country don't even feel the need to know them offhand." A part of me died inside knowing that there was no way I could name all of the rights enumerated in the first ten amendments. Past number three they get a little fuzzy. Just because I've never needed the luxury that is due process doesn't mean that I shouldn't have my civil liberties down pat. So I listed them above.

    Now on to the fun part. The question we were given on which to ponder this week was which ones we would be willing to give up, even a little bit, for the promise of enhanced governmental security. My initial gut reaction was none of them. Someone decided to get smart and threw out "quartering of soldiers." But would you really? What's the definition of a soldier? How would you like to be forced to board FBI agents in your home? Or soldiers traveling between bases? I treasure my right to live in privacy.

    Other liberties get even more philosophical. Part of this question goes back to another question, which our professor asked us closer to the beginning of class, "How many of you trust government?" I was amazed at the amount of hands that shot up into the air; at least half of the class. On a side note, I don't think any of those hands were the poli sci majors...

    Me, I am a registered Democrat. It's not a secret. I like Obama. I voted for him. I traveled hours and stood in sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures for hours on end to see him speak at his inauguration. But do I trust government? Absolutely not. Sure, I believe that it has a function, and I believe that it's a necessary establishment, and that it can do good things, and that some governments are better than other governments. But I in no way would use the word trust. Government is too big to trust. I don't trust bureaucracy. And I don't think that there is anything wrong with that. It wasn't made to be trustworthy. 5th grade social studies vocab word: checks and balances. Our government was designed to be too bulky to function properly. That is what keeps our Constitution in place.

    But my distrust of government stems not only from its bulk, but also from its extensive history of stepping over the line and denying its own citizens their rights. The historical record isn't so kind to the US government. Just looking at the history of the last century I don't see how anyone could possibly trust our government. There was the first Red Scare, the second Red Scare, Japanese internment camps, McCarthyism, Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Watergate, the Smith Act, Iran-Contra, the list goes on. I understand that this is a country of 300 million people. When something threatens the security of the nation in one way or another, it is politically advantageous for those in power to take action. They need to look like they are handling the situation. Unfortunately, "handling" the situation in the past 100 years has involved putting a lot of innocent people in jail for doing things as innocent as throwing Communist leaflets out a window on the Lower East Side of New York. It has criminalized simply advocating support for political enemies or ways of thinking that run counter to our particular brand of democracy.

    The more that I study, the more that I realize that America is not about right and wrong. It's not about morals or evils or righteousness or even the people. It's about the legal process. That is what has kept the country together for 200+ years. The Constitution and the common law. So as I think about giving up rights, I think about the blow to the legal process that it represents. And that to me is the greater security threat than any terrorist attack that I could ever imagine.

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Tortilla Flat


    You may or may not know that I come from Southern California. You also may or may not know that I love tacos. Not this kind of taco, but real tacos made with seasoned pork or beef or fish, a little cilantro and onion, some spicy salsa, and a fresh tortilla. These are tacos. The kind you can get on the side of a dusty road in Baja.

    I have long lamented the lack of good Mexican cuisine in New York. Mama Mexico on 100th St. and Broadway just doesn't cut it for me. So when I read about Nixtamal in Queens, making tortillas out of freshly ground corn masa rather than harina, I was immediately obsessed. Unfortunately, I was also about to embark upon a road trip with my dad, then a quick turnaround packing for Paris.

    Today I finally made the journey out to Corona. And I think the photos speak for themselves. It was better than a trip to Rosarito Beach.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Coffeegasm

    My hatred for Monday morning is as of yet unsurpassed.

    ...until I discovered this (thanks for the tip, Bwog). Mmmm. Coffee-gasms make even the worst Mondays bearable.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Proving that when I used to tell people that the blog was cool to write for I wasn't lying through my teeth

    Weekend Romp is back! For several different reasons, I don't write my weekend column for the Spec anymore. I do still occasionally write terrible long-form journalism for them. But I am trying to cut down on that, too. Despite my attempts to cut myself off from Spectator, after less than a month back in the city I realized that I can't live without Weekend Romp. It gives me an excuse to do crazy things on the weekends and go to random corners of the city that I otherwise can't really justify going to when I've got 3 papers to write and a test on Monday (hypothetically). It also keeps me from becoming a regular at 1020. So Weekend Romp lives on in the SpecBlog realm. Rumor has it that some grand web redesign is coming down the tubes. But some grand web redesign is always coming down the tubes at Spec, and hopefully it won't mess with my ability to post. The carpet's been the same for 25 years, but the website changes annually.


