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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

  jack o lanterns

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:30 PM

  For additional Halloween and jack o' lantern images and text, see the early November entries.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:29 PM

Thursday, October 30, 2008


  From an e-mail from my cousin, the person most like me in the world, writing about a visit to carve pumpkins at his home, which included one robot-costumed visitor, and a partial power failure:
Follow-up report:

Engineering: Long range communications have been partially restored. However the problems with warp drive remain unresolved, lighting is at half normal and environmental controls are set to minimal.

Security: The combined cyborg, pumpkin creature attack was ended by jettisoning both the invaders and visiting dignitaries out cargo bay door 178A.

Internal Ops: The pumpkin creatures' remains, temporally stored in bio-bags, have already leached through and further clean-up of the main galley is required.
Yes, we know we are geeks.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Non-credible Supporters of Prop 8 within my Mother's Circle of Acquaintances

  I've already mentioned that my mother has been irritated by the range of fanatics of various conservative sorts who come to her door and demand support for their ballot proposition to revoke marriage privileges for gays and lesbians. My mother is now spending some time in disbelief at the people in her area and social circles who vehemently wish to deny marriage rights to others. For example:

-the group of divorcees living together down her street has a lawn sign and wants to restrict marriage to heteros.

-the woman who had an affair with her second-husband-to-be while each of them were still married to their first spouses has a lawn sign and wants to restrict marriage to heteros.

-the Catholic man down the street, whose did not marry the mother of his first child, and therefore was free to marry the mother of his subsequent children in his church (which discourages divorce) has a lawn sign and supports revoking gay marriage rights.

What do these people have in common, aside from totally blowing their own credibility on the subject? Is it just a fervent belief that their right to spectacularly mess up marriage is limited to their own kind?



posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 PM

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Republican Tactics to Block the Vote : Rolling Stone

  To make up for citing The New Yorker, I will now provide a link to a great political article in a very different publication: Block the Vote : Rolling Stone (, 10/30/08 edition). The article describes efforts to block voter registration drives, purge registration lists of democrats and minorities, and other dirty dealings that could help the Republicans take the presidency this fall without having to rely on an honest popular vote. Sample:
Under the Help America Vote Act, some states now reject first-time registrants whose data does not correspond to information in other government databases... Indeed, a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 20 percent of discrepancies between voter records and driver's licenses in New York City are simply typing mistakes made by government clerks when they transcribe data. But under the new rules, those mistakes are costing citizens the right to vote. In California, a Republican secretary of state blocked 43 percent of all new voters in Los Angeles from registering in early 2006 — many because of the state's failure to produce a tight match. In Florida, GOP officials created "match" rules that rejected more than 15,000 new registrants in 2006 and 2007 — nearly three-fourths of them Hispanic and black voters. Given the big registration drives this year, the number could be five times higher by November.
If your party can't find a way to appeal to Hispanics or Blacks, disenfranchising those voters is a handy alternative, apparently.

Why are they using these tactics? They work. Remember 2000?
Prior to the 2000 election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and her predecessor, both Republicans, tried to purge 57,000 voters, most of them African-Americans, because their names resembled those of persons convicted of a crime. The state eventually acknowledged that the purges were improper — two years after the election.
This is a worthwhile article about the ongoing efforts to undermine democracy in America. Go read it.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:18 PM

How on Earth Can Anyone Be Undecided (unless they have been trapped in a cave for the last decade without access to media)?

  I generally make it my policy not to cite the New Yorker. I am not a New Yorker; I no longer even subscribe to the New York Times, preferring the Washington Post consistently. I also fear that many people who go out of their way to say they saw something in the New Yorker are posers.

However, I love David Sedaris' writing (including his book Naked, which made me burst into hysterical tears several times), and so I was thrilled that a Facebook friend quoted from this article: Shouts & Murmurs: Undecided by David Sedaris: Humor: The New Yorker (

The part I could quote would just plain ruin it for you, so just go ahead and read it on your own.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:01 PM

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia"

  It is a book: photo-eye Bookstore | Sergei Vasiliev: Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia (volume III) | photobooks ( But it would also be an awesome name for a band.

