Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

lil' b is Born!

Thorne Frevisse was born 12/12/08 at 6 lbs 8 oz and 19 3/4" long. At 7:30pm while still in labor, I told the doctor I wanted her out by 8pm and she arrived at 8pm straight up!

Many of you have asked the significance of her name, which is:
Thorn (without the e) is a family name on Steve's side that I fell in love with as soon as I heard it. As an anglophile I love that it also sounds so very English like a character from Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. In the old name book I have, Thorn was a diminutive of the rosy Hawthorne and was listed under girl names. She looks like a rosy apple dumpling to me!

Frevisse (pronounced FrayVEESE) is the French name for the 7th Century English saint Frideswide who is also the patron saint of Oxford. I first visited Oxford in 1994 while on a semester abroad and heard the story of Frideswide while touring Christ Church where her shrine is located. I knew I wanted to name a daughter after her, but didn't think I could convince her father that Frideswide was a perfectly acceptable name. Fortunately, the french version is very pretty and works well with Thorne.

All is well with me. I'm better than I expected to be so soon after her birth. But we're still in shock and awe mode. I finally understand what it means to be so full of love for your child it makes you want to weep. We've been doing a lot of that as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lil' b and Me

I found out today that my amniotic fluid was borderline. Meaning that if I wasn't already scheduled to be induced as the gawdawful hour of 6am Friday morning, I would've been admitted immediately this morning. Thankfully, I got a few hours reprieve to finish up all the nagging details of my life before everything changes tomorrow. I'm going to try all the natural ways to induce labor prior to our arrival to see if we can kick start this event without drugs. I hear there are acupressure points on the ankle that can trigger contractions almost instantly. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meanwhile, the butterflies in the stomach have arrived.


Torture is sitting in a packed waiting room with Jerry Springer on the TV. A midget proposed to his dream woman of questionable morals saying of her that she "made him climb the walls with her whiskey struck voice." Apparently all episodes end with violence, with the main guests fighting each other or the Springer staff. This one was no different except the midget, was well a midget and you can guess how effective he would be against a gorilla.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Feed Me

During the last month or so of this pregnancy I've developed an insatiable appetite. The books I've read say you'll have less ability to eat large meals because as the baby gets bigger she's squeezing your stomach (and your bladder and your lungs and kicking you in the ribs). Nope, that's not my problem. I can pack away full meals and still want more. When eating out, there were some entrees that I would NEVER have been able to finish pre-pregnancy that I now have no problem consuming in one sitting. Along with the desire to eat (and eat and eat), I have the desire to cook and bake.

In the last two weeks or so I've made:
1. 2 Spinach /goat cheese quiches - I combined and tweaked three different recipes to get it just right.
2. Potato and Leek soup - I've also tweaked this recipe over the years until it's to my liking.
3. 2 Roast Chickens both made the day after Thanksgiving. They sat in my freezer for two years so I thought they'd only be good for making Chicken stock. I never made the stock but did make some of the best gravy ever! And the meat was surprisingly moist.
4. 3 Apple Crisps - One for my sister, one for me, one for Thanksgiving.
5. 2 Chocolate birthday cakes - One was Martha Stewart's recipe for one bowl chocolate cupcakes, but with the adaptation for cake that I then covered in vanilla butter cream frosting. Super Easy! The other was a chocolate fudge pudding cake from a book called Birthday Cakes. Steve requested chocolate cake for his birthday and this recipe delivered on the chocolate. It's a hybrid of a brownie, pudding, and chocolate crisps. All three textures make an appearance in almost every bite. Steve thinks it's the best chocolate thingy he's ever eaten. BUT it has got to be the ugliest and messiest looking cake ever. If you were going to serve to guests, remove from the bowl and top with homemade whipped cream. Though not a presentable cake, it's oh so edible.
6. 1 very large Ham - I only bought the ham because I wanted the ham hock to make soup. Now I have about three pounds of ham leftover.
7. Navy Bean Soup - Thus the need for a ham hock. My mom and the chain restaurant Bob Evans make the best version of this soup. Although my first try ain't bad.
8. Banana/Oatmeal/Coconut/Chocolate health bars - They really are quite hearty and I thought tasty. You can find the recipe at Chocolate & Zucchini.
9. Herbed Ham and cheese Frittata - Still trying to use up that ham. Not so good, but only because I overcooked it.
10. Chocolate Coconut Cheesecake Squares - When I mentioned to Steve I wanted to make these, he groaned. He's worried he's losing his girlish figure, but I think he's taking this baking and cooking for granted.

