Sunday, September 28, 2008

We have pets!

350 of them.

Their sheer numbers should tell you what they are,
but if not, here's a hint:

Alameda County runs a program called Stop Waste, to encourage residential and commercial trash customers (that is, all of us) to reduce and recycle. We got a letter asking us to consider buying a yard composter or a Wriggly Wranch, or ideally, both. I read it and gave it to Zirpu, remarking that the county is greatly subsidizing the price of these items. I didn't expect him to do anything with the brochure but recycle it, but Zirpu got online and ordered the set. The day after Zirpu's birthday, two big boxes arrived via UPS. I stuck a leftover gift ribbon on one of them and when he came in I said, "I got your birthday present!"

Yesterday Zirpu and I went to the liquor store/bait shop down the road. As we walked in we passed under a stuffed deer's head that seemed to define "moth eaten" and by the kind of freezer that usually holds ice cream sandwiches filled with sardines in bags with "for bait ONLY" printed on them. Zirpu marched up to the counter and tried to determine whether jumbo or regular sized worms would be better for the worm bin. The instructions that came with the bin said to add about a pound of worms, but the lady was only selling them by number. In the end, he selected 50 jumbos and 300 regular size (which are much smaller than the jumbos, actually). The instructions that came with the worm bin say that if you feed them and keep them healthy, eventually the bin should be able to support 1500 worms.

I am not sure what we will do with the compost and castings the worms produce. Perhaps Zirpu's garden experiment will expand, though most of our backyard is covered by the deck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Main Street and $700 Billion

I was listening to Fresh Air on my way home yesterday and heard this interview with Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times.

I haven't really understood what happened and how, and I had no idea why the bailout is a good thing for taxpayers. I heard a line (in a story regarding AIG), which was "Profits are privatized, but losses are socialized" and other than that I didn't have a sense of how we got here. Morgenson explained it in language and analogies I understood. If you want to understand it too, check out the interview.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Personal IS Political, and Love! Love! Love!

I'd like to think everyone I know is in favor of love and opposed to Measure 8 and other "Defense of Marriage" Act-type laws. I understood why the doctrine of "separate but equal" is wrong, but not what was so "right" about being married. Then I knew I wanted to marry Zirpu and I understood why being married is so important.

I recently received this wedding announcement from two dear friends of mine, announcing their act of "civil obedience." They have given permission for me to post this beautiful letter. Hooray for love!

+++ +++ +++


It seems suddenly the personal has become very political, in my life. This is an unusual wedding announcement, because I'm sending it to everyone I can think of, not just family and close friends, and not even just those who recall how they know me (although I hope all of you do!) I'm delighted to announce that Michelle Greenberg, my partner of four years, and I will be getting legally married here in San Francisco (I know, we live in Oakland, but SF City Hall is MUCH prettier) this coming month. This announcement is also unusual because it's not to invite you all to the ceremony -- they only allow six attendees -- or to try to get you to send gifts. Please don't send gifts, really!!

The purpose of this announcement is to tell you how much it means to us to be able to get married, legally, as we contemplate trying to create a family together, and spending our lives together, as the life of a married couple.

Most of you are aware there's a ballot measure here in California that is trying to make unconstitutional the marriage of couples who are of the same gender. Yes, Michelle and I are the same gender. Please think of us at the polls, because for every same-sex couple out there waiting to arrive at the moment when they know their love is forever, there are two sets of wonderful, loving family, friends and acquaintances just like all of you, who can offer them their support in assuring that this right be preserved for us all to find the love of our lives and make solemn and legal the commitment we make to each other, to our communities, and to our families. Please share our story with your friends, family and acquaintances, if you feel so inspired!

For those to whom this reaches a deep, deep place in your hearts, perhaps because you are also affected by this issue, or perhaps because this issue simply speaks deeply to your personal principles, I have included a link to a website of a coalition of organizations, No on Prop 8, where donations can be made to support efforts to defeat this ballot measure. You can go to If you're one of those people that absolutely can't resist sending wedding gifts, consider this the best possible option, in our case!

My home state of Wisconsin passed a similar measure some years back, referred to as a DOMA, or Defense of Marriage Act, as an amendment to its constitution. As a result, I cannot move my family back to the state where my mother lives, and where I grew up, and preserve for my future spouse and our children the rights and protections conceded to us by the current laws of the State of California. I am very grateful to be able to continue my life here in California and enjoy all the rights, and carry all of the responsibilities, of other married people in loving, nurturing families here in this State. I hope someday that Wisconsin's DOMA may be repealed, and I'm sure there will be plenty of people like Michelle and me, living out their lives in Wisconsin, who will continue to fight for that greater justice. Sadly, it is so much harder to undo what has already been done, especially in the sphere of laws. I wish them courage and perseverance. And I pray (yes, pray) we do not to have to go through that ourselves, here in California.