Or an album.


posted by Arlene (Beth)1:02 PM

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this HTML 4.01 Transitional code"

  Someone has printed up stickers with a photo of Obama and the text, "I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this __________."

So this sticker is applied to a dumpster at MacArthur BART, and the word "dumpster" has been written in.

It's cute. There are so many potential applications.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:05 PM

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wearing one's heart on one's slightly bloody sleeve

  While the business papers blather on about their hopes of having taxpayers share their pain without ever sharing in the system's profits, my colleagues and I are bonding under workplace duress in new and novel ways. I may have reported that nearly half of the regulars physically operating from my company's HQ who were with our company at the beginning of the year are no longer with us. There have been dramatic leadership changes, dramatic strategic changes... Am I also describing your company right now? If I am, depending on the disposition of your colleagues, you may also find yourself experiencing some sort of survivor's bonding. You know what I mean: breathy, heartfelt conversations with people you didn't know so well before, telling you how they REALLY feel today about the company, or about their life choices relating to employment, or about any subject relating to the company. As if we've all been through something terrible, beyond the normal course of human experience. Worse than reality TV, even. [cough]

I've been trying to explain this remarkably open, honest atmosphere of exchange to a few people who haven't noticed it. They weren't so sure what I meant. (I was afraid for a moment that they thought it was just a new openness among the women of the company, since some of these conversations do occur in the women's restroom, where the majority of the company's current leadership can not tread. [Ahem.])

And then, a colleague who is now one of my heroes sent out an announcement about a company event. In the background of his email was a half-tone image. (This means it was pale enough to easily read the text.) The image: the image right below the title on this web page ( The one with the little boy find a baby bear in a box, befriending it, raising it, having naked bubble baths with it (!?)... and ultimately being attacked by it.

This image starts out so innocently, and the message over it was so innocuous, that many readers never even got to the image at the bottom of the poster. For those who did and who also bothered to ask our posting hero about it, there was an outbreak of honesty: the bear was an allegory for corporate America. No matter how dedicated you may be to it, it can turn on you.

This explanation was made even better when another colleague, in interpreting the image, came to the conclusion that the bear represents our company and we are represented by the boy BEFORE the sending shared his view.

This exchange is an EXCELLENT example of the new openness that is spreading between colleagues.


The creator of this mauling pink bear is Mori Chack, and his website, doesn't quite rely on the same idea. If you go to his about page, he has an urban, non-vegetarian's concept of the evils of human exploitation of animals, a concept that extends to depriving animals of their true wild natures in most forms of visual representation, which he perceives as a crime. His reaction is Gloomy Bear. (I believe I found this page at naming Gloomy Bear with a Google search worded as 'pink bear mauls cute boy.')

The fact that my friendly colleagues are at a point where more than one of them can allegorically describe us as being mauled by a cute, clawed bear tells you about where we are in our strange, survivor's bonding period.

Added bonus: Mori's hair. Go look.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:56 AM

Friday, October 10, 2008

Since when are paint cans collectible?

  I perceive this to be a sign of the desperation of retailers. This comes from a message from my favorite purveyor of cosmetics. I will omit the brand name, since it really isn't relevant to the absurdity of the shiny, round lure being employed:
Get a full makeover with [brand]'s 5 bestsellers, all in a collectible paint can!
A paint can?? Okay, I buy cosmetics, and this is intended to appeal to me. (I even paint!) But... a paint can?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Channa masala: someone else's recipe

  Channa masala is something I've made quite a bit over the years. Because it is so amazingly satisfying. It is spicy, it is filling, it is high in all-vegan protein, it goes well with bread, it goes well with rice... It is a fabulous dish.

I have used many recipes for channa masala over the years, most of which I misplaced, confident in the knowledge I would never forget them. But there were so many variations that I have forgotten all but parts of most of them, of course.

Recipe Zaar channa masala recipe (17471) ( isn't quite like any of my other recipes, but it is very good. Especially the second day. Especially with rice.