....and I'm not done. Tomorrow I'll be making ham /cheese /broccoli quiches to use up the remaining ham and then...well, we'll see what gets my chops drooling.

lil' b Update

Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed me directly your encouragement and support about my upcoming delivery. My anxiety and fear have greatly diminished in the last few days and I know it's the result of all your prayers - so THANK YOU!

I had a fetal stress test yesterday and all is well with lil' b. If she chooses to remain as is, I'll have another stress test on Monday, and then another on Thursday. If all is still well at that point, I will be induced next Friday. So sometime in this next week our little babe will be born.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh, Crap!

How do I know I'm anxious about the labor and delivery of this baby? I'm having dreams that involve doctors using hacksaws as a "new way" of delivering sweet babes. Yikes! I do NOT want to be induced because I don't want an appointment for when I need to go to the hospital. I don't want to have that countdown of only 24 more hours, only twelve, only four now. I want a "holy crap she's coming" moment. My doctor was ready to accommodate me if I wanted this baby out at Thanksgiving. Uh no. I want this baby to stay in as long as possible, ideally until Steve is done with all his teaching responsibilities, but that's asking too much since my doctor won't let me go past the 12th. Besides my anxiety dreams of delivery, I've got this nagging fear that she wants to come out this week on Thursday. Please pray that ain't so! I can't make up my mind to laugh or cry these days as I anticipate her arrival. I'm back to thinking ignorance is bliss. If I hadn't heard any birth stories or anything about what to expect after delivery, I would be more emotionally stable right now. Too late.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

History Repeats Itself Again

Those scrappy Somali pirates are at it again! Now they're taking on supertankers from their little dingys! Who are these pirates and why do their escapades sound familiar? I found a NYT story from September 30th that quotes a spokesman for the Somali pirates, Sugule Ali. He sounds quite the character with a good sense of humor. I don't think of Somalis as having a sense of humor, but if you're able to extract millions of dollars in ransom in cash from countries all over the world for simply boarding a ship and holding it hostage, you'd be looking on the bright side of life too. As Sugule Ali says in his interview, "You only die once." Well, that's reason enough to keep laughing all right.

Back in Thomas Jefferson's day the cool, hip pirates patrolled the Barbary coast of North Africa looking for prey. Though they have a cooler name, The Barbary Pirates, they've got nothing on the Somalis. The Somalis have the entrepeneurial spirit. Where they once just patrolled their waters looking for illegal fisherman to harass and tax, they saw an opportunity to make more money and seized the day. They appear to work only for themselves since there is still no formal government in Somalia. The money they earn is the money they keep. No government taxes redistributing their wealth! The Barbary pirates, however, worked for the rulers of their countries who received most if not all of the ransom money ponied up by the European Countries (and then America after we gained our independence.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lem & Jack

Why the above photo of an old man and his dog? Today is Veteran's Day and this darling man, Lem, is a World War II veteran. How many of them do you come across on a perambulation across a cow pasture? We ran into him in Oxford as he was taking his daily constitutional with Jack, his stubborn and feisty Scottish Terrier. For being near ninety, he still had a twinkle in his eye, a spryness to his step, and a great sense of humor seen in his cheeky grin. He made a joke about moving to Oxford twenty some years ago on Independence Day, "That's July 4th to you folks." After chatting with us, he was on his way to the pub for a morning pint. A delightful man from a generation of gents we'll probably never see the likes of again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Joys of Pregnancy

I refer to these as my Babushka legs. What's a Babushka? Go here or here to get an idea. I feel like someone encased my feet and ankles in a fat suit, but left the rest of me normal. Or as normal as a walking whale can be. I really can't complain since I have had no other problems of any kind this entire pregnancy. No morning sickness, no gestational diabetes, no preeclampsia, no placenta previa, nothing. Just fat ankles.

