June 2008


For some reason, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been more successful at getting me into foodie consciousness than Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser combined.  This is probably because of the guilt.  It’s pervasive, partially because it’s somewhat prescient of the current downward spiral of American ag and food production, and partially in a ‘we did this project and before that ate free-range grass-finished meat for years, you could at least make a vague effort towards not causing our inherent destruction’ way.

Unfortunately, I live at home and my mother does the food shopping, in the old school coupon and sale flyer way, so I’m afraid, Barbara, this is a little more difficult than you anticipated.  The farmer’s market’s on the other side of town, we’ve had a crap season, and I can’t even talk Mom into buying fair trade coffee.

P: Do you think we could maybe cut down coffee consumption a little and buy fair trade coffee?
M: [looks at P like she has suddenly grown a second head, possibly a hippie] No.
P: What?  Why not?
M: I need my coffee.  And we don’t drink that much anyway and we go through it fast.
P: But…

Implied in the above conversation, but not actually stated, is ‘expensive’ and ‘pain in the butt’.  I’d really like to be a child of the revolution, but as long as I get fed on a discounted basis from House Of Mom, it’s not worth the effort.  Besides, while the idea of supporting local businesses is a very good one, there’s some evidence to show that pound-per-pound, the carbon footprint of a Wisconsin tomato at a farmer’s market here in the urban world is similar to the carbon footprint of one that’s been flown from California en masse…

Okay, okay, the truth is, I don’t have the willpower to give up eating nearly everything we have at home, or to fight the good fight with my mother over why we should start a whole new spending and consumption plan in a time of economic turmoil.  I fail at locavore and activism in my own lifestyle.

Maybe driving my car less makes up for some of it?

Anyway, the book’s good, but it’s preachy, and it’s stuff I’ve heard before.  Even so, I’ll be over here in the flagellator corner.

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After a week or more of delightfully dry weather, the Humid is back, and with it the ridiculous sinus pain, ick ick ick.  Also, the flood brought, as expected, a bumper crop of Aedes vexans, commonly known as the Northern Floodwater Mosquito, more commonly known as DARN FRIGGIN MOSQUITOES AUGH.  While I’m a magnet for bugs (because I’m so sweet…or something), I at least don’t have the reaction a lot of my other family members have.

I am Paige’s long, put-upon sigh.

The knitting is going well, for summertime handiwork, and the cooking isn’t going much of anywhere at all.  Does anyone else have the problem where one’s hands just feel gross after a while when knitting in warm weather?  Generally sticky and unpleasant and dirty, even though all you’ve been doing is sitting on the couch watching reruns or random documentaries?  Or do I just have weird hands?

I’ve been working with worsted lately, as I’m doing Arwen (front left panel in under a week, woot), and that makes it even worse.  Big needles, big movements, thick fabric, yes, but I needed to take a break from fiddliness.  Sometimes details are just not necessary.

Oh, on the food front, the New York Times decided that Milwaukee’s own Sprecher root beer was the best they could acquire.  Of course, that just tells us here what we knew all along–it’s just that darn good.

Right, I’ve come to the conclusion that the headache I had all last week and continuing onward into this one is not, in fact, humidity-based, but is instead the result of either a nasty allergen or a nasty bacterium wafted this way by one of the…god, I stopped counting…nine or so thunderstorms since last Saturday afernoon.  Either way, it’s lodged itself in my sinuses and will not be assuaged by ibuprofen, decongestants, or Excedrin, so my guess is less allergen and more bacterium.  I’m not even snotty, either, it’s mostly just pressure.

Oh, yeah, if you hadn’t heard, I now live in a Federal Disaster Area.  I find it interesting that FEMA decides this based on estimated damage costs.  Do they take cost of living into effect?  My guess is no–considering that damage here in Milwaukee County was, in comparison to other places, fairly low.  And so that means people in Shorewood who had a few trees fall on their half-million dollar homes could get better assistance than a whole small town in, say, Dodge County, that had every last basement flooded, or that people with a summer home washed away in Lake Delton may get more help than a farmer in Sauk County whose entire crop was flooded out, just because of overall cost.

It’s all a tragedy.  It’s just that some animals are more equal than others, I think.  If someone could prove me wrong on this, please do, as I really really wish this wasn’t the case.

In happier news, I learned how to grill bratwurst this weekend (because it did NOT rain, praise be), despite my fear of being in close proximity to Stuff That Could Burn Me.  I do a pretty darn good brat, actually.  Unfortunately there are no pictures, but you can take my mother and brother’s word for it if need be.  The fact that yours truly was the grillmeister on Father’s Day makes my feminist heart go pitter-pat.

What also makes my feminist heart go pitter-pat is Yonmei’s review of this past week’s Doctor Who episode (warning, spoilers!) at Feminist SF – The Blog.  Actually, feministsf.net as a whole is a fantastic resource; I kept running into it but didn’t really register it mentally until Liz Henry mentioned being a contributor.  I think I may fangirl.

Actually, I have a lot to say about Doctor Who, women in filmmaking, women in SFF, why the Guardian sees fit to enable Steven Wells, and so much more.  But I’ve used up my rant for the time being.

