Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Goodies

Today is Halloween. The day that kids all across the country get to go to people's houses and get free candy. As a parent of two young boys, I get to accompany them and um, get a cut of the take. When I was younger (but older than my boys are now), I used to go out on my own and could cover most of my entire neighborhood in just a few hours. I learned which houses to get to first because they had better candy (or candy apples, as one usually did) and which to avoid (the dentist always gave away toothbrushes and apples).

Here's a page from Epicurious, which offers their best Halloween recipes. I have chosen one of them and reprinted it below. It is not for the kids though - but for the adults at home handing out candy or load into a flask as you walk about the neighborhood. Enjoy and BOO!

Witches' Brew
Gourmet - October 2009
by Kemp Minifie

Punch is one of the easiest ways to set the Halloween mood—all you need is a cauldron, perhaps, or a pointy black hat and ice block "hands."Not every blend of fruit juices takes well to the with-or-without option of alcohol, but the combination of sparkling cider and cranberry juice cocktail, subtly enhanced with a spice syrup, both support an optional dose of dark rum.

Yield: Makes about 3 quarts
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 1 1/2 hr (includes steeping)

  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 (25 1/4-ounce) bottle sparkling cider (about 3 1/4 cups), chilled
  • 4 cups cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
  • 1 (1-liter) bottle club soda or seltzer, chilled
  • 1 cup dark rum (optional)
  • Ice blocks in any shape (see cooks' note, below)
Bring cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, water, and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, uncovered, 1 hour.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, then chill until cold.

Combine all remaining ingredients, except ice, with syrup in a punch bowl. Add ice before serving.

Cooks' notes:
  • To make hand-shaped ice, fill powder-free, latex-free rubber gloves with water and tie wrist end securely, then freeze.
  • Syrup can be made 1 week ahead and chilled with spices. Strain before using.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Six Books that Screwed Us All Up

As has been previously discussed here, I used to work in a library. And now, for all many of you can tell the difference, I am a librarian.

Here's a list of six books that is offered (with some comment) for discussion. The article suggests these books "accidentally screwed the world."

#6 - Jaws, Peter Benchley. Hey I grew up on Long Island. When this book came out - the ocean was a lonely place with the number of people who stayed huddled on the shore.

#5 - Coma, Robin Cook. Like number 6, I think the movie was more scary. Unless you were reading the book alone, in a hospital.

#4 - On the Naturalization of Useful Animals, by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Rabbits in Australia? You don't know the story? This book will tell you and you will never bring an animal anywhere again. You might never go anywhere ever again.

#3 - The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. I think this book screwed Rushdie more than anyone else, but then again, I'm pretty sure his bank account didn't get screwed.

#2 - The Dick and Jane series, by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp. And let's not forget about Spot!

#1 - The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock. Mrs. BA and I have a copy of this on the bookshelf somewhere. Hey, everybody makes mistakes now and then, right? So he was wrong on a few things in the beginning. We all turned out OK.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Return of Mad Men

I have been keeping tabs on the men (and women) of Sterling Cooper through Netflix streaming (I've actually been watching the first season, which I don't feel like I saw the first time around), while I wait for the arrival of Season 5 in March.

My father was in advertising (pharmaceutical advertising) and every time I watch the show, I picture him. It was such his life.

Here, one wonders how Don Draper might pitch today's social media tools, in this case, the Facebook Timeline. If you would like some more information on what New York was like in the Mad Men era, you can go and watch this travel film from 1962.

And if you need some clarification on how much money Don has in his pocket at any given time, here's a handy list of prices of things from 1962 compared to today. (I would love to be able to get a new car for $2600 - think I could extreme coupon it? I also think it's funny that TVs are still relatively the same price.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Trifle

I am all over this. It might even make an appearance at Thanksgiving. All though, I might get in trouble for it not being "from scratch."

