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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Even more reasons to love turmeric...more

  It is a natural dye, an Ayurvedic medicine, and one of my favorite spices: turmeric. I love it passionately already, but now there are even more reasons to like it. BBC NEWS | Health | Curry spice 'kills cancer cells' (, 10/2/09):
An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells, scientists have shown.
The article doesn't explain the methodology used, or what is required to make the extract, and it sounds a bit like they want something topical that you can rub into your cancer cells every night before bed. Doesn't it?

Another thing that goes unmentioned is that it's easiest to study just one compound in a natural substance at a time. A spice might have many compounds in it that are beneficial, but it is quite humiliating to neither be able to say which one/ones are acting on a condition, and which others are hanging out. It seemed to take a long time after the key dietary vitamins were all named for researchers to figure out what bioflavinoids do, even though bioflavinoids were in just about every food that scientists were studying for benefits: it sounds like there were just too many compounds to consider, and no one wanted to look foolish by announcing that whole oranges are really good for you. (Duh.)

So articles like this one will point out that one compound they can identify does one particular thing, and this is celebrated. Which is nice. I suppose.

The obvious ending is missing from the article: "And it tastes really good in yellow curry."

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:27 PM

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not all flat pasta is fettuccini. Except for when it is.

  After a local jazz show, I stopped by a market to pick up dinner, and bought some fresh, whole wheat, vegan tagliarini ( I was certain that the folks up in Sonoma who made this pasta made that name up. It looked like fettuccini (also spelled fettuccine) to me.

But it is legit. According to, tagliarini is narrower than taglitelle, which I have heard of.

How did I not know this?

Fettuccini isn't as popular here as I would like, but it seems that flat pastas locally run from lasagna (also spelled lasagne), to pappardelle, to fettuccini, to linguini. The idea that there are many more widths in between is... pleasant, but perhaps frivolous. Though I might not think so if I knew people who could show me what dishes were PERFECT for showing off these other widths.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wal-Mart and books: natural enemies

  I have never purchased anything at Wal-Mart, and have yet another reason not to: they ban/censor books. Which is to say they refuse to carry certain books that don't make it past their screens for certain ideas and imagery. If you go to PostSecret ( right now, you'll see a little note in the text, just above the image showing that the latest PostSecret Book made its debut at number 1 on the NYTimes ( Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous hardcover bestseller list(!). The note:
The new book is available from bookstores everywhere* and online.

Thanks for making our secrets #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

* Wal-Mart stores continue to ban/reject all PostSecret books.
It is GREAT that the new PostSecet book is doing so well! It's an enjoyable project. It is selling well! How could a chain store ban it?

In theory, all stores are private businesses which can carry whatever they like, and people are free to shop wherever they like. In practice, the predatory business model of certain big-box chain stores is to drive all competition in smaller 'markets' out of business, and then engage in oppressive monopoly practices. Small communities can find their access to birth control, books, magazines, "fair trade" products, movies, and music CDs dictated by the policies of the only retail venue they have access to, which has its own agenda.

Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town ( discusses the scope of this one chain's ability to censor, using a series of conservative screens:
While Wal-Mart is the world's largest CD retailer, and in some regions the only place in town to purchase music[,] entertainment products represent only a fraction of their business. However, it is a different story for recording artists. Because Wal-Mart reaps about 10 percent of the total domestic music CD sales, most musicians and record companies will agree to create a "sanitized" version specifically for the megastores.
They don't use my favorite example, which is an Eels song about how difficult it is to live without a loved one, using a profane word for emphasis. W-M banned the album until the Eels re-recorded the song and changed the title for a sanitized version, though they did it sarcastically: E yells "MONSTERTRUCKER" over the offending word whenever it appears. I learned about this through someone who had purchased the CD at the offending big box chain store in his small-town area without knowing that there was another version of the album available, because no disclosure is required.


