Things Consumed

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Monday, September 23, 2002

Today is the first day of autumn. It is a warm, sluggish day here in San Francisco, with traffic sounds and slow-moving air occupying the streets downtown. A day to wait until your green lemon zinger tea cools down to room temperature before drinking it down. A day for crispy, cold salads with tangy dressings. A day for lemonade. A day for walking on the shady side of the street. A day for avoiding things that melt easily.

At the moment, I feel like one of those things that melts easily. It's not so much the heat as the pressure of working, moving, suffering deadline pressure in both places, and not being settled in any one place. Even though many of my kitchen things are now in my new home, there is always something key left behind (we have one spoon? no measuring cups? no knives?). I'm not accustomed to the local stores, and not always home before they close. I can't make my own meals, but I don't want take out. My stomach is as unsettled as my mind.

I'll likely be off-line for a few days, possibly through the weekend, awaiting the coming of DSL and daytime access to the well-reviewed produce store near my new home. Then I can return to the serious business of enjoying and discussing food.

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:53 PM

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Peet's has come out with a new tea. A genmachai. My favorite breakfast tea: green tea with toasted rice. A refreshing drink and a light cereal together!

As if I need a new source of caffeine...


The weather is lovely this morning. Warm and clear. There is fog resting lightly on the bay, and looking east from the San Bruno area, Mount Diablo pokes out just above the mist. (I made a cute little ASCII diagram of the mountain (^) hovering above the fog (~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~), but this program won't let me space it correctly. So you'll just have to assemble it in your mind.)


All I remember of an early morning conversation, while passing a group of elementary school kids crossing El Camino:

Me: Kids sure wear large backpacks now.
S.: They need enough room to carry their guns.


Other people make much more interesting preparations for meetings than I do. I think I should put similar fanfare into my morning commute. (But I doubt the fire department would be amused.)


I don't watch television. This editorial sums up why. It could be great, it could be relevant to my existence, it could be about people I admire and want to emulate, or about experiences and adventures I would love to have. But instead it's... somewhat disturbing, pathetic, and undermines what little confidence I can work up in humanity, and thus best avoided.

posted by Arlene (Beth)5:25 PM

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Three words: lavender ice cream.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:04 AM

Monday, September 16, 2002


Lunchtime! It's time to upload notes from the wee hours of the morning.


I remember photos of farmers in 1999, staring dubiously at their lush crops in their fertile fields near their homes, after having learned that the entire area of Japan in which they lived was contaminated by a nuclear accident. (They were advised to stay inside, keep their windows closed, and wash their food thoroughly. This was not comforting.)

It's happening again. Here's a scary item about safety problems with Japan's nuclear reactors from The New York Times (free registration may be required).

"Compounding the public relations disaster, a reactor that the company operates in Fukushima Prefecture, in northern Japan, was closed temporarily last week because a chimney was emitting more than 100 times the usual level of radiation."

Just like here, major radiation leaks are considered "public relations disasters" that are best hushed up as soon as possible.

Here are a few more samples from the NY Times article:
...a groundswell has been building against nuclear power here for at least three years. It began when cost-cutting and sloppy work led to a fission chain-reaction at a uranium-processing plant in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo, in 1999. The anger gained momentum last year after investigators discovered that radioactive coolant water had been leaking, undetected, from cracks in the aging reactor vessel in Hamaoka for at least four months.

The Tokaimura incident was Japan's worst nuclear-related accident. Two people were killed, thousands of people were exposed to at least moderate levels of radiation and the town center had to be temporarily evacuated during a cleanup.

The last time I checked, there were a few hundred accidental nuclear releases in the United States per year, none of which are publicized. My pro-nuclear energy friends remain blissfully unaware of these accidents, and are always disoriented when they hear of them. (My friends are proponents of a theoretically perfect nuclear energy system. If you stick to pure theory, without humans cutting corners and lying and trying to hide their mistakes and increase profit margins, just about anything can work perfectly. That's why I think nuclear plans should continue to be developed only in theory, where nothing will go wrong.)


American businesses want to do everything the hardest and most expensive way possible. Meat companies midhandle meat, and then want to spend millions on radiation machines to make the meat safe to eat, rather than just handling it correctly. Livestock companies crowd their herds into unsanitary pens, spreading diseases rampantantly, and then purchase expensive antibiotics to treat their cows, rather than just provide decent conditions. Farmers spend thousands of dollars on chemical pesticides and genetically modified seeds, yet lose more crops to pests every year anyway, while organic and other traditional farmers gain ground.