Strawberry-Rhubarb Trifle
from Betty Crocker

  • 1 box Betty Crocker® pound cake mix
  • Water and eggs called for on cake mix box
  • 1/2 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 boxes (4-serving size each) vanilla pudding and pie filling mix (not instant)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 cup medium-size whole strawberries, if desired
  • Shredded orange peel, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Make and bake cake mix as directed on box for one 9-inch loaf or two 8-inch loaves, using water and eggs. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, mix rhubarb, sugar and orange juice. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and mixture starts to thicken slightly. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. Stir in sliced strawberries.
  3. While rhubarb mixture is cooling, in 2-quart saucepan, mix pudding mix and milk. Cook over medium heat 6 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Cool 15 minutes. Press plastic wrap directly on pudding to prevent a tough layer from forming on top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours until chilled. Fold in whipped topping.
  4. Cut pound cake horizontally in half. Spread marmalade over bottom half. Top with top half. Cut into 18 slices. Place 9 slices in bottom of 2 1/2- to 3-quart trifle or serving bowl.
  5. Spoon half of the rhubarb mixture over cake; top with half of the pudding. Repeat layers with remaining cake, rhubarb mixture and pudding. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours until chilled.
  6. Arrange whole strawberries on top of trifle. Garnish with orange peel. Store covered in refrigerator.
Makes 12 servings

Thursday, October 20, 2011

69 American Patents that we don't need

I should be rich. When my grandfather came to this country, he started a company based in Maine, that extracted carrageenan from seaweed. It is carrageenan that keeps your toothpaste smooth, among many other useful ways. However, at some point, my grandfather sold the company. He does however, hold a patent for the process.

Here's a list of patents that perhaps did not need proceed past the really bad idea that someone had. You can click on the link above to get more information about these "great" ideas.
  1. Rotating Ice-Cream Cone - a nice idea but certainly not practical
  2. Doll Urn - um, ew.
  3. Shoe-Powered Neck Massager - well they do say that bad shoes can make your back hurt.
  4. Hammock Pants
  5. Gerbil Vest - can you use this only with gerbils?
  6. Mouth Exerciser
  7. Dieting Mask - patent held by Hannibal Lecter
  8. Thumbsucking Inhibitor - ditto (it has steel spikes)
  9. Hunting Camouflage
  10. Flying Device - patent held by Wile E. Coyote
  11. The Human Bike
  12. Instant Snowman - for all those kids in the South, "Hey Mom, can I go outside and turn on the snowman again?
  13. Heated Sunglasses - giving new meaning to the phrase, "OW, MY EYES!"
  14. Snake Collar and Leash
  15. Bird Diaper
  16. Burglar Trap Door - patent held by Scooby-Doo
  17. Automatic Tipping Hat
  18. Dimple Producing Device
  19. Combination Grocer's Package, Cheese Grater, Slicer, Mouse and Fly Trap - Hey, I have an idea to "streamline" several chores at once
  20. Sheep Protector - from whom?
  21. Cigarette Ring - classy/
  22. Scalp Cooling Device - yeah, that's called water
  23. Life Saving Apparatus
  24. Bedwetting Assistance Owl
  25. Give Yourself A Pat On The Back - from the producer of the back scratcher
  26. Shark Protection Suit - "You go inside the cage? Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark . . . Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again."
  27. Gas Powered Pogo Stick
  28. Indoor Surfing Machine
  29. Inverted Mask
  30. Doggy Dust Cover - for the allergic dog
  31. Human Car Wash
  32. TV Controller - invented/patented in 1979, when the remote control was already pretty much firmly in every (male) American hand
  33. Moose Shades
  34. Old Person Scented Doll - what does it smell like?
  35. Anti-Attack Guard For Women - why only for women?
  36. Electric Tissue - "Timmy, stop sticking the electric tissues up your nose"
  37. Giant Soup Bowl
  38. Soap Slide - oh good, another way for my boys to put more water on the bathroom floor
  39. Fart Filter
  40. Horse-Powered Car
  41. The Question-Comma and Exclamation-Comma
  42. Poodle Ear Protectors - protecting them from what, exactly?
  43. Inception Boxer-Briefs
  44. Helium Sun Shade - talking funny and keeping cool at the same time
  45. Dance Helper
  46. Beer Can Hat 2.0
  47. The Cereal Monster - this is not a description of SoBA
  48. Toilet Breather - boy, you'd have to be pretty desperate.
  49. The Useless Forkstick
  50. Stylin' Split Pants - I could see where these might be useful
  51. Toe Puppets - that's just creepy, unless you like that sort of thing
  52. Heated Ice Cream Scoop - yeah, that's called hot water
  53. Killer Bee Protector
  54. Angel Ears
  55. Arm Mitten - to keep one arm from getting more tanned than the other and/or to keep that pitching arm warm
  56. Baby Cage - it's not what you think
  57. Beach Boot
  58. BeerBrella
  59. Bird-Powered Blimp - patented in 1887
  60. Bunny Syringe
  61. Cleavage Pants
  62. Toasty Tent - hey, only you (stupid) can prevent forest fires (the total loss of your campsite and most of the surrounding area)
  63. Deer Ears Hearing Aid
  64. Floating Furniture
  65. Hurricane Safety Bed
  66. Nightmare Gloves
  67. Pantyhose x3
  68. Life Watch - hey look at that, my watch says 3, 2, 1, ze-
  69. Instant Face Lift