Hug a Marine

Today is the 233rd anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corp and I say God Bless Them! During this election many folks have said they're finally proud to be an American because Obama got elected. You may also have heard people say dissent is patriotic. What IS patriotic is being willing to die for your country to protect its freedom and liberty. That is the sort of patriotism that makes great story and inspires future generations. In my opinion, dissent for the sake of dissent does not inspire. Frankly, it makes me yawn. I'm proud to be an American every time I hear Marine Corp tales of heroism, courage, self-sacrifice and compassion. All of which are in play right now in the work the MC are doing in Iraq. Check out their website to learn about the people, the events, and the technology that make the Marine Corp one of the greatest fighting forces in our world. Now go hug a marine...if they'll let you.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Odd Encounter

As I was retrieving my library books from the reserved shelf an extremely tall man wearing a wool sherpa hat (it was 80 degrees or hotter that day), scarf (did I mention it was hot), tight black jeans, and large round glasses interrupted my progress. Now the guy didn't look weird (despite my description) but rather artsy - definitely a character. He asked for my help in directing him to the correct shelf. His glasses were old and the prescription wasn't strong enough for him to determine where the letter s was on the reserves shelf (he was currently looking through books under the letter f). As soon as he spoke, the name Ted Bundy flashed across my mind. His voice was deep and mellifluous a delight to the ears. It took me off guard and I thought, "this is how Bundy lured women to their demise." The desire to help someone in need who probably had a winsome personality turned off their normal defenses. In my case, it was just by the timbre of a voice. I could've been a victim that easily.

While chatting with the pudgy Hispanic librarian about my pregnancy, poor prescription guy comes up behind me. To no one in particular (since neither I nor the librarian are looking at him) he says, "my girlfriend is pregnant." I turn to him, smile, and say congratulations. To which he replies in a flat voice, "she's getting rid of it." Oh. I'm so sorry. He shrugs, "it's her decision." Then, "I guess that was too much information." I wanted to scream, "if YOU want to keep the baby tell her, it's not just her decision. FIGHT FOR THAT BABY. DON'T GIVE IN TO THE TYRANNY OF CHOICE!"

But I didn't. I just walked away.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

If this is global warming...

Today was perfect - rain, thunder, and even a wee bit of lightning. Normally we don't even get rain in November let alone those other treats. I can count on two hands with fingers left over the number of times I've heard thunder in the fourteen years I've lived in SoCal. If this is what we get with global warming, then I say bring it on!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who should vote?

Shouldn't voting require a bit more for eligibility than just a pulse? Although even the dead are being resurrected long enough to vote. So maybe a pulse isn't even necessary.

ACORN has outdone themselves in voter fraud this election. With all our advances in technology why can't we create a better system for protecting against voter fraud? It shouldn't be this easy, right?

I understand now why the Founding Fathers said only those who own property should be allowed to vote - though by that criteria I would be ineligible. If you owned property, chances are you had a healthy interest in politics and kept yourself informed since politicians and the government were the ones who think it's in your best interest for them to relieve you of your property (or your wages). If you don't own anything or pay taxes, there's a greater probability that you'll vote for the government to take from your neighbor to give to yourself. The Founding Fathers wisely understood this quirk of human nature and were trying to protect against it with their voting restrictions. Unfortunately today, many politicians understand this same human failing, but instead of trying to protect against it, they choose to exploit it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Speaking of...

As I mentioned below, I love crime and detective fiction. I read more from that fiction genre than any other (I generally read more nonfiction than fiction). For those who may be interested in this genre but don't know where to begin here's a list of British mystery writers I've enjoyed. The first four set their mysteries in the first half of the 20th Century (because that was when they were writing). The last four are all modern writers.

