Salad again.

Not much to say tonight, but a mixed bag of pretty good links, starting with today’s OID story: A soccer ref working an adult-league recreational game is sucker-punched by a player he’s trying to red card, and DIES two days later. So much for the beautiful game.

The great Monica Hesse went to the men’s-rights conference last weekend, and came back with a better story than most.

How is the NYT’s Blackwater coverage not getting a higher profile? I don’t know what’s more astonishing, the first paragraph or the second:

WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

A difficult-to-read story about a man’s rape that will make your stomach churn, but perhaps illuminate the issue from a new direction. Starting with the why-didn’t-he-report-it angle.

And with that, I’m off to bed. A short week, half-done.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Uncategorized | 35 Comments
 

You cannnn’t have it.

I walked home from the bus stop in withering heat, then walked the dog in withering heat, then sat in the blessedly cool a/c with the ends of my hair dripping onto my shoulders and thought, I’m feeling a bit grumpy. It passed. A/C makes heat-based grumpiness pass, I’ve found.

On the other hand, there was so much to be grumpy about.

I haven’t read the SCOTUS opinion, of course, but it’s always been my understanding that one’s work-provided health insurance is a form of compensation, and this ruling essentially says that, in this one area, your employer gets to decide what you’ll spend your salary on.

I look forward to hearing that my no-doubt-inevitable knee replacement, should my employer decide it’s something they want to pay for. It might offend someone, who knows.

Also, this:

But let us look also at the religious discrimination embedded in the Court’s logic. There are established religions in this country—Jehovah’s Witnesses, to name one—that forbid their members to accept blood transfusions and to resist vaccinations. These are not small things. They are the basis for Christian Science. There have been religious objections to compulsory vaccinations going back to a movement among some clergy in Boston in the late 18th century. Until such time as a Jehovah’s Witness owns a multibillion-dollar scrapbooking empire, and thereupon declines to offer blood transfusions to the employees of said company, and until such time as someone pushes that case all the way up the ladder, it looks very much to me like the Court, in limiting today’s finding in this way, has decided to define what are acceptable religious beliefs and what it considers to be merely weird ones.

Right now we have five Catholics, or five conservative ones, and this is called religious freedom. Five Muslims, and it’s sharia. We really are two Americas now; 30 years ago, I’d never have believed there were a significant number of Catholics who even objected that seriously to others using birth control. Well, I’ve been wrong before and I expect I will again.

On to a cheerier subject: Guns! Check this fun time out:

A homeowner in Wyandotte, Oklahoma is awaiting damage assessments after an artillery shell entered his home.

It was fired at the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and Trade Show on Saturday, around 3 miles away.

…The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department says the shell came from a historic artillery canon fired at the gun show.

The gun range owner says the weapon was fired safely by professionals at a downward projection.

“It was not on a level plane, but on a downward trend, pointed downhill in the bottom of a valley,” said Mike Friend, Owner of Fast Machine Gun Shoot. “For that thing to rise and go far northwest of the range, it’s just unheard of.”

I like that: “Fired safely by professionals,” he says, after they hit a house three miles away with an artillery shell. Which sort of gives the lie to your statement, one would think.

But of course, the real dark comedy is in the comments, where one reader jeered at the stoopid reporter who doesn’t understand how artillery shells are sized:

UM You need to learn before you write. A shell is described by its DIAMETER, not length. Muggles. It’s a three inch shell; fourteen inchers were battleship caliber, and ceased to exist after WWII.

I was pleased to see that the sane ones were starting to outnumber the insane, after a few days. I wonder what a “full auto shoot” gun show is, otherwise.

Maybe I don’t want to know.

Don’t have much bloggage tonight, but there’s so much of it floating around, there’s plenty to read.

Good Tuesday, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 69 Comments
 

What’s that green stuff?

Two weeks running now, I’ve happened upon an exchange between one of my favorite vegetable sellers at the Eastern Market and a skeptical customer who will not be ripped off by these sharpies in overalls, no sir. Last week it was about their offerings of shelled peas.

I used to avoid them, thinking that part of the true Alice Waters Total Authenticity Experience of peas is shelling them, and then I actually looked at the boxes of gleaming peas and asked how they managed it.

“We got a machine,” the owner said, shrugging. I bought a box. The peas were delicious. I haven’t looked back.