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crispy Potato Roast

As I think I have said here before, I'm not allowed to own a deep fryer. "Hey, wonder what this would taste like deep fried?" However, I do, on occasion, make my own potato chips. And they're good. This might be a close second (however, it is from that woman so I might have to boycott it on principle).

Crispy Potato Roast
from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
  • 4 shallots, thickly sliced lengthwise
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine butter and oil. Brush bottom of a round 9-inch baking dish with some butter mixture. With a sharp knife or mandoline, slice potatoes very thinly crosswise.
  2. Arrange potato slices vertically in dish. Wedge shallots throughout. Sprinkle with salt and red-pepper flakes (if using); brush with remaining butter mixture. Bake 1 1/4 hours. Add thyme and bake until potatoes are cooked through with a crisp top, about 35 minutes more.
Cook's Note
The thinner the potatoes are cut, the crispier they'll become in the oven. Keep the slices together as you cut them so that you can arrange them easily in the dish.

Friday, October 14, 2011

100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books

Growing up, one of my first jobs was working at a public library. I was and am an avid reader. I was always in the summer reading club and would race to the library to get my next book and collect my certificates at the end of the summer. When I got the job at the library, one of my tasks was to read the shelves (to make sure the books were in the right place on the shelves). This allowed me to broaden my horizon of reading books other than junior fiction. One of the first non-fiction books I read was Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss. The book relates the story of Captain Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted of the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters at Fort Bragg in 1970.

So recently, I spotted (of course on kottke) this list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books from the Guardian and thought I would share. I confess that I haven't read very many of these. The list is arranged by topic and is obviously Anglo-centric. So how many have you read? I am pretty sure that Anna VS and C in DC will have something to say about this list.