And now farmers are spending more than $20,000 each for cloned livestock, so they won't be subject to the natural variety of their carefully inbred animals. Not to improve human health, or improve the quality of human foods. There's actually an animal mentioned in this article named 401-k, if that tells you what their priorities are.

Thank you, U.S. commercial farmers, for making products no one in Europe wants to buy, and for pushing me a step closer to veganism.


I'd write more, but it's time to eat!

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:20 PM

Sunday, September 15, 2002


In early August, I noticed a strange lump on my head. Lumps on my head aren't especially unusual - I suffer from everyone's least favorite hereditary skin/immune disorder, psoriasis. But it felt... different.

It grew quickly. It grew tall. It was in a spot on my pale, easily sunburned head right where my hair parts, but high enough up in my hair that I don't apply sunscreen there.

It kept growing. I went to the doctor, who was alarmed that it had grown so fast, and called in another doctor. Happily, they both agreed it was harmless. These types of growths are called seborrheic keratoses, 'the barnacles of old age' (gee, thanks so much), and can grow to be the size of a quarter. Which, luckily, mine was not. The doctor (actually, a very nice Nurse Practitioner) froze it with some liquid nitrogen, and it's been sort of crumbling ever since.

It doesn't look very nice, but at least it's not cancer!!


Speaking of slightly lumpy, most people are. Images of people we see in major media are fake - woefully, unrealistically fake, and make most people I know feel inadequate about their appearance. That's why I enjoyed this article on Jamie Lee Curtis, famous for her fab body, displaying her natural form, and then comparing it with her 3-hour + 13 people dolled up form. It's quite something! She may be promoting a children's book on self-esteem, but her goals weren't merely self-promotional. In a society where women are valued based on their closeness to an imaginary and unnatural idea of perfection, it's daring to be oneself.


The opposite of perfection: a very scary photo of the vice president. I warned you. It's almost as scary as that AP photo of Cheney wielding a knife, which I can't find, which is probably alright because it was long enough ago that the nightmares had finally stopped.


It's a shame I'm not more motivated to make a cute little animation for my web pages like this one. Well, not like it in subject matter: just in cuteness.


Random Political rant: I like the manifesto at Glow in the dark monkey.


It's been a while since I provided orchid links. DAYS! Let's see. There are some nice photographs, organized by species, on the Bergstrom Orchids (Hawaii) photo pages; there's an illustrated lecture from a biology class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Orchids of Wisconsin orchid links page, which has a few outdated links, but which can still lead you to neat things like Wild orchids of Pennsylvania (I think Orchis spectabilis is especially charming) and the newsletter of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew; a pair of native New Zealand orchids; Red's Hardy Orchids, specializing in pleione formosana (native to China, Nepal, Tibet, and Taiwan); GardenWeb's orchid gallery, which is actually a list of posts from members (more proof that the internet brings people closer together: this site provides fanatics places to post their orchid photos the morning their latest beloved plant opens, sharing that information with people who care, and saving countless relationships by sparing their own loved ones from some of their ranting); the Orchid Source forum, which has lovely images from members like this dendrobium malvicolor; a sales catalog for orchid species from columbia, including my beloved masdevailla; images of orchids found in Quicktime tour of the Orchid Room at the US Botanical Garden...

Maybe that's enough for now. I'll consider organizing future links by family, or color, or origin, or something else that implies that my searches for orchid images are much less haphazard than they actually are!!

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:48 AM

Friday, September 13, 2002

We are currently in a state of mourning here in my household. My partner's mother, who lived under this roof with us, passed away unexpectedly last Sunday. His mother was a remarkable woman, who singlehandedly raised her six children under adverse circumstances.

My partner ("S."), once he got over the shock, immediately displayed the rampant creativity that I admire him for. He found his mother's favorite portrait, a photograph that he had touched up, to display at her memorial service. He used it to print up a sort of prayer card, which is often a sort of souvenir covered with angels: his is a photograph of his mother, with an excerpt from a hymn about happiness within the home, which is what she managed to provide her loving children. He spent much of the afternoon selecting her favorite songs for me to burn onto CDs to play before the service or at a gathering afterward, and will get up early in the morning to purchase flowers to make his own arrangements. He's found a song to perform at the service, along with a violin accompaniment. And he'll perform a reading from a children's book about death that his mother selected with that purpose, and which he'll deliver fabulously.