I was buying another one when a woman came by and expressed extreme skepticism that such a machine existed, perhaps believing that pea-shelling by hand is what all those Latino farm workers are up to, this time of year. She seemed to believe what she was looking at was thawed Bird’s Eye being passed off as the real, fresh thing, and her questioning indicated she hadn’t been born yesterday. The seller opened a box and offered her a pea. She ate it in amazement, then said she’d come back.

I wonder if she did.

This week, it was another woman who pointed at a bundle of rhubarb stems and said, “Rhubarb? Or Swiss chard?”

“Rhubarb,” the seller said.

O rly? her expression replied. You sure about that?

I remind you, these were rhubarb stems only — no leaves. While I will agree that there is some resemblance between red chard stems and rhubarb, I know no one who eats only the stems. You buy chard for the greens, lady.

No wonder America is fat. We managed the technology for putting peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, but lost our plant-identification skills.

I bought some rhubarb. It’s downstairs cooling in a pie as we speak.

Now watch: Someone will say that many people buy chard and throw the leaves away.

How did everyone’s weekend go? Besides feeling superior about my rhubarb skills, I went on a long, hot bike ride, saw the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad play a festival, did a ton of laundry, some light cleaning and a yoga class with one of those nutso teachers who kills you dead and namastes right in your face. “Use your eyes! Use the muscles of your eyes!” she said at one point. Later, she corrected my shoulder position — in corpse pose. I didn’t know where was a correct way to hold one’s shoulders in the final moments of the class, when you’re striving for ultimate relaxation. But it was fun. So there.

A little bloggage:

I heard the first International Men’s Rights conference was going to be held in Detroit last Friday, but complications ensued — the hotel wanted them to hire extra security, and to save face they claimed the place couldn’t hold all their throngs — and the event was relocated to St. Clair Shores and a decidedly less upscale venue: A VFW hall.

It turned out about how you would expect:

Janet Bloomfield, an anti-feminist blogger and spokeswoman for the conference, has suggested in the past that the age of consent be reduced to 13 because of a “mistake of age” can get unwitting men in trouble.

“The point being that it can be incredibly difficult to know, just by looking at someone, how old they are,” Bloomfield wrote, calling some teenage girls “fame whores.” Bloomfield also called protesters of the event, “Wayne State cunts.”

Also this, and also this. And you can find the Time stringer’s Twitter and scroll down to Friday. Gems:

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their time in our fair city — and its suburbs.

And I hope you enjoy your week ahead. Hot here, then storms, then by Friday? High of 71! In July! Heaven.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments
 

Oh, Ann.

Out late seeing the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (which continues to improve; we’re so proud), so no blog today. This Ann Coulter column is making the rounds, but I’m refusing to engage with it. It’s such lazy trolling, and Ed Anger did it better. Feel free if you like, but as for me, eh.

Have a great weekend, all. It’s going to be sunny and hot here.

Posted at 9:05 am in Media | 47 Comments
 

Cut the cake.

It’s summer, the world outside is lovely and we all want to step away from our computers more, but sometimes you have to work, and you have a down moment or three, and maybe you found yourself watching this, a short video on how you’re cutting your cakes wrong:

If you don’t have time to watch the thing, here’s the gist: There’s a right way and a wrong way to cut cake. Allegedly. The wrong way is the “pie” way, whereby you cut triangular slices from the center. This is wrong — allegedly — because the exposed cake gets dry. Um, OK. And so this guy, drawing on some supposedly ancient text of cake-cutting written by a mathematician, proposes a system that requires some fairly fancy knife work and — I shit you not — rubber bands.

Only a mathematician could come up with something that dumb, or find dry cake — a phenomenon I’ve never noticed with cakes, maybe because they don’t last that long in our house — a problem that needs to be solved.

That said, my mother had her own method.

She took the cake and isolated a quadrant, then cut four slices or so out of it, parallel to one another. I’d make a diagram, but lack the graphic-design skills. I hated this method because the outside piece got tons of icing, and the rest, not so much. As the young person, I rarely got the icing piece, which was reserved for the guest. Yes, it’s my own version of “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait.” Seen here:

When I got older, I vowed that every cake I made would be cut in an egalitarian style, where everyone got an equal amount of icing, except for special cases — like getting the buttercream rose. And dammit, I have stood by this.

