Severe. Clear. Cold.

A good cup of coffee should be simple to make. Two ingredients, one of them water. And yet, it’s so easy to screw it up. Lately I’ve been following the advice of Spec. John Grimes in “Black Hawk Down,” who believed it was all in the grind — can’t be too fine, can’t be too coarse. Today, I got it right. Today, I am well-coffee’d.

I wish I’d written down the precise number of seconds I whirled those beans in the grinder. But then the perfect would be too attainable. Live in the now, Garth.

OK, so what’s going on in Cairo? Live feeds on CNN and MSNBC, the usual yapping blondes on Fox. I’ve given up trying to watch Al-Jazeera online; when I can connect, the plug-in crashes, but I usually can’t connect. The people I know who have a keen interest in overseas news all keep a second satellite dish aimed at their bird of choice. Fortunately, we have this thing called the written word, which I’ve always preferred to grainy satellite images, anyway. A former colleague of mine, Ash Khalil, is reporting from Cairo:

The first sign that things were about to tip badly into darkness came shortly after the Internet returned. I was in a taxi with a group of journalists heading to opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei’s home on the outskirts of Cairo to attempt an interview. From the other direction came what looked like a 1,000-person march of pro-Mubarak supporters chanting slogans like “We love the president” and “He’s not going.” Many of the protesters were riding horses and camels — from the looks of them, many appeared to be tourist touts coming from the stables clustered around the Pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo. At the time, my colleagues and I thought it made for a great journalistic visual; we snapped a few pictures and furiously started scribbling in our notebooks. Within hours, those horses and camels had been used in a bizarre, medieval mounted charge into the unarmed civilians occupying Tahrir.

Attack camels. Now that would be something to see.

Actually, the entire Foreign Policy website is useful for Egypt news, with some nice photography, as well. I recommend this photo essay. Diplomacy is such a tricky art.

The NYT hasn’t slacked in its coverage, either:

The battle was waged by Mohammed Gamil, a dentist in a blue tie who ran toward the barricades of Tahrir Square. It was joined by Fayeqa Hussein, a veiled mother of seven who filled a Styrofoam container with rocks. Magdi Abdel-Rahman, a 60-year-old grandfather, kissed the ground before throwing himself against crowds mobilized by a state bent on driving them from the square. And the charge was led by Yasser Hamdi, who said his 2-year-old daughter would live a life better than the one he endured.

“Aren’t you men?” he shouted. “Let’s go!”

Whenever I read things like this, I wonder where I’d be if this were happening in my city. On the one hand, it’s easy to climb the cannon and shout charge! That great military mind, Ashley Wilkes, told Scarlett, “Fighting is like champagne. It goes to the heads of cowards as quickly as of heroes.” On the other hand, once the charge is under way, I guess you discover what you’re made of.

So. Severe clear here today, a day for mirrored sunglasses and the down parka. As difficult as it is to realize at the moment (11 degrees F), the earth is turning back toward the sun, and the signs are everywhere. I dropped Kate off for jazz-band practice this morning in daylight, if not quite the broad kind. Groundhog Day. And tomorrow is the first parent informational meeting for high-school registration. Mercy. How did that happen?

I’m off to Costco, dodging no impediment fiercer than the weather and Michigan potholes. In the meantime, much good bloggage:

Jim at Sweet Juniper found some ghost signs uncovered in a demolition, dug deeper, and turned up an interesting story about one of the companies:

In looking into the history of this company, I was surprised to learn of a controversy from a hundred years ago that largely mirrors many of the current concerns with the garment manufacturing industry and third-world sweatshops. It appears that many companies manufacturing clothes after the turn of the century—mainly those making clothes for sale through large catalog retailers or national chains—used deeply-discounted prison labor as part of their manufacturing processes.

Seventy-year-old Michigan farmer foils theft of anhydrous ammonia in the middle of the blizzard.

Forgot this yesterday, but Mark Bittman filed his first non-recipe column this week, and it’s a food manifesto for the future. He’s got a way with words:

Nearly everything labeled “healthy” or “natural” is not. It’s probably too much to ask that “vitamin water” be called “sugar water with vitamins,” but that’s precisely what real truth in labeling would mean.

Finally, one more reason to love “Mad Men.” You know how all the women look so great, and you ask yourself, “Why can’t I find a dress like Betty Draper’s?” Well, now you can.

Time for new contacts and the aforementioned sunglasses. I’m heading out.

Posted at 10:23 am in Current events, Popculch |
 

82 responses to “Severe. Clear. Cold.”