Lastly, I write to simply tell you what great joy it gives me to announce my upcoming marriage to Michelle Hannah Greenberg, daughter of Cheryl and Dave Greenberg of Detroit, MI As far as making a family together, we'll keep you posted.....

with much love in my heart,
Margaret Stevenson

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Real People Really Affected

Yesterday a woman came into the food bank practically hyperventilating because she was so upset. She had just worked out a budget for herself and was saying to her teenage daughter that she just didn't know how she was going to be able to do this.

It became clear after a few minutes that she hadn't been paid in 76 days because she provides care for five children and the state hasn't been sending out checks since July. I was happy to tell her that a budget had been passed by the state legislature and that the Governator had said he would sign it. She was incredibly relieved to know that finally some money would be coming in.

I did not mention that there are no winners in this budget, only losers, and that we'll be right back here again next year, unless the economy miraculously improves by then. When I talked to her I didn't know that he was scheduled to sign it next week. I wonder when she is going to get a check, and if it will be everything owed her since the end of July, or in chunks?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Around The Budget In Eighty Days

So, some work finally got done in Sacramento!

The Legislature put together a budget of cuts and magic and the Governator signed it. Schools can hire teachers and create smaller classes; hospitals, clinics, and residential care programs can pay the loans they took to keep themselves operating, childcare and adult care centers can keep kids and adults safe and supervised; and college students can get their state grants to pay for books and living expenses. In the meantime, no one got their wages reduced to $6.55 an hour because the lawsuit didn't get far enough along in the process.

I can't help thinking that a situation exactly like this - only ending two weeks earlier than this time around - is what got Gov. Grey Davis recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger elected.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Birthday Weekend

A success! I had a great time this past weekend, but I was wrong about having a birthday party every month helping me relate to being 40: I'm used to saying I'm 40, but I'm not used to the idea yet... Just celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of my 27th birthday...

I'm still much younger than most of the people I work with, and I doubt there are many 40 year olds who can say that. Go food bank volunteers!

The birthday party was big fun! I managed, somehow, to invite just enough people from all the circles of my life for everyone to see someone they knew. The chatter was loud! The food was good - if I say so myself, since I made most of it and Shobi-wan made the rest.

We had yummy beverages made from Stirrings brand martini and margarita mixes (with which I wound up due to circumstances beyond my control). I told everyone that since the mixers don't include high fructose corn syrup, and lemons and limes are high in Vit C, the drinks were healthy!

Plus, Rouzi has agreed to be my personal bartender. Every forty-year old should have one.

As requested, my friends also brought 107 pounds of canned goods and a generous cash donation to the party for the food bank, which rocked. I got the idea from a young Alamedan who did it for her birthday party two months ago.

The next afternoon Shobi-wan and I went kayaking at Half Moon Bay. I had never been before and just as I was thinking, "Hm, kayaks!" Shobi-wan asked, "Wanna go kayaking?" We got outfitted and paddled around the outer walls of the harbor, looking at pelicans, jellies, and sea stars.

Monday Mom, Shobi-wan, and I went to a preview of the new California Academy of Sciences, which was amazing. I am really excited to go there when the whole place is open. There were a few familar things: the pendulum, which a docent told us hadn't originally been planned as an exhibit in the new building, but the docents petitioned and persuaded the curators to add it back in; the T. Rex skeleton; the original Hall of Man with dioramas of African animals (which now includes an African penguin tank, and had a human in it playing with the birds); and the original seahorse railing around the alligator swamp.

In the evening we met Zirpu, KT, and No at Destino for dinner and alfajores for dessert. A great birthday weekend!

The best thing for me - and excuse me if you think I'm getting soft in my old age; I've always been sappy - is that I got to spend it with people I like who like me.

Now, what to do for my October Unbirthday...? I'm celebrating the whole year, you know!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Young Friend

Phil's birthday was today. He would have been 41.

My closest college friend, the person I thought of as the other side of my coin, is still 24.

I think of how I now feel about 24 year olds, now that I'm 40, and I wonder at how I know I would feel that way about Phil, too. He's still 24. He's always going to be 24. I can't even imagine what he would be doing now, what he would be like now, because with two exceptions none of my college buds is now doing what each of us thought we would be doing sixteen years from 1992.

It's totally weird.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bronze 1 through 4 followed by Silver 1 through 3

A few weeks ago I went to the dance studio for an open house - I'd invited a friend, so of course I went too. They had the usual lessons broken up by experience (newcomers, bronze 1, bronze 2 and above), followed by open dancing.