Since we’re on an eating theme and a video theme, here you go, one more, the gluten-free duck:

And just to snap us out of our video-cake reverie, how about that Indiana? Wedding cakes for all, cut however you damn well please.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Lessons to be learned.

I was just looking over Kate’s class requests for senior year when I noticed one we stuck in on a whim: “Living on your own,” class content self-explanatory. I pushed for it because in the midst of all those honors and AP classes, a kid has to have one thing that might actually be useful information in years hence, and I’ve been struck many times on how long my high-school health class stayed with me. Just the unit on quackery has stood me in good stead through oat bran, chiropractic, vaccine refusal and “toxins,” among many other ridiculous attempts to part me from my money.

Add to that the fun of seeing the teacher tell us in all seriousness that black men had larger penises than white ones, and I call that a good education.

So when I found the Red Flags of Quackery today, I knew I had to pass it along.

I’m not one of those who believes it’s the schools’ job to teach our children everything, but I’m equally aware that there are some things they just don’t want to learn from their parents, because PARENTS. So if some teacher can handle checkbook-balancing and credit-card smarts, then my hat is off to him or (more likely) her.

Yesterday in comments some of you skated off into a small discussion about teacher tenure, and the coming battle over it. I don’t have a lot of developed thoughts about it, but a few general beliefs. They are: While tenure evolved as a protection for scholarly research that might be unpopular for various reasons, it’s true that secondary teachers can fall victim to the same sorts of popularity crosswinds. Principals change jobs a lot more often than teachers; should they lose their jobs because they had a bad boss for a couple of years? Teacher evaluation systems are still a mess, for good reason — it’s a very difficult job with a million moving parts, and no one has really figured out how to grade them. Do teachers lose their jobs because they have the wrong group of students?

It goes on, but I best keep my mouth shut.

Quick bloggage: Men, sex and guns. From NYMag, so you know where it’s coming from, but:

Rather than back away from the theme, the gun lobby is leaning into it. A recent episode of “Noir,” a National Rifle Association–sponsored web series by a popular YouTube vlogger and gun enthusiast named Colion Noir, features a sexy shot of a woman in Jimmy Choos, alone on a dark street. “Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There’s got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something.” The voice-over continues, “She’s not easy, and she’s not flawless. But she’s never wasted her time thinking about it.” It’s the sort of feminine ideal put forth in a million lad-mag profiles.

“She is the HK MR556.”

Oh, wait. She’s a gun.

Yep. Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 12:29 am in Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Vocab test.

I think I set a land-speed record today. At 7:42 a.m. I was a sweaty post-workout mess, and by 8:20 I was dropping into my seat on the bus. In between: All the grooming/makeup/morning stuff. It seemed a good omen for the day, but most of it was spent sitting in a chair, with a brown-bag lunch. But it wasn’t a bad one, and for that I’m grateful, because who wouldn’t be.

Tonight is the Detroit fireworks, always a crapshoot. If you’re lucky enough to have a prime viewing spot — by which, I mean “access to a high office suite or loft with a good view or maybe a roof” — it’s a pretty good time. If not, you run the risk of being hassled by police or, y’know, shot. Shot or trampled. I haven’t the former, so I left work a.s.a.p. after 5 p.m. and still got a little delayed by traffic. The older I get, the less I like crowds.

Of course, the best way to view fireworks is from a boat. Not this year.

Fireworks means it’s midsummer, right? Why doesn’t winter pass this quickly?

For bloggage, one thing I really found interesting: The gender gap in vocabulary, or 10 words that are most known by only one gender. I’m pleased to say I knew all of them, but was shy of definitions on only two, although I was pretty close; I knew a solenoid is something to do with electricity, and a dreadnought was a weapon. Close enough.

The actual vocabulary test — embedded here — is fascinating. I got 91 percent, and even though it’s at the top level, that’s not a brag. Nothing like a vocab test to tell you what you don’t know. It’s sort of insulting to think that most of the female-recognized words were about clothing (taffeta, bodice) and the men’s were about weaponry (dreadnought, claymore), but the world wouldn’t fall part with more bodices and fewer claymores in it, I guess.