  1. coozledad said on February 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

    The only thing Bittman left out is government taking an active initial role in recycling of human and animal waste into fertilizer. The Chinese established methods of doing this centuries ago, but sadly, reverted to an idiotic western model of agriculture because they got that motorhead hardon for tractors.
    Once you remove manure from the cycle of food production, you’re unsustainable.

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  2. Connie said on February 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I had ice on the inside of my windshield this morning. Oh, I miss my attached garage.

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  3. Peter said on February 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Hi everyone – made it through the snow today to see my favorite website (I would do it at home, but I was shoveling the whole day and our router crapped out Tuesday night – that turned out to be the true disaster).

    Cooz, I don’t know if Milwaukee still produces it, but they used to sell dried manure pellets – I think it was called Millorite.

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  4. Heather said on February 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Hey Nancy–The Today Show ran a segment about sex trafficking during the Super Bowl this morning. I had to laugh (but didn’t watch).

    Car’s still stuck, thanks in part to the guy who snowblows our pavement–when he did the strip leading to the street, guess where all the blown snow ended up? Yep–all over the side of my car, which I had painstakingly cleared before he showed up.

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  5. Mark P. said on February 3, 2011 at 11:04 am

    When I saw the link to the story about ammonia, I immediately thought of ammonium nitrate (not anhydrous ammonia), one of the ingredients of the type of explosive that Timothy McVeigh used in OK City. I never even considered that ammonia can be used to make meth. Silly non-chemist me. And I live in the meth belt. But maybe everywhere is the meth belt these days.

    I talked to some people from Boston on Tuesday. They were expecting another 20 inches of snow, and had no idea where they were going to put the snow they cleared. They said only the airport can dump into the ocean now, so they were thinking of dumping their snow at the airport.

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  6. LAMary said on February 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Cooz, I know the big nasty Coors company was working on a project with drying and packaging human waste for manure back in the seventies. I have no idea what happened with that, but I knew a few people who worked on it at the time.

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  7. Bill said on February 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Cooz and Peter: It’s Milorganite. Made from Milwaukee’s sewerage.

    http://www.milorganite.com/home/

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  8. Sue said on February 3, 2011 at 11:12 am

    All right all you Chicago people, why didn’t you tell me about this? F****** hilarious.
    http://twitter.com/MayorEmanuel

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  9. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Rachel Maddow has been my go-to source for What-the-hell-is-goin’-on-in-Egypt news. Her live show is late enough that one can see what happened during the day, and what is happening just before dawn in Cairo.

    Last night Richard Engel was doing a live report atop a building, as gunfire rang out, with the occasional loud boom in the distance; and then a tank sprayed a smoke screen as it (seemingly) innocuously rolled from one spot to another. This was newsworthy, as the military had been maintaining their “clean hands” so far, and apparently were remaining apart from taking sides.

    I have no idea what I’d do, if our society broke down on that scale. Honestly, I think I’m at the stage in life where I would be bought-off; I would want no harm to come to our young folks, period. Maybe if I was 10 or 15 years older, and they were grown and running their own lives – maybe then I’d be one of those old fools who goes to the square on an impulse, and ends up as a statistic. The thing is, we now (sort of) know that McBurke isn’t going without a fight, and (of course) it won’t be a fair one.

    In any case, I cannot praise Rachels’ show highly enough

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  10. LAMary said on February 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Richard Engel is pretty great too.

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  11. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Yes.

    I like that he answers and addresses all questions with a pronounced effort to report the truth as he knows it (and to plainly state what is not known), period.

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  12. jcburns said on February 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

    This New Yorker snippet is a good summary of what was going on in Tahrir Square last night: http://nyr.kr/g5FtE5

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  13. Rana said on February 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    My coffee is, by all accounts, strong. I wouldn’t know; the only way I drink coffee is adulterated heavily with milk and sugar. Yet one of my very first jobs (receptionist-clerk for a small law firm) required me to open the office, which included making freshly ground coffee. At that time I didn’t drink coffee at all, so it was a bit like asking the vegetarian to prepare a steak.

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  14. Bruce Fields said on February 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Cooz, you probably know Victor Hugo’s great rant from Les Misérables on exactly this subject.

    A great city is the most mighty of dung-makers. Certain success would attend the experiment of employing the city to manure the plain. If our gold is manure, our manure, on the other hand, is gold.

    What is done with this golden manure? It is swept into the abyss….

    (And so on. Nobody could rant like that guy!)