  1. The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (1980) - the story of modern art, from cubism to the avant garde
  2. The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich (1950) -the most popular art book in history, which examines the technical and aesthetic problems confronted by artists
  3. Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972) - study of the ways of art
  1. Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari (1550) - Biography mixed with anecdotes in this Florentine-inflected portrait of the painters and sculptors who shaped the Renaissance
  2. The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell (1791) - an affectionate portrait of the great lexicographer
  3. The Diaries of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys (1825) - "Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health," begins this extraordinarily vivid diary of the Restoration period
  4. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (1918) - Strachey set the template for modern biography, with this witty and irreverent account of four Victorian heroes
  5. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (1929) - Graves' autobiography tells the story of his childhood and the early years of his marriage, but the core of the book is his account of the brutalities and banalities of the first world war
  6. The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein (1933) -Stein's groundbreaking biography, written in the guise of an autobiography, of her lover
  1. Notes on Camp by Susan Sontag (1964) - Sontag's proposition that the modern sensibility has been shaped by Jewish ethics and homosexual aesthetics
  2. Mythologies by Roland Barthes (1972) - Barthes gets under the surface of the meanings of the things which surround us in these witty studies of contemporary myth-making
  3. Orientalism by Edward Said (1978) - Said argues that romanticised western representations of Arab culture are political and condescending
  1. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) - This account of the effects of pesticides on the environment launched the environmental movement in the US (I feel like I have read this - or that I really, really should)
  2. The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock (1979) - Lovelock's argument that once life is established on a planet, it engineers conditions for its continued survival, revolutionised our perception of our place in the scheme of things
  1. The Histories by Herodotus (c400 BC) - History begins with Herodotus's account of the Greco-Persian war
  2. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776) - The first modern historian of the Roman Empire went back to ancient sources to argue that moral decay made downfall inevitable (not read cover to cover, but referred to in many college history classes - so it's like I did read it)
  3. The History of England by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1848) - A landmark study from the pre-eminent Whig historian
  4. Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt (1963) - Arendt's reports on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and explores the psychological and sociological mechanisms of the Holocaust
  5. The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson (1963) - Thompson turned history on its head by focusing on the political agency of the people, whom most historians had treated as anonymous masses
  6. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (1970) - A moving account of the treatment of Native Americans by the US government (Like Silent Spring, I feel like this is a book that every American should read)
  7. Hard Times: an Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel (1970) - Terkel weaves oral accounts of the Great Depression into a powerful tapestry (you gotta love Studs, he came to a professional meeting several years ago in Chicago and had a group of archivists completely under his spell).
  8. Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński (1982) - The great Polish reporter tells the story of the last Shah of Iran
  9. The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm (1994) - Hobsbawm charts the failure of capitalists and communists alike in this account of the 20th century
  10. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Familes by Philip Gourevitch (1999) - Gourevitch captures the terror of the Rwandan massacre, and the failures of the international community
  11. Postwar by Tony Judt (2005) - A magisterial account of the grand sweep of European history since 1945
  1. The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm (1990) - An examination of the moral dilemmas at the heart of the journalist's trade
  2. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968) - The man in the white suit follows Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they drive across the US in a haze of LSD
  3. Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977) - A vivid account of Herr's experiences of the Vietnam War
  1. The Lives of the Poets by Samuel Johnson (1781) - Biographical and critical studies of 18th-century poets, which cast a sceptical eye on their lives and works
  2. An Image of Africa by Chinua Achebe (1975) - Achebe challenges western cultural imperialism in his argument that Heart of Darkness is a racist novel, which deprives its African characters of humanity
  3. The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim (1976) - Bettelheim argues that the darkness of fairy tales offers a means for children to grapple with their fears (wow, Bettelheim -there's a name I haven't heard since my pursuit of my education degree)
  1. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (1979) - A whimsical meditation on music, mind and mathematics that explores formal complexity and self-reference
  1. Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782) - Rousseau establishes the template for modern autobiography with this intimate account of his own life
  2. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845) - This vivid first person account was one of the first times the voice of the slave was heard in mainstream society
  3. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (1905) - Imprisoned in Reading Gaol, Wilde tells the story of his affair with Alfred Douglas and his spiritual development
  4. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (1922) - A dashing account of Lawrence's exploits during the revolt against the Ottoman empire (that's what the movie is about, right?)
  5. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi (1927) -A classic of the confessional genre, Gandhi recounts early struggles and his passionate quest for self-knowledge.
  6. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1938) - Orwell's clear-eyed account of his experiences in Spain offers a portrait of confusion and betrayal during the civil war.
  7. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947) -Published by her father after the war, this account of the family's hidden life helped to shape the post-war narrative of the Holocaust. (Hey, I've read this one!)
  8. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov (1951) - Nabokov reflects on his life before moving to the US in 1940.
  9. The Man Died by Wole Soyinka (1971) - A powerful autobiographical account of Soyinka's experiences in prison during the Nigerian civil war.
  10. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (1975) - A vision of the author's life, including his life in the concentration camps, as seen through the kaleidoscope of chemistry.
  11. Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000) - Sage demolishes the fantasy of family as she tells how her relatives passed rage, grief and frustrated desire down the generations.
  1. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (1899) - Freud's argument that our experiences while dreaming hold the key to our psychological lives launched the discipline of psychoanalysis and transformed western culture.
  1. The Romantic Generation by Charles Rosen (1998) -Rosen examines how 19th-century composers extended the boundaries of music, and their engagement with literature, landscape and the divine.
  1. The Symposium by Plato (c380 BC) -A lively dinner-party debate on the nature of love.
  2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (c180) - A series of personal reflections, advocating the preservation of calm in the face of conflict, and the cultivation of a cosmic perspective.
  3. Essays by Michel de Montaigne (1580) - Montaigne's wise, amusing examination of himself, and of human nature, launched the essay as a literary form.
  4. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621) - Burton examines all human culture through the lens of melancholy.
  5. Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes (1641) - Doubting everything but his own existence, Descartes tries to construct God and the universe.