How about some cooking notes? Been grilling a lot, of course. I keep meaning to do some pineapple and fruit projects, but the success of the summer has been spatchcock chicken, also known as a way to grill an entire chicken in under an hour. Our dinners tend to be scattershot these days — I never know when Alan will be home — so I’m all in favor of anything that can be fixed once and provide a lot of leftovers. One butterflied chicken = several meals. Big ups here. And it’s pretty and tasty.

And now, with Monday in the bag, time to turn in and get Tuesday under way.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments
 

Summer.

For some reason, this felt like the first weekend of summer. Probably because, technically, it was. I spent a couple of previous June weekends working on the book project, but this was the first where I was free to spend an afternoon sailing, and that? Is a way to feel like summer.

So this week should be relaxing, because the next deadline is…checking…oh, next weekend. So much for that.

Seriously, though, it was a great weekend. Lots of sunshine, hot but not oppressively so, festivals and farmers’ markets. Got my hair did. Bike ride, yoga. The usual.

And on Sunday, because this summer is actually last summer, I watched “World War Z” again. (Netflix.) My editor at this time last year was very disappointed with it, because it didn’t hew closely to the book, but I loved the stupid thing. I loved the sound the zombies made, the way each one’s method of attack seemed to have something to do with the root personality of the victim; there’s a snippet where one freshly zombified victim turns and very precisely snaps his jaw three of four times, like he’s warming it up for the feast ahead. Others writhe and snarl and some seem almost sad about what they’re about to do. Dumb movie, but smart, if that makes any sense.

In bloggage today? The Freep had part one of what promises to be a deck-clearer on the subject of charter schools in Michigan. I must hold my tongue on much of this, but I should point out that one of the biggest players in the game, in Michigan and elsewhere, is Bill Coats, who was one-time superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools. The conservatives in town hated him with a white-hot passion. It amuses me that he’s entered their own “school reform” movement and come out a winner.

The pilot of the Malaysian airplane was playing hmmmmm games on his home flight simulator before the day of the flight. Hmmm.

And so the week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

The new oasis.

I call this one, “Nancy and a friend watch the World Cup.”

BqcWFjxCIAEjgqd

Sorry no post last night. Up late writing (not this), then slept badly, then blah blah blah excuses excuses blah blah. It seems a fitting day for a photo post, so I can get back to work. This will be it for the week, because it hath been a long one. But a big chunk of it is behind me, and will remain there for a while.

So. How’s the back yard looking? Goooood.

yard1

I wish I’d been more diligent about taking a full set of “before” pictures, because the difference really is amazing. As I think I’ve mentioned, two or three owners ago, in search of an obscene amount of parking, they picked up the garage, rotated it 90 degrees and stuck it smack in the middle of the lot. Then they built a deck and paved everything else. While you could comfortably park five cars in the driveway, and it was a great place to skateboard, it wasn’t good for much else. Since we’ve been here, the deck has only gotten crummier, so last fall, we tore it out, opened a HELOC and hired a concrete guy and a fence guy.

The concrete guy tore out two big sections and poured us a new walkway, and the fence guy fenced it. Alan built the patio and added a shit-ton of topsoil. We got it covered with leaf mulch just in time for the winter.

This year we went to the nursery and became big spenders. Cute dog sold separately:

yard2

yard3

Look, there’s Kate, taking my car away for another day. Good thing I’m a cyclist.

It’s still a work in progress, but already I can feel that oak tree sighing in relief; the deck was cramping its growth.

yard4

The furniture was expensive, but it’s year-round, because we thought it might be nice to sit outside and enjoy a fire in the warmer spells of winter.

yard5

I’m so happy with it, and we’re not done yet. (You’re never done.) Once we get the garage repainted, we’re erecting trellises along the full side, for a green wall.

In the meantime, no more places for raccoons and possums to hide with the deck gone, and Wendy has her green space. Sometimes I let her out and check on her later, only to find her lying on her side in the sunshine, absorbing solar energy.

So that’s the changes at the homestead. Tips and criticisms welcome. Let’s all enjoy our weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Posted at 12:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 68 Comments
 

Deadline linkage.

Crashing on a deadline tonight, so here’s some linkiness for you today:

I love interactivity: See if you can find Benghazi on a map. (I got within 200 miles. Thought it was farther inland.)

When I die, hell will look like this: The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nev.

The author of “The Looming Tower” has some thoughts about ISIS. Worth reading.

See you tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 94 Comments