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  15. Suzanne said on February 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Amen that nobody could rant like Hugo! The discussion about using human waste as fertilizer gave me a chuckle. Last summer, my daughter spent a month in Italy, living in an apartment with two other young women. They had to cook for themselves, and thus, buy their own groceries. My nearly 80 year old mother-in-law worked herself into a tizzy insisting that we tell the daughter to wash every bit of produce at least 3 times because in “those countries”, OMG!, they use human waste as fertilizer!!

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  16. moe99 said on February 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Coozledad, natural fertilizer is insufficient to create the amount of food that we need. At the turn of the last century, the world was facing a severe food shortage because of a lack of fertilizer. Islands filled with guana off the west coast of S. American had been denuded to try to keep up with demand. Fritz Haber, a Jewish German chemist, discovered how to separate nitrogen from the air and create fertilizer which actually saved us from famine. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for this. It also, ironically, became the basis for the creation of poison gas in WW1 Furthermore, Haber, a German patriot, who had served in the German military in WW1, had to flee for his life when Hitler came to power. He died a broken man in England. You can read a fascinating biography of him here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Air-Jewish-Scientific-Discovery/dp/0307351793/ref=nancynallcom-20

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  17. coozledad said on February 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    It just occurred to me that I’m wearing jeans manufactured in a prison, but hopefully not under the conditions Jim was talking about. The double thickness jeans are a good idea if you’re using a chainsaw or stretching barbed wire.
    https://www.storesonlinepro.com/store/2085405/?sitecookie=297b9b6bc6ab5c908c58cf4d0709cf05

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  18. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Here is a radio interview with an Egyptian-American professor explaining a bit of modern Egyptian history. Useful in understanding current economic circumstances and various segments of Egyptian society.

    Here is Conan O’Brien explaining things with an assist from Yogi and Boo Boo Bear.

    Twitter is actually useful in circumstances like this, both because people tweet things as they occur and because people post links to other longer posts, videos, and such.

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  19. Dexter said on February 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I too ground beans today. I have settled on 14 seconds, which nearly powderizes the beans, but I like the results. I currently make a blend of 1/3 Walmart generic de-caf, one third ground 8 O’Clock brand, and one third ground Trader Joe’s Bay Blend. The de-caf allows me to have an extra cup without getting totally wired.

    Like brianstouder, I was glued to the coverage on the Maddow Show, with Brian Williams and the great Richard Engel. I have been telling everyone to look at the footage of those charging camels…I am just glad I got to see that once in my lifetime, even if the camels were used brutally to smash the good guys. Engle reported the horses and camels were later set upon by the mob and killed. 🙁 I wish I had not heard that.
    Chances are we will never see a revolution covered wire-to-wire on live TV again. It’s been amazing. Seeing the sunrise over Cairo , live, was a beautiful sight, also.
    But you know, many people are ignoring this with “oh the news just depresses me—I never watch it…” I wish I could be like that instead of being glued to this thing for five hours at a time.

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  20. Bitter Scribe said on February 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    For me, the best part of the Bittman article was:

    Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it, and we need an agency devoted to encouraging sane eating.

    Absolutely. He didn’t have the space to go into details, but the USDA’s role in selling garbage goes beyond just subsidizing field corn. USDA labs actually come up with, and license to private industry, God-awful ideas like stuffing the crust of Pizza Hut pizzas with cheese.

    Why do you think the USDA “food pyramid” includes a figure running up stairs on one side? They’re encouraging Americans to run off the calories they pay agribiz to produce and market. The USDA’s mission is absolutely contradictory, and guess which side gets precedence?

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  21. Dorothy said on February 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    A few weeks ago I was looking at the pattern books at Joann Fabrics and noticed that many of the new patterns for spring had a strong resemblance to fashions I’d seen on Mad Men. I might have to see if there is something that would fit me and give one of those retro patterns a whirl.

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  22. Julie Robinson said on February 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Do they have any of those vintage patterns for tall girls with thick waists? If so, sign me up!

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  23. Judybusy said on February 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I own two wonderful vintage pieces: a little black dress from the late 50s that has a shallow scoop neck, cap sleeves, a tight waist and a split skirt that makes sitting a little dicy–I can show a lot of leg if I’m not paying attention! The other is a cream-colored cashmere sweater elaborately covered in beading. This was a gift from a 70-something year old friend of mine while I was in graduate school. It’s really dear because she helped find my path in life, and was a huge influence on me.

    I love knowing they will never be out of style, and I’ll be the most stylish 90-year-old on the block!