  6. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume (1779) - Hume puts his faith to the test with a conversation examining arguments for the existence of God.
  7. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (1781) - If western philosophy is merely a footnote to Plato, then Kant's attempt to unite reason with experience provides many of the subject headings.
  8. Phenomenology of Mind by GWF Hegel (1807) - Hegel takes the reader through the evolution of consciousness.
  9. Walden by HD Thoreau (1854) - An account of two years spent living in a log cabin, which examines ideas of independence and society. (I've always meant to read this . . . )
  10. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859) - Mill argues that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others".
  11. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (1883) - The invalid Nietzsche proclaims the death of God and the triumph of the Ubermensch.
  12. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (1962) - A revolutionary theory about the nature of scientific progress
  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (c500 BC) - A study of warfare that stresses the importance of positioning and the ability to react to changing circumstances. (I've read parts of this one, too, really.)
  2. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1532) - Machiavelli injects realism into the study of power, arguing that rulers should be prepared to abandon virtue to defend stability. (Read this one, too.)
  3. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651) - Hobbes makes the case for absolute power, to prevent life from being "nasty, brutish and short".
  4. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine (1791) - A hugely influential defence of the French revolution, which points out the illegitimacy of governments that do not defend the rights of citizens. (I really should have read this one)
  5. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) - Wollstonecraft argues that women should be afforded an education in order that they might contribute to society.
  6. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848) - An analysis of society and politics in terms of class struggle, which launched a movement with the ringing declaration that "proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains".
  7. The Souls of Black Folk by WEB DuBois (1903) - A series of essays makes the case for equality in the American south.
  8. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949) - De Beauvoir examines what it means to be a woman, and how female identity has been defined with reference to men throughout history.
  9. The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon (1961) - An exploration of the psychological impact of colonialisation.
  10. The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan (1967) - This bestselling graphic popularisation of McLuhan's ideas about technology and culture was cocreated with Quentin Fiore.
  11. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970) - Greer argues that male society represses the sexuality of women.
  12. Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman (1988) - Chomsky argues that corporate media present a distorted picture of the world, so as to maximise their profits.
  13. Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (2008) - A vibrant first history of the ongoing social media revolution
  1. The Golden Bough by James George Frazer (1890) -An attempt to identify the shared elements of the world's religions, which suggests that they originate from fertility cults.
  2. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902) - James argues that the value of religions should not be measured in terms of their origin or empirical accuracy.
  1. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859) - Darwin's account of the evolution of species by natural selection transformed biology and our place in the universe.
  2. The Character of Physical Law by Richard Feynmann (1965) - An elegant exploration of physical theories from one of the 20th century's greatest theoreticians.
  3. The Double Helix by James Watson (1968) - James Watson's personal account of how he and Francis Crick cracked the structure of DNA.
  4. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1976) - Dawkins launches a revolution in biology with the suggestion that evolution is best seen from the perspective of the gene, rather than the organism.
  5. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988) - A book owned by 10 million people, if understood by fewer, Hawking's account of the origins of the universe became a publishing sensation. (I was one of those people who owned this book for a while)
  1. The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pisan (1405) - A defence of womankind in the form of an ideal city, populated by famous women from throughout history.
  2. Praise of Folly by Erasmus (1511) - This satirical encomium to the foolishness of man helped spark the Reformation with its skewering of abuses and corruption in the Catholic church.
  3. Letters Concerning the English Nation by Voltaire (1734) - Voltaire turns his keen eye on English society, comparing it affectionately with life on the other side of the English channel.
  4. Suicide by Émile Durkheim (1897) - An investigation into protestant and catholic culture, which argues that the less vigilant social control within catholic societies lowers the rate of suicide.
  5. Economy and Society by Max Weber (1922) - A thorough analysis of political, economic and religious mechanisms in modern society, which established the template for modern sociology.
  6. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (1929) - Woolf's extended essay argues for both a literal and metaphorical space for women writers within a male-dominated literary tradition.
  7. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans (1941) - Evans's images and Agee's words paint a stark picture of life among sharecroppers in the US South.
  8. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963) - An exploration of the unhappiness felt by many housewives in the 1950s and 1960s, despite material comfort and stable family lives.
  9. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966) - A novelistic account of a brutal murder in a town in Kansas, which propelled Capote to fame and fortune (It might have made sense to follow up Fatal Vision with this book.)
  10. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968) - Didion evokes life in 1960s California in a series of sparkling essays.
  11. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1973) - This analysis of incarceration in the Soviet Union, including the author's own experiences as a zek, called into question the moral foundations of the USSR. (Read for a class in college, a real uplifting tale.)
  12. Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (1975) - Foucault examines the development of modern society's systems of incarceration.
  13. News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel García Márquez (1996) - Colombia's greatest 20th-century writer tells the story of kidnappings carried out by Pablo Escobar's Medellín cartel.
Travel (what no Fodor's?)
  1. The Travels of Ibn Battuta by Ibn Battuta (1355) - The Arab world's greatest medieval traveller sets down his memories of journeys throughout the known world and beyond.
  2. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1869) - Twain's tongue-in-cheek account of his European adventures was an immediate bestseller.
  3. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West (1941) - A six-week trip to Yugoslavia provides the backbone for this monumental study of Balkan history.
  4. Venice by Jan Morris (1960) - An eccentric but learned guide to the great city's art, history, culture and people.
  5. A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1977) - The first volume of Leigh Fermor's journey on foot through Europe - a glowing evocation of youth, memory and history.
  6. Danube by Claudio Magris (1986) - Magris mixes travel, history, anecdote and literature as he tracks the Danube from its source to the sea.
  7. China Along the Yellow River by Cao Jinqing (1995) - A pioneering work of Chinese sociology, exploring modern China with a modern face.
  8. The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald (1995) - A walking tour in East Anglia becomes a melancholy meditation on transience and decay.
  9. Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban (2000) - Raban sets off in a 35ft ketch on a voyage from Seattle to Alaska, exploring Native American art, the Romantic imagination and his own disintegrating relationship along the way.
  10. Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa (2002) -Vargas Llosa distils a lifetime of reading and writing into a manual of the writer's craft.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pork Chops with Pineapple