1. Dorothy L. Sayers and her dashing detective Lord Peter Whimsey
2. Josephine Tey and her inscrutable Inspector Alan Grant
3. Ngaio
Marsh and her unflappable Inspector Roderick Alleyn
4. Margery Allingham and her puckish detective Albert Campion
5. P.D. James and her sensitive poet Inspector Dalgliesh
6. Elizabeth George and her Lord of the realm Inspector Thomas Lynley
7. Martha Grimes and her urbane Inspector Richard Jury
7. Ian Rankin and his incorrigible Detective John Rebus.

Of these my favorites are Sayers, Tey, and James. I have read almost all of George and Grimes (so obviously I like them) but think their earlier works are their better works. My problem with them is that their plots start to run together and I can never remember what I've read or haven't read. But any of their books are still great airplane reading.

The beauty of these authors is that most of their books, with the exception of Josephine Tey and possibly Martha Grimes, have been made into BBC mysteries. Some are better than others of course, but if you love this genre than there is much television viewing pleasure waiting for you on Netflix.

Having had my fill of British authors and the landscape and setting of Great Britain, I wanted to read about detectives going about their work in other countries. The more exotic the better. To that end, I googled and found a splendid article in The Independent, "Crime Fiction: Around the world in 80 sleuths." Using that as my springboard, I have dived into a few of these books. Here's my take on what I've read so far in the order of preference:

1. Martin Cruz Smith: His Inspector Arkady Renko is one of my favorite. The setting is Russia and acts as an additional character in his novels. Renko isn't blind to the harsh realities of his homeland, and yet he can't leave it because of his own identification with the landscape of Russia (both the physical and personal). That tension is another reason I love these books. Smith's novels start during the era of the Soviet Union and progress to present day Russia. Besides his use of setting, I think he has some of the best dialogue I've read in modern detective fiction. He's written other novels (Rose and December 6) that aren't considered detective fiction though a mystery is at the heart of those plots as well. Whenever I get his books, I blitz through them in one day. His first Renko book was Gorky Park. I suggest starting with this one and working your way through to his last (so far) Stalin's Ghost. Don't do what I did and read them in reverse order otherwise you'll get spoilers to the previous books.

2. James Church: This author wasn't listed in the above article, however, he's an up and coming detective novelist that has come out with two books. Church was an intelligence officer in Asia for the CIA and upon retiring started writing. His character Inspector O attempts to solve crimes in North Korea. As with Martin Cruz Smith, setting plays a huge supporting character role. Like Renko, Inspector O loves his country despite the oppressiveness and irrationality of its totalitarian bureaucracy. He isn't complicit with the government nonsense, but instead works around it to get to the truth despite any adverse consequences to himself. A Corpse in the Koryo is Church's first book, but his second, Hidden Moon, is even better.

Smith and Church are now the standard by which I judge non-British detective fiction. They weave together sympathetically flawed characters with intricate plots and malignant settings to create unforgettable reading. The following authors did not meet the standard because they didn't deliver a complete package of character, plot, and setting. Some had great characters, but were less than stellar in the other two areas or vice versa. However, I would read them again if nothing better was available. Some of them would make better movies than novels simply because of their exotic setting and their plot could be worked out in two hours or less.

Pavel Kohout: Kohout is a much better writer than those that follow below. His novel The Widow Killer takes place during Nazi occupied Prague. I found his writing to be more literary than the rest with many beautifully phrased sentences. And yet, I didn't finish the book. I became impatient with the progress of the plot. About half way through, I knew where he was going and decided I didn't want to join him any longer on this journey. Still a worthy read if you have the patience.

Henning Mankell: Detective Kurt Wallender solves crime in Sweden. Mankell doesn't invoke setting like Smith and Church do, but he did include commentary on social issues facing modern day Sweden (like open borders). I could read more from him, but I wasn't enamored with his detective. Wallender wasn't thoughtful, didn't seem particularly intelligent, and didn't have any sympathetic character flaws. More often than not, I wanted to boot him rather than root for him.

Karin Fossum: Her Inspector Sejer is more likable than Wallender, but not as fleshed out as a Renko or O. Though set in Norway you wouldn't know it except by the names. She does less with her setting than Mankell.