I recommend this one. Perhaps with chutney. Perhaps with more tomatoes. Definitely with a good friend.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Books: William Gibson's Pattern Recognition

  I don't often write about books here - I have an entire single subject books page for that - but I notice that my books page doesn't even have a summary of last year's ambitious NaNoWriMo novel posted, and I'm not willing to update it tonight, so... Let me write briefly about William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

It's about marketing.

Not a how-to manual, but a book about someone who works in a contemporary time period, and works as a sort of consultant to marketing. Because she is allergic to certain brands, and has really high sensitivity to the potential impact of others.

After his sci-fi books (which attracted so much attention from the US Military, who hoped to make Gibson's dark future something they could be really, really good at), it's novel (ha!) to read about now, and certain ways of looking at the way ideas are shaped and formed now. It was actually pretty entertaining to switch from reading about the heavy hand and highly intelligent, determined, (misguided) people of marketing in his fictional now, and then switch over to the most commercial photography magazine I read, and see the pro-marketing ranting full of phrases like "people want to connect, not consume," -- and how to trick them into thinking that they are connecting, even when that connection is merely with lifeless, disposable material goods.

All of that, and this book is also a sort of thriller. With Russian mobsters, Japanese otaku, e-mail flirting, friends you only know through some online forum, and more.

I was thoroughly absorbed. Not like the Borg absorb... Anyway, it's good.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, October 03, 2008

"Free Kimono Dress Up Service"

  This is advertised in one of the ryokans that S is reviewing listings for.

The punch line: "female only."


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 PM

Maternal pride

  My mother was raised as a Latin Mass Catholic, and has historically appeared to be uptight about a wide range of sexual topics. (In the past, she's said some things that I perceived as homophobic, but then again, she's said a few things that might pass as 'heterophobic' also.) She told me two things that are really pride-inspiring this week.

The first: anti-marriage activists came to her door. Well, they're actually just anti-marriage for SOME people. But they came around, all frothed up, and my mother made the mistake of answering. They went on an anti-gay rant. To which my mother replied, "God must love gays, because he made so many of them." They did not like this, and left in a huff.

Mom: 1
Small minded freaks: 0.

The second: she watched the debates, and thinks Biden is lame for believing that marriage should be limited to hetero couples, just as the small minded freaks do.

Mom: 1
Biden: *yawn*

'Such a pleasant surprise.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:30 PM

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nerds versus meat

  Halloween is fast approaching, and with it, candy is beginning to appear in volume around the office. Especially in the general vicinity of Margot's desk. (Candy mongers, take note!) This week, one of her colleagues brought in an enormous bag of Wonka candy, including Nerds.

I love Nerds.

Margot, however, was horrified. She actually said, "I can't believe you don't eat meat, but that you would put THAT (nerds) in your body." I pointed out that meat had been scientifically proved to cause serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. She laughed. But, as with so much of my humor, it was based upon truth.

To continue my tradition of being facetious-yet-truthful, I sent this:
Go to and do a search for “nerds.” There are zero results.

Go to and do a search for “meat.” There are 354 results, all of which are fun reading. Here are samples from the first three:
Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Meats
A fact sheet that explains how heterocyclic amines (HCA) are created in meat that is well done, fried, or barbecued, and how consuming these chemicals is associated with certain types of cancer. National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet 3.25

Study Links Meat Consumption to Gastric Cancer
An analysis of participants in a large European cohort study shows a significant association between a type of gastric cancer and meat consumption, but primarily in men and women infected with the bacteria H. pylori, according to the March 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Cancer Trends Progress Report - Red Meat Consumption
Red meat and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and there is also suggested evidence for some other cancers, such as prostate cancer. Red meat refers to beef, pork, and lamb, although some studies have included all processed meats (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts) in their definition regardless of their animal origin. Some research has suggested that processed, but not fresh meat may increase risk.
Conclusion: Nerds are the superior choice!
Disclaimer: I am not actually recommending that you eat artificially flavored, artificially colored candy. Unless you want to. But keep it under control, okay?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 PM

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