Here's a recipe that I can actually say that I made. I made it last night for a delicious Sunday night dinner. I'm afraid its a Martha Stewart recipe, and we all know that I'm not particularly fond of her. I adapted the recipe in as much as I used boneless pork chops, and I had no jalapenos (I sprinkled a little cayenne in with the pineapple). I also used canned pineapple (I reserved the juice and had a nice vodka and pineapple with dinner).

I found the recipe on Punchfork, which is a recipe aggregator, found on the greatest of all Internet aggregators out there, kottke.

Pork Chops with Pineapple and Rice

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 bone-in pork chops (2 1/2 pounds total, 1 inch thick)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is slightly pink in center, 7 minutes per side. Remove from skillet. Transfer pork to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium. Add pineapple and jalapeno to skillet. Cook, stirring, until pineapple is tender, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce. Serve pork with pineapple mixture, rice, and cilantro.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where is that Library?

I sometimes tell people that I went through my junior and senior year at college not visiting the university library with any regularity. I knew lots of people who went there to study, but I preferred to study in my room. With beer. It's not that I didn't get books from there, it just wasn't the place I wanted to study.

Last month was National Library Card Month. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I don't have a library card. It is something that I really should rectify. In my defense, I don't have the time to read like I used to - I am currently reading a book that I started long ago and long after it would have been due back to the library. I do know where the library is, our local branch is on my way home. In fact, I just brought a box of books in to donate just the other day.