It's both impressive and inspiring, his skill.


Another memorial in a VERY different context is the beautiful Temple of Joy memorial at the annual Burning Man art festival. It's a building made of dinosaur jigsaw puzzle pieces, dedicated to writing notes to lost loved ones. It was quite a work of art.

I haven't known much about Burning Man, aside from that it's where people can go to display sculture, run around naked, and set things on fire. But my favorite on-line columnist/editor has written some very elaborate descriptions of the event and ritual, which make me realize it is exactly what I think it is, but much better and much worse.

(See Deanne Fitzmaurice's Burning Man photo gallery here to get your thousand words' worth.)


Seeing rampant creativity among the nudists and arsonists makes me feel so... Boring. It's not that I'm not engaging in some creative pasttimes regularly, but it seems like I could be completely immersed in them if I better applied myself. Although I have often announced that life is a costume drama, I'm struggling (and flailing) to design my sea monster costume for Halloween, which is a pretty trivial challenge relative to building pseudo-Balinese-style temples in the desert.

(So, I have the green, quilted, foam carpet underlayment. But I need to decide exactly how many tentacles I should have, whether or not staples will be sufficiently structural to hold the heavy material together, and whether or not I could stand to wear a Dick Cheney mask all evening. These are such petty concerns, which make me think that office work really has made me a duller girl than I like to believe I'm capable of being.) (IF any of you have made costumes out of carpet underlayment before, or have tips on realistic looking seaweed that does not smell or attract flies like the real thing, or have tips on how I can ride my bike in such a costume, please do write.)


Memorials and vigils were much on the American public's mind this week. While I'm not one for buying strange souvenirs to commemorate tragedies, I am impressed by a book that recently came out: The Women At Ground Zero: stories of courage and compassion. After reading a brief quote from an operating engineer who had offered her services at Ground Zero for free, only to be turned away with other female volunteers by the men in charge solely on the basis of gender (my god, she was offering ENGINEERING SERVICES, the use of her professional skills to identify the hazards to rescue workers!! I mean, @#$%^&!), and after hearing so many comments about the "brotherhood" of men who gave their lives as rescue workers (to the exclusion of their female colleagues who also rushed in and died), AND about how this tragedy has brought masculinity back into the celebrated limelight for good, it's wonderful to see brave women getting their due and overdue credit for jobs well done.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:05 PM


I have seen caffeinated water in stores. But this Sylvia comic strip about caffeinated soap is joking, right? Right? Work with me here. (Ooh, she mentions it more than once. Now I'm afraid. Does this one make you think of Ray?)
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:15 PM

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

This evening, the fog poured over Twin Peaks and down into Noe Valley like whipped cream, slowly, gracefully, and... frothily. It was pretty. It's one of my fondest memories of view from my bedroom window in my parents home: watching the fog reach over the top of the hills with curious and delicate tentacles, and then pour thickly and slowly over the peaks and down into the valleys, bringing quiet and coolness.

I love San Francisco.


In memoriam of the victims of one year ago today, I went to a pretty peace service at 5:30 this morning at Justin Herman Plaza. The zen center sent some monks and a few folks with nice voices to lead a really neat Japanese chant about compassion. It was lovely, and little by little, in each pass, you could learn a bit more of it, though the syllables went untranslated. It was very easy to concentrate on it, trying to comprehend it, detecting the elegant repeating pattern that always kept time with the drum.

In addition to the chant, there were remarks about the futility of violence, and the need to respect the lives of all living beings, and recognize that we all have the same needs for security and love. We had three minutes of silence, a group chant in English wishing peace for people all over the world, and then some quiet, standing meditation. It was sweet.

It's novel to spend time with people who are good at standing still and being quiet. I could make a habit of that, I think, especially people who are dedicated to doing no harm.


I read that between September 11th of 2001 and mid December of 2001, the same number of people who died in the towers' collapse also died in routine automobile accidents in the United States.

I haven't heard any memorial plans, but sincerely believe that a memorial is merited.