    On the plus side, now that I am no longer writing my columns at 10 pm on Thursday nights before they appear in Friday morning's paper, I can now take some time to think about them and not come up with something like this, but go with something more like this. The moral of that story? Don't talk about clothes. Talk about lack of them.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Thoughts on the semester

    I decided it is finally time for a decent post. I did promise my grandmother to keep updating the blog.

    The school year has begun in full. I am nearly finished with all of the administrative stuff that is required to come back from study abroad. I am back on my bike, training 6 days a week. I am creating my own training plan.

    This is the first time in my life that I am taking 5 courses that I really enjoy (read: French requirement, done!). As much as I complained about having to take PE, I am really enjoying squash. See above: training 6 days a week still doesn't qualify to get out of PE because my sport is designated "club." Though, to be fair, most club sports have a drinking:training ratio that is quite a bit higher than the cycling team. So I am taking squash, which is an hour twice a week with the tennis coach, getting sweaty in a little white box. The first day that we played I went diving for balls and got really competitive. I then ended up ramming myself into the side walls and could barely walk for the next three days. I have since learned to control myself and sometimes just let the point go.

    I am also taking the history of western music, which is one of my last core requirements; my professor is great and it's virtually the same material from the music appreciation class I took at VC during high school. Then there is the science for sustainable development. Climate and carbon and global systems, oh my! My two favorite classes are Law, Science, and Society as well as a seminar on the first amendement and censorship.

    However, the best thing about this semester so far is quitting Spectator. I no longer have to be cooped up in the Spec office 4 nights a week dealing with difficult writers, attempting to make witty headlines, and worrying about how to make our page sound at least half-way intelligent. My last obligation to Spec for now is finishing an article that will be running in tomorrow's magazine. It has been my nightmare for the last three weeks. I learned something in writing it, though. I learned who really has the power at a volunteer organization. And it isn't the people who spend their nights slaving away to put out the paper. When I was one of those people, I didn't want to see it. I spent hours upon hours coming up with ways to better organize the paper, to train writers, to attempt to get something more out of the institution. But now that the tables have turned and I am just some writer, I realize why all of the planning is more or less fruitless. When you require work from dozens of volunteers every day to turn out content, you have to work on their schedule. You can try to impose requirements. You can ask. But the volunteer editors have absolutely no leverage over the volunteer writers.

    It is sad, but totally true.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Gad-get excited!

    As I sit here tapping away on my new netbook, listening to Vampire Weekend on the new speakers, I am very much feeling like Christmas came months early this year. Then I remembered--that's right, Christmas came really late this year. But it is still pretty awesome. Pretty pretty too, actually.

    And as an added bonus for the day that I don't actually have to go to class/outside, IT'S SNOWING!


    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    What Jersey Shore can teach you about life

    1. If you want to make a good impression, don't get s***faced on the first night in a new house with 7 new roommates.
    2. It's not a good idea to wear a thong into a hot tub when you don't know the other people on the deck.
    3. GLT - Gym-Laundry-Tan.
    4. Bartenders do great things.
    5. In every hour-long episode of your life, there should be a fight on the boardwalk.
    6. Shave at the last minute, haircut the day-of, it's in the Guido handbook, you wanna look fresh.
    7. "If a girl's a slut, she should be abused."

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Welcome home

    My first interaction in New York City (assuming anything before customs isn't really NYC) went something like this: I was starving, and standing in line at the only kiosk open for a diet pepsi and an apple. There were three people in front of me. One random person already receiving their coffee when I arrived, and two women: middle-aged, short, portly. They were standing next to each other, but the one on the right was probably next in line. So when the first person turned and walked off with his coffee, the lady on the right opened her mouth to start asking for tea while the woman on the left attempted to push her bag of chips at the attendant. Lady on the right did NOT like this. "Excuse me, I was on line first, wait you turn." Boom. The lady on the left seemed quite shocked by brass New York-ness. She also seemed quite foreign, and the distinct Anglo rules towards the queue probably didn't entirely register with her. But still, that's New York. And it got me so excited to hear it that it was hard for me not to hug lady on the right. (I refrained; she probably would have slapped me).

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Writer's block, reader's heaven

    Sitting around drinking coffee and reading. That's what I'm doing in London, that's what I'll be doing in New York, that's what I will definitely be doing in Ventura (yay for Peet's!). Life really doesn't get any better than that. I've been waiting for so long to be able to do it. I would be writing, too, only I've got end-of-the-semester writer's block. Probably a bad thing since I still need to write a few more pages for my memoire. But oh well. I will owrry about that when I hit the US. Until then, no worrying about anything except for how I am getting to Charles de Gaulle on Tuesday morning.