Qui Xiaolong: Inspector Chen's beat is Shanghai. I thought the exotic location would be enough for me to love these books but alas, no. I really wanted to like this series since it would keep my addiction going for awhile. One reviewer called his work preachy or pedantic. I agree. He puts so much social commentary into the characters' dialogue that their conversations don't sound genuine. He needs a better editor.

Colin Cotterill: His main character is Dr. Siri Paiboun the chief coroner for Laos. Paiboun is helped by spirits and other supernatural visitations during the course of his sleuthing. Good use of setting to make you feel as hot and sweaty as the characters. However, compared to the writers above this is detective fiction lite. Easily digestible with little nutritional value.

If anyone reads other authors from this article, please comment on what you like or didn't like.

I Want to Know!

Leonard Chang and I share a passion. A passion for crime and detective fiction. The difference between us is that he carried his passion beyond just reading this great body of literature and wrote his own noir trilogy. His mysteries aren't great and some of the loose ends get tied up rather too neatly, but his detective is compelling and sympathetic. His reluctant sleuth is a Korean-American named Allen Choice who excavates his own heart while getting to the truth behind the mysteries he's pulled into solving. Incidentally, one of the best tidbits in Chang's first novel is how Allen got the last name Choice (it's based on a true story). In his essay "Why I Love Crime Fiction", Chang traces how his love of philosophy led him to write crime fiction:

You remember more of your childhood reading, connect them to your interest in philosophy, and conclude that both are premised on the impulse to figure out the world, to analyze in a methodical way the elements that have created chaos and disorder. The analyst, whether a private investigator or a rationalist philosopher, seeks within his or her own moral and personal code to discover and articulate what has gone wrong, to right these perceived wrongs, to find a view of the world that is worth living in, to reorder and contain the chaos. What is a private detective but a philosopher in a trench coat?
Chang articulates for me why I love the genre but he also hits on why I want to study philosophy and have since started pursuing a graduate degree in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. In both crime fiction and philosophy, there is an acknowledgement that truth can be known even if known imperfectly. As he says in his essay, there is an attempt to bring order out of chaos to understand reality as it really is not how we wish it were. I have this desire to know. Studying philosophy or theology or science or literature are refined ways of feeding the urge to know.

As a child I had less refined urges to know (and truth be told I still do) that explain why I had to read my sister's journals or steam open her love letters. My intent wasn't malicious, I just wanted to know what she was thinking or what boyfriends say to girlfriends and I wanted to know if steaming open letters really worked. It explains why I opened both my and my sister's Christmas presents and then taped them back up again. It explains why I snooped through houses I was babysitting in. I would look through cupboards and drawers in almost every room in the house. I wanted to know how people lived through what they owned and what they tried to hide. I would fake being sick just so I would have our house to myself to poke around undisturbed in everyone's closets to find out what they were hiding.

The urge to know explains why even today I want to know the backstory on the quirky characters I meet. Like Judy, the Asian grocery store check-out clerk with buckteeth and a sweet smile. Does she work the weekend night shifts because she doesn't have a boyfriend and doesn't want to be home alone? Does she live with her parents and do they give her grief for working at a grocery store instead of something more glamourous? Is she the life of the party with her friends or still as shy as she seems to be at Albertsons? What are her dreams and aspirations? What makes her laugh until she can't breath? I WANT TO KNOW.

The down side to this urge is dilettantism. I found it very difficult to pick one area of study in college and then later to figure out what I wanted to pursue as a career since almost any field and almost any kind of job was interesting (at least for a little bit) to me. I think the ideal outlet for a dilettante or for one who wants to know how the world works and how all the different areas of study are interconnected is writing. A writer can explore and research any topic for a period of time, create a finished product, and then move on to the next subject. The research /exploration phase can include reading, interviewing, and traveling all things I love to do. All in all sounds like the perfect career to me! Why am I not pursuing it? Oh yeah, I'm a dilettante and therefore have other interests that bring satisfaction as well when pursued. Perhaps one day all my interests will coalesce. And that's when I know I'm dead.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Wisdom of Tocqueville

Every day we hear from politicians about how the government can and will solve our every problem. The more people hear this message, the more they begin to believe that the government really does have the responsibility to provide a solution. Alexis De Tocqueville gives us good reason to resist this type of thinking as he defines "what sort of despotism democratic nations have to fear". Here's an excerpt from Democracy in America:

I think then that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever before existed in the world: our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I am trying myself to choose an expression which will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it, but in vain; the old words "despotism" and "tyranny" are inappropriate: the thing itself is new; and since I cannot name it, I must attempt to define it.

...Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances—what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself....

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd....

A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large....

It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other. Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day, and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience, which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions, only exhibits servitude at certain intervals, and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity....

It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.
Tocqueville certainly was prescient!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Joy of Fiber

At a party Saturday night, a friend said to me "I only get serious about two topics of conversation: politics and nutrition." I'd say that's true in his case, but I can't say nutrition gets me too hot under the collar. Until now. I am getting quite passionate about fiber, but for good reason.

One thing I'm learning as a pregnant woman who is about to become a post-pregnant woman is that your bowel movements are serious business. You want to maintain regularity while pregnant to avoid hemorrhoids and post-pregnant to avoid any additional pain "down there". I've heard enough horror stories (especially from the post-pregnant perspective) to ensure my diet has enough fiber. But one thing I found out is that not all fiber is equal. You can read Nutrition Action's report on the types of fiber found in all sorts of foods here. Inulin is a cheap substitute often found in high fiber foods, yet is doesn't do the body much good. There are a couple others that add heft to the fiber grams on the nutrition label, but have few healthy benefits.

I love eating cereal in the morning 'cause it's so darn simple (it's also the best food to eat while reading since I'm less likely to make a mess while doing both). But few cereals pack a high fiber punch. I can't stand the traditional Fiber One of those twiggy looking things with no taste. I don't care if there's a weeks worth of fiber in one bowl, they're disgusting. So I got Fiber One Flakes instead. They're not bad, but they leave a weird after taste in the mouth. The culprit is sucralose. At least it's not aspartame or sacchrine, but it still has that fake sweet taste. The other strike against FOF is that the fourth ingredient is inulin - the fake filler of the fiber world. FOF is off my list of approved high fiber cereals. But with 13 grams per bowl what could replace it? Trader Joes came to my rescue. They sell Kashi brand "Good Friends". Each bowl has 12 grams of fiber. 11 grams of that are insoluble fiber, the kind that reduces your chances of getting hemorrhoids and constipation. One gram is soluble fiber good for regulating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. Fortunately the cereal tastes better than the unattractive packaging would suggest. Best of all, it retains its crunchiness to the end. No soggy flakes or twigs in your last bites (unless you're a really slow eater).

This is the end of my public service announcement.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Of Love & Hate

Oh, how I love me a hearty breakfast anytime after nine (a.m. that is). My favorite combo is fried eggs over easy, bacon, french toast, and coffee. And my favorite place to consume it is at the Blue Star Diner. I finally planned a date with Steve to get my fix at the BSD located in the industrial wasteland of downtown LA. The next door neighbors are scrap metal yards and textile companies. Getting there may leave your car begging for new alignment, but it's well worth it. It's not a traditional greasy spoon with avocado and gold color scheme and waitresses over sixty who've made taking orders their career. The big difference is that the BSD has great food and a low key atmosphere. You'll never find the waitresses rushing you despite the line at the door. Instead, they're pleasant and attentive without being obtrusive. Even my mother (who is notorious for being on the receiving end of restaurant food or service gone wrong) loves this place.

The Blue Star has traditional breakfast options, but they use fresh, local ingredients and have homemade touches (like their jam) that make their fare better than the rest. Besides their breakfasts, they make great fish /chips (only served on Fridays) and a heart attack yummy mac-n-cheese. The clientele is a mix of blue and white collar workers from the surrounding industrial sites. They're open M-Sat, 8a -3p and serve breakfast all day on Saturday. A perfect breakfast spot after an early morning at the flower market.