Unless Steven Wells googles himself and shows up here, in which case: unless you can clearly delineate the source of your hatred for my hobby, Steve-o, kindly stuff it.  You violated Godwin’s Law twice, and that’s pretty lame even if you’re trying to be funny and all punk rawk or summat.  I’ll try not to yawn at your Angry Young Man shtick, ’cause your beloved country got that over and done with fifty years ago, yo.

Righto, a whole bunch of smaller things to talk about.

The mother and I, jonesing for TexMex in the heat of last Friday, ventured over to Guadalupe Mexican Restaurant; we’d seen it about twenty times and never ventured inside.  It’s rather gaudy on the outside, brightly painted with a big sign advertising Happy Hour from 2-6 PM on weekdays and an All You Can Eat Crab Night.  Needless to say, while I’m a gringa from WI and my expectations are fairly moderate, I was not expecting to be impressed, but in actuality, it was quite good, at least as good as Hector’s on State Street.  I was pleased with their selections and the fact that they put enchilada sauce in their chimichangas, which kept the inside from getting dry as well as was terribly rich and tasty.

So yes, worth a go if you don’t care about authenticity, even if their margaritas are overpriced (but at least not from a blender).  It’s on 114th and Bluemound, next to the Delhi Cafe, which is being turned, sadly, into a piano bar.  wtf.

Unfortunately, Friday was the last nice time of it as then Saturday we got flash floods and tornadoes.  If you live in the US, you’ve probably seen the footage of the house and highway being swept into Lake Delton.  A lot of people here with flooded basements and ruined stuff, and we’re getting hit again tomorrow, apparently; everything smells damp and feels damp, and the humidity does a number on my migraines.  Oh sure, massive man-made climate change is a myth.  We aren’t affecting the environment that much.  Right.

In terms of changing times, my mother made a particularly interesting comment to me the other day, about how she doesn’t think she could handle being without email access for a week at a time.  My mother, who isn’t exactly a wired person, who is completely amazed that iChat’s video function is free and real time, said this to me.

I’m not sure what this says about culture here in the developed world, and our desire for instantaneous connectivity and information access, because it’s in so many aspects of life.  I got my first still-functioning permanent email address ten years ago last month, and I’ve online journaled and/or blogged for eight years.  In that time I’ve seen both things move from geeky fringe to de rigeur.   And as problematic as the Internet and digital media is, I think we could very well be better off with it than without it, for one very big reason: now the whole world really is watching, and there will always be someone, even when you’re hiding under anonymity, who might hold you accountable.  It’s not always fair, and it’s not always justified, but when things fall apart, it is, in a sort of odd way, a comfort to have that kind of global street justice.

I’ve made my peace with that, or I’ve tried to.  It’s unfortunate that a lot of people haven’t.

A few pieces of random mental flotsam:
– finished a pair of socks.  I am such a slow knitter, omg.  I started them in JANUARY.  Grah.  Also managed to ball up some Araucania Ranco in one night by hand.
– total hits to date on Newton’s Third exceed 250.
– the weather is not very conducive to productivity of any nature.
– I’m going to get a pingback on my link of myself above.  That’s kind of annoying.
– whomever gifted Genuine was a very kind person.  Kind of person I wish I was, actually.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about labels and identity lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m pretty centrist on the topic.  I’m centrist on a lot of things, actually, which is scary because I almost always have an opinion.  It’s just that the opinion is, in some way, a compromise.  I’m not sure what this says about me as a person, but I can tell you that despite myself, I’m anything but a diplomat, considering how I react when I do have a non-centrist opinion.

At Smith we were always taught not to label others for several reasons.  These were namely because you could get it wrong, because labels were political in both positive and negative terms, and because it was best to let someone label hirself and work with that only if ze indicated wanting to be labeled.

The trouble with that is that it’s an ideal that I don’t think any human is quite able to follow.  You try your hardest, but the little sorter in your brain will keep working, whether that’s due to race or gender or class or age or size or even clothing style.  It’s evolutionary psychology, really, and while it isn’t prejudice in and of itself, it’s the root of that problem.  In a lot of cases people can blur the categories (which leads to retaliation), but sometimes you get stuck with a label for life.  I will never not be white,  I will never not have been born and socialized female, and I will never not have been raised American.  At this point, those labels are pretty well stuck on.  And they’re strong, labels–they both provide reasons for irrational dislike and provide political strength.

Which is probably why, despite having been rather keen on compartmentalizing into understandable boxes (I’m far more literal a person than I let on, I’m afraid), I find myself to be hypocritical, because in terms of many other areas, I don’t want to be boxed.  The extant boxes don’t work.  I wish I could be, sometimes, because it makes for strength in numbers and less thinking about opinion.  But I can’t let that shuffle me into places where I don’t quite fit.

So it’s an impasse.  Labels cause a lot of problems and often aren’t adequate, but at the same time it’s a human thought process that’s hard to change.  And what I didn’t quite understand when I was younger, despite being told, was the method of solving this: acknowledge labels, but dump the baggage that goes with them, and see the greater picture of each person.

You’re probably all reading this and saying no, really? but I’d just like to point out that sometimes we all need to come to these decisions on our own.  It’s easier said than done, after all, and I’ll be trying to sort it out in myself and be more aware.

I’ll be over here with my agnosticish, socialism-is-good-but-only-in-theory, both-radical-and-sex-positive-feminism-don’t-get-it, help-people-without-destroying-yourself mindset, and my flame-retardant suit.  All of which are topics for another day, perhaps.