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  24. nancy said on February 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Vintage clothes never work for me. I am taller, heavier and have bigger feet than any woman born before 1950 or so. A woman who liked my column once dropped off a pair of her mother’s platform alligator cha-cha shoes that she found while cleaning out a closet, along with a nice note telling me to “enjoy.” They were about a size 6. I enjoyed looking at them in the box, and that’s about it.

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  25. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    If you don’t feel like sewing, Dorothy, you could find out where Michelle Obama does her shopping and pick up a vintage number like the 1950s Norman Norell dress she wore at Christmas.

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  26. LAMary said on February 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I made a great black silk dress with a mid calf length circle skirt, and a little white peter pan collar about 20 years ago to wear to a big deal business party with the ex. All the other women were in Dynasty drag and I looked very 1958. It was gorgeous. My waist will never be that small again, I fear.

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  27. Jenflex said on February 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Let the fun begin:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/john-boehner-affair-lisbeth-lyons_n_738007.html

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  28. Rana said on February 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I sometimes have luck with vintage separates, but, yeah. Since I wear neither bullet bras nor girdles, I’m always too big in the waist and too small in the bust. And forget accessories like gloves or shoes.

    On the other hand, I can absolutely rock the hats.

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  29. nancy said on February 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Well, now he has something to cry about.

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  30. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Jenflex, that article is four months old. If there were more to it–anything provable, that is–I think we would have heard about it before now.

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  31. Kath said on February 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    My theory is that vintage women’s shoes in large sizes do not survive because if you finally found a pair of shoes that fit, you wore them until they fell apart. My grandmother, who was born in 1897, and her 5 sisters all had feet that were size 10 or larger. She had to buy all her shoes by mail order.

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  32. paddyo' said on February 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Impressed with the NYT coverage of denial-on-the-Nile, and was particularly heartened to read the lede of its banner-headlined lead story (at least in the National Edition print version I get delivered at home in Denver), which said Mubarak “struck back at his opponents Wednesday, unleashing waves of his supporters” at the mostly peaceful protesters.

    Heartened because nearly every other major news media account, print or broadcast, still seems to tiptoe around the who-ARE-those-guys? angle of the mounted camel-and-horse corps of club-and-bomb-wielding goons. I mean, really, there’s any doubt who sent them?

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  33. Dorothy said on February 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    When I was 22, 5’9″ and 120 lbs. I could have maybe worn some vintage clothing. Those days are waaaay behind me now. Jolene I did not really care for that dress Shelly O had on in that Christmas picture. Which amazes me because I usually LOVE everything she wears.

    I think the most favorite dress I ever made was in the 80’s for a wedding I was attending. It was white taffeta with black polka dots on the top, and the “bubble” skirt on the bottom was black with white polka dots. It had long sleeves (of course I had to add length to the pattern, that’s a given). I looked pretty darned cute and got lots of compliments on it, too. I probably still have the pattern. I don’t fit into that size anymore though. SIGH

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  34. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Many observers have been clear about what’s happening, though, paddyo’. Nick Kristof and Ben Wedeman of CNN, in particular, have been very explicit about what’s happening. Last night, Wedeman said something along the lines of, “Imagine that this violence was taking place between two gangs fighting in Times Square. The government would stop it immediately. This government wants this fighting.”

    Others have pointed to specific facts that make the role of the state obvious–the simultaneous arrival of the counter-protestors in buses, the identical signs they were carrying, the similarity of their talking points. Cell phone companies have confirmed that the state used its emergency powers–an emergency that began in 1981, by the way–to send out text messages urging people to get into the action.

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  35. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Interesting. I thought the Norell dress was one of her better looks. Shows off the gorgeous arms, of course, and I liked the combo of the fitted top and the longish full skirt.

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  36. Kim said on February 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I love me some Mark Bittman. Especially after (warning – the broken record is still broken) reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals,” which basically explains how it all work/the why behind Bittman’s manifesto. I used to buy vintage Vogue patterns all the time, back when I had time to shop leisurely and make my own clothes.

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  37. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Shows off the gorgeous arms, of course, and I liked the combo of the fitted top and the longish full skirt.

    Well, not to sound like a google-eyed fanboy, but Michelle Obama could rock a feed bag

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  38. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Well, not to sound like a google-eyed fanboy, but Michelle Obama could rock a feed bag.

