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
 

Nuts to the flabby guys.

I didn’t watch the NBA championship series, but I heard about the new Apple commercial via other channels. It uses the Robert Preston song commonly known as “Chicken Fat.” You can watch it at the link.

I know a lot of us here are boomers, and we were the first audience for this record. They played it on the radio (occasionally), in gym class (ditto) and on the local morning kids’ show, “Luci’s Toyshop” (often). Somehow a copy ended up in my possession, and the last time I remember following its instructions – touch down, up! Every morning, 10 times! Not just now and then… – was in high school, goofing around with my friend Jeff Clark.

The next day, I was sore in the hamstrings. Those toe touches can be murder if you’re not warmed up.

Anyway, the song was sort of a curiosity, but everyone knew about it. Which is why it’s so amusing to read the current reaction to it. That Slate story called it “strange.” Adweek mentioned its “odd history.” Daily Kos did the same.

I guess it’s come to this: We are now weird grandparents, with our funny 23-skidoo pop-culture memories. One minute you’re at Woodstock, the next you’re stinking up the room with your adult diaper and everybody’s reminiscing about Michael J. Fox.

OK. But I always liked the Chicken Fat song. It reminds me of a time when getting in shape was mainly about touching your toes and running in place. As if.

So, I read this story about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the New Republic this afternoon. It has conservatives in a tizzy, because it basically argues that Walker has benefitted from an enormously segregated Milwaukee metro area. It’s depressing, particularly in the details about the role talk radio plays in the area; just the first three paragraphs want to make you open a vein, but honestly, it’s not so different from what talk radio has always been. (Rush Limbaugh made the theme from “The Jeffersons” the background music for his Carol Moseley Braun updates, but hey — his producer is black, so no racism!) And I’ve admired a lot of public figures in my life, but never like this:

Walker’s only overt enthusiasms appear to be his Harley Davidson motorcycle and Ronald Reagan. He and Tonette married on Reagan’s birthday, and every year they celebrate their wedding anniversary / Reagan’s birthday by serving the Gipper’s favorite dishes, such as macaroni-and-cheese casserole and red, white, and blue jelly beans.

I encourage you to read it. It’s not all jelly beans and racism; some of the voter-turnout numbers from the suburbs are frankly astonishing.

So, what else do we have today? A story out of Indiana, in which a young mother, just 24 but already with three children, sticks her head out the window of a moving vehicle to barf, hits it on something and, of course, dies. Because life is tough in Mishawaka, and there’s nothing else to do.

Finally, this:

Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011.

Oh, shut up.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 41 Comments
 

Letting go.

Another weekend so perfect it needed to go in a record book somewhere: Temperatures in the low 70s, cool nights, skies of such clarity it hurt to go outside without sunglasses. Kate took the ACT on Saturday and then hit the road for a no-parents Up North weekend with three friends and I decided not to worry about it. That’s a difficult thing to do, but at some point it has to be done. She’ll screw up; of this I have no doubt. I just have to accept that the screwups are something I don’t have much control over anymore. This was my advice as they left:

“And what do we do if we see a deer in the road?”

“Hit it!”

That’s exactly right, and advice every Michigan driver should know and heed. Never swerve. That’s how tragedies happen. Hit the deer. We have plenty.

(Obviously this is advice for if you see a deer in the road when you’re traveling toward it at high speed. You don’t just randomly speed up and run Bambi down on, say, a country lane. But you knew that.)

Speaking of cars, Alan brought home a monster Friday — a Chevy SS, which looks like a four-door sedan on the outside but has so much horsepower its ass end threatens to break loose on the regular. Gas mileage: 18 combined and say what? Eighteen? Yes. It’s less fuel-efficient than the Yukon he brought home earlier in the week. But so powerful, it’s a rolling Viagra commercial.

This is a perk of being on the auto staff at one of the Detroit dailies, one Alan barely uses. Of course my worry is more about carjacking than that he will fall out of familiarity with the product line, but it’s always fun to cruise up to Harrison Township and get some ice cream with the Underground Garage on the satellite radio. He works very hard. He deserves a little fun.

The car, and the weather, was a welcome distraction from self-torture, i.e., reading some of the response to the Iraq situation. I’m sort of done listening, and this John Cassidy piece on the New Yorker website says it all:

Senator John McCain, whom the President telephoned on Friday, has called on Obama to fire his entire national-security team, claiming, “Could all of this have been avoided? The answer is absolutely yes.”

McCain is right; it could have been avoided. If, in the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush had treated the arguments of Feith, McCain, and other advocates of the Iraq War with the disdain they deserved, we (and the Iraqis) wouldn’t be where we are today.