My second favorite breakfast combo is eggs, bacon, toast, and hashbrowns. Runny eggs mixed with hashbrowns is heaven! The best deal in town at $7 for this combo that also includes fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee is Du-par's. But it's only offered Saturday mornings.

Most diners, even mediocre ones, can serve up a decent breakfast that will satisfy. But one, despite its longevity and famous clientele, cannot even manage to meet those low expectations. That distinction goes to The Pantry Cafe. Last time I was there, the food was so greasy and unattractive I couldn't finish it. The place smelled like a band-aid. The smell co-mingled with my food such that vomiting would've been a pleasure. I didn't think it possible to get eggs and bacon wrong, but I was, uh, wrong. A Soviet-era cafeteria could've made better. Gross barely describes my experience.

So Yum!

A friend invited us over for dinner last week and made us this super yummy risotto. The combination of sausage, tomatoes, and spinach make it a tasty complete meal - simple enough for every day, but fancy enough for company.

I did make a change to the recipe to make it even easier. I did steps one through three just like the recipe suggested, but instead of doing step four, I threw everything into the crockpot for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes before it was done, I removed about a cup of liquid. At the end I added the cheese and spinach according to the recipe.

Despite my changes, it still came out creamy and delicious. The texture wasn't exactly like my friend's version who did it the traditional way, but close enough that I'd do it again.

This woman made a crockpot risotto and just threw all the ingredients in together. I may try that next time with this recipe, but still cook the sausage ahead of time.

Bon Appetite!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac SNAFU

Are you as confused about the FM & FM business as I am? Thanks to this interview on C-Span with Peter Wallison of AIE I'm a lot less confused, but a whole lot angrier. He does a great job explaining in layman terms how the companies were managed, how the markets viewed them, and why congress (both parties) had an interest in keeping the status quo. In 2001, Peter Wallison wrote a book about these two companies predicting the meltdown we've all just witnessed.

(HT: Jonah Goldberg on NRO)

UPDATE: Read this great City Journal article from 2000 that gives background and context to the mess.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Q: What do The Power of Now, Ulysses, The Elements of Style Illustrated, and Interpreter of Maladies all have in common?

A: They were all discovered in the recycling trash bin outside our apartment complex. Tossed in like a used cereal box or grocery advertising as if trash and literature (using that term loosely) were equally bits of garbage. Is this the act of a civilized person? I think not! Rather, it suggests the act of a barbarian, one so uncivilized he (or she) cannot make proper distinctions between what should be destroyed and what should be preserved.

Really, why not give the books away or donate to charity? We have several thrift stores within two miles of us. The copy of Ulysses is an Everyman's Library edition bound in red cloth, which doesn't seem to be available anymore. I'm shocked! shocked! someone would throw away such a lovely edition. Although I will never read Ulysses, perhaps one of you would. Thus, I'd be happy to pass on this beautiful book to the first person who requests it in comments.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And the Moral Is...

On our "babymoon" (pardon me while I hurl on that word) mentioned in the post below, Steve picked up a little friend we call poison oak and then passed it on to me via some inanimate object. You would intuitively think that the greater the exposure over time the greater the immunity. Not so with poison oak. In fact the exact opposite is true - so that the more you are exposed the worse the rash will be each time. We were quite fortunate that our friend was rather mild. The itch lasted about a week or so, but the spots are still visible after a month.

What is the moral of this story?
a. Don't take a leak by the side of the road unless it's covered with cement. (Yep, Steve's bladder was the cause of this calamity. Less than five minutes from a legit latrine too.)

b. Don't try to save money on accommodations by camping instead. If romance is wanted get a hotel.

c. Take the vacation to Hawaii as requested despite the extra cash. At least they don't have poison oak.

d. All the above.

Here's what could've been and my personal favorite.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Yes, yes, it's been far too long since I last posted especially since I no longer work a 9-5 job. Or any job for that matter. Is it the procrastinator in me? Is it the latent lethargy in me? Is is the lack of direction in this blog? All of the above is the correct answer.

ANYWAY - now that you know my lame excuses for ignoring this blog for five months, let me proceed with the updates.