I want to say that at least W-M is not vandalizing the songs themselves, but the upside to that would be that it would be more obvious. A friend who attended a religious school in Utah reported that the school had movie night, during which the school would show mainstream movies which they had censored themselves - and often not well, so the students at least knew that they weren't getting the film as its creators intended it (in violation of the license that comes with the films, but that's another matter). The kids who had relatives out of the area would later see the whole film elsewhere if it interested them; the locals didn't have many options.


Can you imagine a censored version of Reservoir Dogs without the violence? Or The Terminator without the one scene that explains where Sarah Connor's son comes from? The English Patient without the adultery? It would make more sense not to watch those films at all, rather than to sanitize them, which is the aspect of censorship that confuses me. I think of films, and albums, and sculptures as complete works: if the content is objectionable, it makes far more sense not to watch it at all than to demand the right to see it 'cleaned up' for your restrictions.

It would make even more sense to make your own original films that follow your subculture's values. But that would require creativity.

I suspect I fail to see that mainstream mass-cultural products have a desirable credibility that even fringe groups want access to, and sanitizing and censoring those products is one way to claim an association with the mainstream, even if that association is fractured at best.


This isn't new: art history is full of incidents in which art was suppressed, especially any accurate depictions of the human figure - a figure we all have, more or less, last I checked.

Michelangelo's sculpture David was considered scandalous, and a strategically placed fig-leaf was installed on reproductions of the work in the presence of important ladies, who weren't supposed to understand male anatomy. That was stupid, too. Funny in retrospect, but stupid.

It is also a bit ironic, if Wikipedia's note that the statue came to represent the struggle for civil liberties is accurate.


Just so you know: during a zombie plague outbreak, I'd be okay with looting a Wal-Mart. That is a very special circumstance, possibly the only one in which I would set foot in one. Just so you know.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 AM

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Morning songs

  I spent about two and a half hours this morning listening to birdsong while watching the shadows of clouds pass over my neighbors' yards.

This was the best investment of time I have made all week.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:08 AM

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Earthquakes and Oracles

  October 2009 contains the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, also known locally as the Great Quake of '89. October 2009 also contains the 20th anniversary of the manifestation of the Internet Oracle, then known as the Usenet Oracle (

Coincidence? Perhaps. Evidence that I'm really really old? Hush, child. Just hush.

The Usenet Oracle is still in active service. If you have any important, unresolved questions and are good at groveling, go submit a question.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:10 AM

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mock Swedish: the International Language of Computing

  Yes, I said MOCK Swedish. As in, the language that 'ze sveedish chef' from the Muppets ( speaks. As in: Google - Bork, bork, bork! (

Better than Google in Elmer Fudd or Google in Hacker. Similar in excellence to Google in Pirate.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:47 PM

Monday, October 12, 2009

Go west, young lady

  Did you ever see Xiu Xiu, the Sent Down Girl? I have film festivals for myself, and during my Asian Women in Bad Situations mini-festival, I watched this drama about an idealistic Communist girl who was eager to share her ideals with the undeveloped western regions of China, only to find herself trapped and hopeless. The film alluded to the "sending down" and "down to the countryside" programs in China, in which the government managed urban youth and political dissidents by sending them far away on supposedly short term rural development projects... and never allowing them to return.

Art can be so educational: you read about things you wouldn't have heard of otherwise.

Now the BBC has an upbeat article about urban youth being sent to the countryside to share their ideals with the undeveloped western regions. Which sounds so... familiar. BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China's reverse migration (10/11/09) is ostensibly about having the government organize a little time in the country for the heavily-educated.
Since 2003 more than 1,400 young people from Shanghai have been sent by the Communist Youth League to the interior of China.
In the media we should have, there would be a nice comment in this article noting that this is nothing like those other, creepy, earlier projects, and that no one even worries about that sort of thing anymore. Or, otherwise, if the case is otherwise. Anything but pretending that sending urban youth to the countryside to share their ideals with the undeveloped western regions is a completely new idea.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:11 AM

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A rose, by any other name, might be mistaken for something else entirely

  I spent part of this morning searching for a recipe that would modify the color of some of my wet collodion (1850s photographic process) images. I'm doing some work to show in a gallery (more on that when the event is scheduled), and since the gallerist likes a certain, old-school look, I am testing different recipes to better accommodate him. I was advised to seek out developer recipes using potassium nitrate.