If, in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Baghdad, and his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, had not decided to disband Saddam’s army, the one institution that somewhat unified the country, the Iraqi state would be stronger. If, in addition, Bremer and Rumsfeld had ordered enough U.S. troops onto the streets to preserve order, then Iraq might (and it’s only a might) have held together peacefully instead of degenerating into sectarianism, anarchy, and violence.

This is a bigger clusterflick than Vietnam, albeit with a lower body count. But what we’re looking at now, in the Middle East and now Africa, is going to have worse fallout, I’d wager.

So that was the weekend, topped by a visit to the market that yielded garlic scapes, fresh spinach and all the dark green leafies we expect at this time of year. And strawberries. And peas. I’m going to salad my butt off this week.

I think the lead to this story might say more about our pathetic world than anything else I can find at the moment:

Farrah Abraham: reality star, singer, pasta sauce creator, sex tape maker and now, erotica author.

I hope that’s my epitaph someday. With the name and a few details changed, of course.

Almost time for “Game of Thrones,” and a new week, to start. Best wishes for a good one for all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 32 Comments
 

Down the drain.

Whenever Iraq has a bad day, I remind Alan of that afternoon in Fort Wayne, in a news meeting at the alma mater, where he sniffed at the proposed layouts and headlines for the we-are-declaring-victory story. (I can’t recall what the “news” was; might have been the Mission Accomplished photo op.)

“We’re going to be there for YEARS,” he announced to the room, to scowls from all.

This was, what, 2003? I don’t think even Alan foresaw the disaster currently unfolding in Iraq, which must rank at the Worst Possible end of the potential-outcomes continuum when we launched this stupid-ass war. If we even considered the outcomes. And yet, I’m not getting a sense that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz et al are lying in bed staring holes in the ceiling at 3 a.m. I just don’t. Do you?

So. Nearly the weekend. I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday, but I thought y’all might like it, too:

camel

My father was such a stick-in-the-mud sometimes. This was a trip my mother and I took in 1972-ish, by ourselves — he didn’t want to go — to southern Spain and across the straits to Tangiers, where this photo was taken. Travel is very broadening, and these are some of the things I learned: the elements of Moorish design, that champagne could be lethal (first time I ever got hammered; we were watching flamenco dancers), and that the souvenir striped djellaba will never be worn at home, despite what Graham Nash said. The proprietor of one restaurant in a mountain village had the English section of the menu marked with a Union Jack, and said he wouldn’t change it to the U.S. flag until we booted Richard Nixon from office.

I haven’t looked at this picture in a hundred years, or thought of that restaurant owner in a hundred and one. Funny, the power of a picture.

So, I guess everyone read George Will’s vile column about how college women look forward to being raped, so they can gain the “coveted status” of victimhood. The internets have filled up with rebuttals, but this one was the best I’ve read, and also the hardest to get through. As always when I read stuff like this, I wonder what has happened to young men that they would prefer having sex with an unconscious woman over whatever minimum effort it might take to find one through the conventional way.

I guess you’d have to ask Elliot Rodger that one.

Anything else? Brian Dickerson takes apart just why, in this state of roads so bad they resemble Somalia’s, that the legislature still can’t get it together to fix them.

And the weekend begins! It seemed like it’d never get here.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 46 Comments
 

Salad, and leftovers at that.

Another link salad today; it’s been one of those. Got to the gym and did a workout that I should label “the heavy one” — eating low-carb really saps your strength. But I found some links for you.

Mark Bittman is making sense:

Real food solves the salt/fat/sugar problem. Yes, excess salt may cause or exacerbate high blood pressure, and lowering sodium intake in people with high blood pressure helps. But salt is only one of several risk factors in developing high blood pressure, and those who eat a diverse diet and few processed foods — which supply more than 80 percent of the sodium in typical American diets — need not worry about salt intake.

“Fat” is a loaded word and a complicated topic, and the jury is still out. Most naturally occurring fats are probably essential, but too much of some fats — and, again, it may be the industrially produced fats used in hyperprocessed foods — seems harmful. Eat real food and your fat intake will probably be fine.

I know a lot of us struggle with weight here; I certainly do. But I think he’s on to something here. Eat real food. What a concept.

I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but I will, because it’s been a big story here, about a 90-year-old man who was picked up as a drug mule, headed for Detroit. He was sentenced just a couple weeks ago, and got three years. “A death sentence,” he said. Tell it to someone who cares.

Jack White, beefer. Such an excitable boy.

When are the Republicans going to figure it out? It’ll be a while, I expect, with guys like this.

Almost the weekend.

Posted at 12:33 am in Current events | 40 Comments