1. After quitting my well paying yet undesirable job, I found out I was pregnant - yeah!. Thank you GOD that I didn't know prior to quitting otherwise I just may have stayed for the insurance. And that would have been a mistake of monstrous proportions and no, I don't think that is hyperbole. I LOVED that I could sleep as long as I wanted in the morning and still have the option of taking three hour naps in the afternoon or after breakfast - since pouring out a bowl of cereal with milk, showering, and dressing would drain all the morning energy from me especially in the first trimester. If I was working, I probably would have napped in the handicap stall of the bathroom every chance I got. Why didn't I quit sooner? Oh, yeah. I thought we needed the money more. Stupid me.

2. Before learning I was pregnant I applied for the MA in Philosophy at Talbot Seminary. After getting pregnant I found out I was accepted for this fall. I decided to start this semester despite my baby being due at the beginning of December before the semester is over. I'm only taking one class so it shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure those will be my famous last words.

3. I thought I would be all over the pregnancy books reading everything I could about what to expect and how to take care of the baby post delivery - but no. I find that I don't want to read those books or know too much ahead of time. I'm on a need to know basis right now with everything that is happing to my body and could potentially happen. If I know too much, I get overwhelmed and start thinking of what is happening as an alien invasion rather than something perfectly natural. However, I have informed myself of warning signs for various conditions so I'm not totally in the dark.

4. We're having a baby GIRL! Prior to getting pregnant, I thought I wanted a boy. But sometime in the first trimester I believed I was having a girl and that made me very happy. The hardest part now is thinking of an appropriate name. We had many boys names picked out already, but very few girl names. We're keeping mum on whatever we do decide. We may not know till we see her face to face. My parents almost named me Tricia until they saw me and changed their decision to Danica. Who would I be if named Tricia?

5. We went on our "Babymoon" get away to the Central Coast and were blessed with poison oak (more posts /pictures on that later). FYI: Poison oak and romance don't go together. Fun was still had in between Steve shouting "WHY?!" every few hours and me having to pee every other minute.

6. School started with a Philosophy Bootcamp coordinated and taught by current philosophy students. Spent three hours each of the two days working through symbolic logic. Fun! No really, it was fun - strangely so. I should be working through practice problems right now instead of typing this post. But I'll resist the lure of logic until I complete this task. Out of thirty new students, only two of us are women. Out of a total of 120 philosophy students maybe fifteen are women. Nice odds if you're not married! I'm also one of the oldest students by about ten years. It's weird to feel a teeny bit matronly in the face of all these youngins who are straight out of undergrad studies. They're the sprinters getting through the program in three years and I'm the distance runner most likely taking six or more to get through. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

7. Preached two sermons this summer and am in the line up for one more before lil' b pops. I'll be ENORMOUS by the time I speak again, which may be a bit odd for those unused to fecund female preachers. Our lead pastor thinks it's wonderful as do all the other male pastors. Their support of me to preach and to have babies is awesome (and rare I'm realizing)!

Pictures will be posted (eventually - I'm hopeful it won't take me another five months).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Define Procrastinator?

Definition pro·cras·ti·nat·or (n) : Someone who waits until their last day of work to complete staff reviews due a month prior.

Oh! Why that's me! I, of course, left the hardest reviews until the end. Nothing awkward about that: "You have piss poor communication, your team hates you, and you need to shape up or you'll be fired. By the way, did I happen to mention we're having drinks after work to celebrate my last day? Do come by."

It's true. Today is the last day of my job at this company, in this industry.

A Good Friday indeed.

Monday, February 25, 2008


In 1998, I started as the receptionist and through the years worked my way up through client services until I became the Director of the department. I've hired, fired, and laid off more people than I can remember. I've encouraged, cajoled, cheered, and chastised people for the last nine years on the job. My days of managing people is over--hip, hip hooray! After living through the hell of three mergers/acquisitions in the last three years I just couldn't stomach going through a fourth one this year. I wanted to quit since six months into this business, but I'm a slow decision maker. But now, I'm free at last!

Friday, January 11, 2008


For the slightly nerdy, wish-I-took-physics folks. Enjoy!