    Actually, no. I agree that she is basically gorgeous, but, like the rest of us ordinary humans, she looks better in some things than others. It puzzles me, really, that someone who clearly spends a lot of time and money on clothes sometimes comes up with outfits that just don’t flatter her. I mean, she has worn some fabulous clothes and looked fabulous in them, but some of her choices are, well, bad. Clearly, she should hire me to give her fashion advice.

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  39. Dorothy said on February 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    My favorite body part of Michelle is her hands. They are glorious, in my humble opinion. Seeing them in person in October was simply fab.

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  40. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Jolene – I’ll grant you that (theoretically) some things are more visually appealing than others, but my test is – at a party, would I want to sidle over her way and speak to her?

    And – thinking of some of our cultural famous female trend-setters (or outliers) – like Lady GaGa or those New Jersey shores people…or even Ms Palin or Rep Bachmann – at a party I’d be sidling AWAY from them; they all but broadcast that line from that congressman who sells car alarms – “Please step away” – a sort of look but don’t touch aura.

    On the other hand, Michelle, on her worst day, STILL exudes a plugged-in, interesting, un-selfconciously beautiful vibe, that would draw me 10 times out of 10.

    edit – Dorothy – I got to shake one of those hands, too – and I still am not washing the hand that did that(!) (only kidding)

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  41. Jakash said on February 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I suppose that everyone’s had about enough of the Taco Bell story, but the Chicago Tribune actually had an article yesterday that wasn’t about snow. They did a pretty good examination of the meat and ingredient breakdown of what’s in the “taco meat filling”. The headline: “Nothing unusual about Taco Bell’s meat, experts say.”
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0202-taco-bell-meat-20110202,0,3075583,full.story

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  42. MaryRC said on February 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Speaking of vintage patterns, have you seen A Dress A Day? Beautiful patterns and she makes up stories to go with them.

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  43. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Agreed, Brian, Michelle is an engaging, attractive person. I think it’d be fabulous to meet her, and I just know we’d be best friends. Then, someday, we could open a good bottle of wine, put our feet up, and, as we looked over old photos, I could give her the benefit of my fashion advice.

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  44. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Hah! I’d love to be close enough to kibitz at that conversation!

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  45. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Well, it wouldn’t be the same if you were there, but I’d fill you in afterward.

    Re vintage patterns, check Etsy. There were lots of these when we cleaned out my parents’ house. Can’t remember what we did with them, though.

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  46. Kirk said on February 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Friends of mine heading to Fort Wayne to see Lyle Lovett on Saturday and are looking for a good place to eat. They’re not looking for anything fancy, but they don’t mind spending money for a good meal. Any suggestions from current or former Fort Wayne folk?

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  47. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Speaking of vintage looks, check out this set of Depression-era photos from the Farm Security Administration. Unlike most you’ve seen, these are in color. Many are really wonderful, and although they’re, of course, older than I am, some of them remind me of my rural, postwar childhood.

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  48. brian stouder said on February 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Kirk – they cannot go wrong at any of the Casa restauarants (Casa D’Angelo and Casa Mare’ leap to mind; I think there are 2 or 3 other Casas in town). A local establishment with the best Italian food – and the very best house salad. Another local chain that offers good stuff is Don Halls; they have a nice downtown place (with the funny name “Gas House”; local history reference), plus another nice one north, near the Coliseum (“the Factory”). (Presumeably your people are going to catch the show at the Coliseum)

    Another fave of ours (probably my all-time favorite) is Cork and Cleaver (north part of town, near the Coliseum); great prime rib – and the best salad bar in town (it includes caviar, heart of palm, all sorts of fresh greens and fresh fruits, and an assortment of interesting dressings, and so on; it’s worth it all by itself).

    Pam and I like Club Soda, too – if you want the downtown vibe….and in fact, there are several very nice looking downtown restaurants, that we haven’t tried yet, but about which I’ve heard good things.

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  49. nancy said on February 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    If they’re going to be downtown, Club Soda.

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  50. Kirk said on February 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks, guys. They’re going to be downtown. Show is at Embassy Theatre.

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  51. Jolene said on February 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Adm. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will be on Jon Stewart’s show tonight. I find him very impressive. He was eloquent in his testimony re the repeal of DADT. I also listened to him speak and answer questions in an open community meeting in AZ, and he seemed both knowledgeable and wise. Tonight, we might find out if he’s funny as well.

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  52. alex said on February 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I concur that Club Soda rocks, but you should let your friends know that Club Soda also requires reservations. Henry’s is another good downtown restaurant/bar, but no telling what wait times might be. Another downtown eatery I can vouch for is the Oyster Bar.

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