There's no line at Peet's at 6:30 a.m.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:16 PM

United we stand, mostly naked.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:29 AM

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Last night I overate. I overate on a very significant scale. I had a huge burrito as a late lunch; I went drinking with the girls; we went out to dinner; then we went to a cafe so sober up could occur (note the switch to the passive voice) before we parted ways. At each location, huge amounts of calories were consumed. So many that there was little room in my body to rehydrate when I came home, thirsty.

Yet, at about 3 in the morning, I woke up INSANELY hungry for a Pancho Villa burrito. The huge, steaming, skillfully assembled veggie super, with its fresh crispy lettuce, mild white cheese, guacamole, tender and flavorful beans and rice, and that fabulous, so good I can drool like Pavlov's dog even now just thinking of it salsa verde, made with the tenderest and sweetest of green chilies.

I went from being unsure I could ever eat comfortably again to being ready to eat a burrito larger in size than my actual stomach in less than 4 hours.

How the hell does that happen? When I overeat, does my stomach just start behaving like an airport security screener, waving everything through without any intention of doing anything with it, just to clear up the long line of passengers? Or what?

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:49 AM

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Mmmmm. Linguine with tomato-bell pepper sauce for dinner. Mmmm. Just the perfect thing to induce very strange dreams after a long day. As if I don't have enough strange dreams. But I'm really hungry, and don't want to dream about not being able to eat. Which is VERY frustrating. Almost as frustrating as those dreams about having to find a restroom, but each one you find is out of order AND the door is broken so there's no privacy AND there's some sort of toxic waste slowly filling the room hot on the heels of a group of gawking schoolchildren, so you must LEAVE NOW.

I'm not the only one who has those dreams, right?


Yesterday I had a wonderful bicycle ride. I rode from work to my new home for the first time. It was about five miles, and was a sort of history tour for me. The Arlene's History Tour of San Francisco.

I rode from the building where I have worked for more than 8 years down Montgomery, past a building where I interned for a summer while still in high school. I biked down Market Street in a pack of 10 other cyclists, past the old Emporium building, where my mother took me in childhood to the fabulous Christmas carnival on the roof, with its amusement park rides and small ice rink from which skaters would throw candy. Santa Claus gave out salt water taffy and other mysterious treats.

I rolled past the art supply store where I invested much hard earned cash during architecture school. I rode down the fabulous bike lines on Valencia past a playground I once played in, past wonderful restaurants I've eaten in recently (Mmmm, Herbivore!), and past the Salvation Army store where I bought outfits to use in Halloween costumes when I was much younger. I crossed Cesar Chavez (formerly Army), and entered the cool shade of the hospital where my younger sister (and, much earlier, my current domestic partner) was born. I biked up Tiffany, past the construction site that once hosted a post office from which I mailed letters to far flung pen friends in other countries. I biked past Mitchell's ice cream (mmmm, cantelope ice cream!) on 29th, and a bit on Dolores, a bit on 30th, on to Chenery and Circular and Hearst and Phelan. I biked up Ocean, Lee, Grafton, and my new home street.

I rode up the steep hill all the way to my new home. When I was almost there I rang my bike bell, and S. opened the garage door and let me in and show me the beautiful ceilings that were almost finished.

It felt GOOD. It was a bit harder than it should have been for me. With some more practice, it will be CAKE.

Mmmmm. Cake...

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:16 PM

Wednesday, September 04, 2002


Every morning should begin with some pretty pictures and a hot, yummy breakfast.


Have I written about breakfast? Maybe not recently. Maybe not recently because I got sick over the weekend from eating breakfast at a cafe in West Portal, which only made me want the new (unappetizingly named) Squat and Gobble to open sooner.

S&G has crepes. Lovely crepes. Huge crepes. At least a dozen kinds. Sweet crepes, with strawberries and whipped cream. Savory crepes with pesto sauce, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, onions and cheddar. Or my own personal custom crepe made with spinach, mushrooms, onions, cheddar, and salsa. Served with a side of home fried potatoes.



Miscellaneous news: The International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent international war crimes tribunal, now exists without the U.S., which is trying desperately to be exempted from its jurisdiction. What the heck are we up to that we're afraid of a court that could be used to try terrorists? Hmm?

It's not like it's a dubious, name-ruining military tribunal or anything.


And now, to work (and to daydreaming about crepes).

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:38 AM

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