Do you know where your local library is? This site can help. As stated here before, my first "indoor" job was working at the public library, which recently celebrated its 50th year of service to the town. Now that I think about it, I worked there about thirty years ago. But I'm not going to think about that anymore.

It's possible that if my local library looked like this, I might go there more often. This is a concept for the "Wall of Books" at the Stockholm Public Library.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Archivists and Presidents - Left Handers

I am left-handed. Many years ago, I was in Boston for a high school conference (Model United Nations trip to Harvard) and during some free time, I went shopping and came across a store that catered to the left-handed. I am fond of the saying that goes, "If the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handed people are in their right minds." I used to have a mug that said so.

My mother was also left-handed and used to tell stories about being persuaded to change. Growing up, she was made to write with her right hand, but it didn't take. She wanted to learn to knit but her favorite aunt refused to teach her to knit left-handed so she learned to knit right-handed.

President Obama is also left-handed. I have noticed sometimes when he signs his name he has that over-the-top curl, which I don't have (and neither did my mother). In the modern era of the ball-point pen, it is less of an issue (less smudging), but I don't know how my mother made out.

I have also noticed that in my profession, there are an inordinate number of left-handed archivists. I don't know what that says, but there it is. And here's a list of facts about being left-handed.
  • According to Scientific American, 15% of people are left-handed. Males are twice as likely to be left handed than females.
  • Left-handers are more likely to be geniuses. 20% of all MENSA members report being left-handed.
  • A study found left-handed men are, on average, 15% richer than right-handed men for those who attended college and 26% richer if they graduated.
  • Left-handed people are three times more likely than right-handed people to become alcoholics.
  • If both parents are left-handed, 50% of their offspring will be left-handed. Two righties have only a 2% chance of having a lefty. (I've been working on SoBA, who tends to bat from the left. That formula sort of works - 50% of my parents were left handed, so 25% of their kids should be left-handed, right? That's me.)
  • Psychologists from Queen's University Belfast found that female cats are more likely to be right-pawed, while male cats tend to be left-pawed.
  • Lefties are more likely than righties to really, really hate spiral notebooks. (Yes we do.)
  • Research conducted by Dr. Nick Cherbuin shows that lefties are better at handling large amounts of stimuli, making them naturally better at playing video games. (Well that explains a lot.)
  • Statistically, the older a mother is, the more likely she is to give birth to left-handed children.
  • Left-handers are believed to reach puberty 4 to 5 months after right-handers.
  • Only 50% of lefties report using a computer mouse with their left hands.. Similarly, 68% use their right hand for scissors and 74% hold a dinner knife in their right hands. (Raising my hand, my left hand, but even so.)
  • 4 of the 5 original designers of the Apple Mac computer were left-handed. [In addition to President Obama], three of the past five presidents were left-handed (Clinton, and Bush 41).
  • According to one study, lefties have an average lifespan that is nine years fewer than that of righties. (Well, that's depressing.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lamb Chops with Lemon

I want to eat more lamb.

Tonight we had pasta and sauce with meatballs and sausage, courtesy of my MIL. But I want lamb now.

Lamb Chops with Lemon
Bon Appétit | April 2011
by Michael Symon

Serve the lamb with your favorite tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt sauce) and horta (sautéed greens tossed with red wine vinegar and honey).

Yield: Makes 12 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 14 hours (includes marinating time)

  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 24 lamb rib chops (from three 1 1/4-to 1 1/2-pound racks of lamb, cut between bones into individual chops)
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • Fresh oregano sprigs (for garnish)
Mix minced shallots, chopped mint, chopped oregano, minced garlic, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt in small bowl. Press 1 rounded teaspoon shallot-herb mixture onto eye of each lamb chop. Turn chops over onto large rimmed baking sheet. Press remaining shallot- herb mixture onto eye of each chop. Cover lamb chops with sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon peel in small bowl until slightly thickened and well blended. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly ground black pepper. Spoon oil mixture lightly over chops. Turn chops over and spoon remaining oil mixture over. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill lamb chops to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer lamb chops to platter. Garnish with fresh oregano sprigs and serve.