Back in the day, potassium nitrate was called other things. I knew the names saltpeter, saltpetre, nitrate of potash, and nitrate of potassium, and I searched using all of those, but I couldn't find what I needed. It turned out that I already had reviewed part of the book containing the recipe, but I hadn't looked in the right place: I should have been searching for "nitrate of potassa."

Remind me to take up more sensible hobbies.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:35 PM

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Affogato means drowned. Not monkey-cat.

  I had an affogato at Four Barrel Coffee ( this afternoon that should be a controlled substance. It was the most potent affogato (shot of espresso over a scoop of gelato) I have ever had. I was willing to expose myself to dairy products to try it, and remain stunned. Caffeinated, pleased, and stunned.


P.S. I wasn't accusing you of thinking that affogato means monkey-cat. Just because it sounds like Affen (German for monkey) and Gato (Spanish for cat) doesn't mean your brain would file it under 'monkey cat espresso dessert' like my brain did. If your brain also did this, call me: we should talk.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Mainframe manipulations

  I often write about how much I enjoy Fake Steve Jobs and his blog. The blog is very often funny. It is very often pissy. As an added bonus, like so much good humor, it is quite often just true enough to be educational as well as humorous.

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Why IBM is in trouble with the antitrust police discusses the mainframe industry, and the trap that IBM has set for its customers: namely, that they can't ever leave the monopoly that IBM has built. Fake Steve both credits them for their business savvy and mocks them for their tech backwardness, and gets a dig in on Microsoft:
The real story here is that this is about Microsoft trying to crack the glass house. They covet the billions that IBM makes with mainframes and have believed since the 1980s that they would one day take that business away from IBM. I distinctly remember getting high with Bill Gates in a hot tub at the Alexis Park during a Comdex in Las Vegas and having him tell me he'd control that market by the mid-1990s.
We do all know that lawsuits like this brought by Microsoft-related companies aren't really about 'fairness,' right?

Also informative: 2 BILLION app store downloads - why no one can touch us, where Fake Steve points out, in his cheeky way, that Palm and Microsoft are not even in the same business that Apple is in, but don't seem to know it, and that's why they are trapped following Apple's lead.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:25 PM

Friday, October 09, 2009

Best Use of Architecture In an Action Film

  The award goes to... [riiiippppppp!] The International. [wild applause]

Yes, it is an action film. Yes, it is about how international banking corporations can be evil. Yes, we all know that the whole point of corporations is to be amoral entities slavishly devoted to making money. Yes, we all know that the whole point of banks is to separate you from your money and to benefit from your money in ways that you never could, because it is a rigged system. We all KNOW this. We just don't usually get to discuss it in the context of tall Danish and Italian men in outrageously expensive suits having gunfights in stylish modern art museums or across the rooftops of scenic villas after watching breathtaking flyovers of gorgeously composed views of perfectly lit cities.

The gunfight in the Guggenheim is my favorite movie gunfight of all time. I don't even like gunfights in movies, nor movies with this poor of a male-to-female ratio! This really just means it doesn't have much competition, but still.

As a still photographer and fan of architecture, this film was stellar.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM

Best short-term nickname I've had

  "Bizarro Tammy Rae."

As in, 'not Tammy Rae, unless it is Tammy Rae from some alternate bizarro reality.'

As in, 'a southern name, like Tammy Rae's, but not actually Tammy Rae's.'

I don't really mind having someone not remember my name, if I get the experience of being at a major coffee house and having my soy latte prepared and know it is mine because the barista (who did not take my order) says, "Bizarro! Bizarro!"

Which is an experience I have now had, and enjoyed fully.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Could I please borrow your robot army?

  Wanted: photogenic robots of smaller-than-human-yet-larger-than-a-coin size to pose for photography project. Yes, this is for ART - NOT for world domination, despite all those rumors about me and my intentions that you may have heard from thoroughly disreputable sources.

Please contact the author if you have such an army, or a few charming robots.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:19 PM

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