I asked a fellow to dance and we foxtrotted around the floor. I could tell by his frame that he was early in his dance experience, and we stayed to pretty basic steps. I don't have a problem dancing with less-experienced dancers; it can be more fun dancing with other Bronze 4 and Silver dancers, but I like to meet people and to just dance with different people. Besides, our first teacher told us what one of his coaches told him, which was that you can always work on the "one" (as in, one, two, three, four), and i can always work on following.

After a few steps I asked, "Have you been dancing for a while?" Because I'm not around the studio that much, there are a lot of students I don't know, so I don't know how long they've been coming for lessons. He said yes, and after a few beats asked, "I haven't seen you around here before. Are you in Bronze 2?"

I had to tell him the truth, which was, "I'm in Silver 1." I felt like a snob doing so. I didn't want him to think I would never enjoy dancing with him because he was "just" Bronze 1 (my guess, but I think it's accurate). It also felt strange to say it because I never have before. Zirpu and I graduated from Full Bronze and then started over with dances we didn't know at all, like west coast swing. So it doesn't feel like we're at that level in the syllabus, even though we are.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An American Hundred

Checking out some of the responses to the Very Good Taste posts on the Omnivore's Hundred, this New York guy has put together an American version (VGT is written by a couple of Brits). Ha ha, I think, more fun!

He says:

OK, here's my Americanized take on Andrew at Very Good Taste's Omnivore's Hundred. What makes this an Americanized take? Well, I'm an American and I can step out my door right now and buy most of these things.

I'm afraid that mine isn't as exotic as Andrew's, but I'm surprised by how many of what I consider everyday foods, aren't. Not to say I eat these foods all the time, but each has crossed my table. I'm also not listing foods that are only available in one location, with the exception of Brooklyn pizza.

I'm going to steal some text from Very Good Taste right now. Why not? I stole his idea.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here or at linking to your results.

The WhiteTrash BBQ Omnivore's Hundred:
  1. Tomato Soup Cake (Bink and I made a Coca-Cola cake once)
  2. Turducken
  3. Chicken Feet (a friend of mine put them in the soup she made to go with her matzoballs)
  4. Sauerbraten
  5. Limburger Cheese
  6. Asian Pears (when I had a crush on Bink, I introduced her to these)
  7. Ham Hocks (with greens)
  8. Ghee (as an ingredient)
  9. Corn Bread (my favorite recipe for this is one I got from a textbook when I worked at a culinary college)
  10. Buffalo Mozzarella
  11. Florida Stone Crabs
  12. Som Tum
  13. Oxtails
  14. Sundried Tomatoes
  15. Beef Jerkey (also salmon jerky)
  16. Tongue (in tacos)
  17. Calves' Liver
  18. Shoofly pie
  19. Pulled Pork
  20. Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
  21. Bison
  22. Persimmons
  23. Monk Fish
  24. Hoja Santa Cheese
  25. Whoopee pie
  26. Peking Duck
  27. Sopa de Ajo - Castilian Garlic Soup
  28. Pistolettes
  29. Naan
  30. Country Ham
  31. Jambalaya
  32. Anchovies
  33. Black and White Cookies
  34. Chives
  35. Potato Pancakes (latkes!)
  36. Boudain
  37. Macoun Apples
  38. Brooklyn Pizza
  39. Star Fruit
  40. Dosa
  41. Lutefisk
  42. Rhubarb (with strawberries, in pie)
  43. Scrapple
  44. Cuitlacoche
  45. Cherry Pierogi
  46. Kumquats
  47. Ambrosia Salad
  48. Taylor Ham
  49. Sardines
  50. Capers
  51. Dungeness Crabs
  52. Grape Leaves (wrapped around both kinds of dolmathes)
  53. Pepper Jelly
  54. Hanger Steak
  55. A just picked vine ripened Tomato still hot from the sun
  56. Stuffed Quahogs
  57. Smoked Eggs
  58. Chicken Kiev
  59. Bigos
  60. Andouille
  61. Shropshire Blue Cheese
  62. Real Moonshine
  63. Yuca
  64. Chicken Katsu
  65. Clams on the half shell
  66. Scallion Pancakes
  67. Tamales
  68. Maine Lobster
  69. Picadillo
  70. Romesco Sauce
  71. Sour Cherries
  72. Paella
  73. Gulf Shrimp
  74. Empanada
  75. Fluff (straight, and on ice cream - not with peanut butter, obviously)
  76. Ostrich
  77. Wild Blueberries
  78. Skate
  79. Black-eyed Peas (when Zirpu's sister and her husband got married, on a New Year's Day, we all ate this for luck)
  80. Hatch Chile Peppers
  81. Morels
  82. Water Chestnuts
  83. Massaman Curry
  84. Goose
  85. Jamon Serrano
  86. Knish
  87. Quail Eggs (raw, on sushi)
  88. Gyoza
  89. Conch
  90. Rutabaga (with strawberries, in pie)
  91. Turtle
  92. Salsify
  93. Hummus
  94. Seviche
  95. Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
  96. Parmigiano-Reggiano
  97. Pine Nuts
  98. Basmati Rice (this has a lower glycemic index than other white rice, so until I can bring myself to eat brown rice again, we eat this at home)
  99. Pickled Herring
  100. Kohlrabi (we get these at the food bank, and almost no one knows what they are).

I have eaten 53 of these items. How can it be that I've completed more of the British list than the American list? This list includes seven items I won't eat - I tried liver, recently even, and didn't like it. It was pretty discouraging when I started looking at the list and hadn't eaten the first five things. But then I'd eaten numbers six through ten and hit my groove.

I find it interesting that this "American 100" includes so many foods that came into the country with immigrants, but that will lead to a discussion of what are purely American foods, like turkey with cranberries or "hot dish," and how one defines American cuisine (in The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, it's pretty clear that the dishes we call Chinese in the US did not originate in China).

Another 100 Meme

Stumbling around on the 'net, I found this fellow's list of The Omnivore's Hundred. Apparently it has, like all memes (what makes a meme a meme, that is), sped around the food blog world with all kinds of people responding and commenting. Actually I recommend reading his follow-up posts as well, especially why he selected the things he selected.

These lists are also fun because they are brainless posting subjects. "What, you wish to interview me? Sure!"

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers. Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. [I will be coloring these in green as I don't know how to cross words out]
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The Very Good Taste Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison (sausage in spaghetti sauce)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (but I've had tuna tartare)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (can you say gefilte fish?!)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (allergic to the ole goober pea, I am)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (had to look this one up - yet another stinky French cheese)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (plum wine; also slivoviz, a lethal plum vodka-like beverage)
19. Steamed pork buns (I've been craving these for days)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras (as a Californian, should I even consider eating this?)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (if undercooked counts - ouch!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I've had cognac, and I've had Swisher Sweets cigars, but not together)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (in black cherry, red cherry, lime, and strawberry, all with vodka, and orange with Malibu rum. In 2002 I made gin and tonic Jell-O shots from a recipe my mom gave me out of the New York Times).
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (I'm pretty sure this isn't what he means, but I did eat an earwig about ten years ago. Thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies).
43. Phaal (why eat something too hot to taste?)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (save it for those who would appreciate it)
46. Fugu (I run the risk of death with peanuts - that's enough for me)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel (I love unagi!)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (too sweet for me)
50. Sea urchin (by accident - yay sushi boats!)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (easy to make, too)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I don't think I've ever eaten a Big Mac - it's always been Quarter-Pounders for me)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips (hello, I grew up in the '70's)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (this is mud. Maybe a special mud, but unless someone providing me medical attention insists, I'll pass)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (A friend told me that the taste is not worth the smell)
66. Frogs’ legs (Did you see The Muppet Movie? 'Nuff said)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (there's a Hungarian version of funnel cake heaped with sour cream and garlic which is even better than the sweet version. Plus, it keeps the vampires away for hours)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost (I've had a cheese that sounds like the way this one is described, but I don't know if this is what it was)
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (turns out it's a kind of rice wine - I've had rice wine, but not this)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (ate an apple one many mornings during break in ninth grade)
78. Snail (I'm sure if I just concentrate on the butter and garlic, it'll be tasty. But will knowing what it is, and the texture, totally turn me away from the plate?)
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (in both chocolate and strawberry)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash (I've had what my mom called goulash, an American dish of beef, onions, tomatoes, and noodles, with as many variations as there are moms... I think in the Midwest it's known as "hot dish" and includes cream of mushroom soup. But real goulash? Not yet, it's on my list)
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano (usually includes peanuts)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta (which I mischievously like to call Italian cornmeal mush in Phil's memory)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (I think so but I can't quite remember - I know we had Rocky Mountain Oysters at that restaurant, but also a lot of booze)

I've eaten 54 items on this list, with four maybes, and nine I will never eat (though two of these are things to which I'm allergic). I'm willing to try things, usually, at least once, and often again after a few years to see if I've changed my mind.

Monday, September 1, 2008


The Class of 2021!