Monday, April 30, 2007

Eastern Market

Weren't you there when the carousel burned down
The fire and confusion, the smoke and the sound
I swear you were there when the carousel burned down
We were all around
The rings charred and tarnished all over the ground
And the heads hung down
And we all left town the next day

-- Todd Rundgren, The Night The Carousel Burnt Down

On days that I walk to work, I pass the main building of the Library of Congress, the U.S. Capitol, House Office Buildings, the Botanical Gardens, the Museum of the American Indian, the Air and Space Museum, and the Smithsonian Castle. The first landmark on my journey, however, is Eastern Market -- housed in an historic building and operating continuously since 1873, it's part of my neighborhood and it's the only market left in town. While the other sites on my walk are attractions for everyone, few tourists know of Eastern Market. They don't wait in line on a warm Saturday morning to get a stack of blues (blueberry pancakes) at Market Lunch, get great cheeses from the curmudgeonly cheese monger, or attend the outdoor weekend markets filled with arts and crafts. Off the top of my head, I count eight pictures we've bought at Eastern Market that hang in our house.

My first date with Kathy started at Eastern Market -- it was my first visit to Eastern Market, even though I had moved to Capitol Hill about a month earlier. I'm not sure I knew it was much more than a Metro stop the five years I lived in the Virginia suburbs, but now it's the center of my community.

In the wee hours of this morning the South Hall, which houses the food merchants, was badly damaged by fire (fortunately, no one was hurt). I felt compelled to see the horror for myself this morning, and here are the pictures I took (and here are some photos by the Washington Post). The mayor and other city officials and representatives have already promised to rebuild, and to find alternate places for the merchants whose shops were lost in the meantime.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Still a Work in Progress...

...but I wanted to share something that's mostly done, namely, the front of the house getting painted.

Here's a taste of what our house has looked like since we moved in (the one with the cherry tree in front of it, not the one with the flag) --

We'd been talking about painting the house for several years, but never had gotten around to it until this year. This was partly due to laziness, partly due to expense, and largely due to not knowing what color we wanted to paint it. The fact that neither of us were home during the day also played a role in it.

The work started almost a month ago, but with the bad weather, we'd been stuck with just the primer on it for a couple of weeks. Color started showing up this past Friday, and today they got most of the visible details finished (though most of the wrought iron still needs painting, as does the trim around the door). Now it looks like this --

Solid News

Kathy swears that some of the cracker ends up in Emelia's stomach, but I'm skeptical. Still, as you can see we've started introducing solids to Emelia. She wasn't too keen on Cheerios, but she really seems to enjoy the salt (or something) in the Ritz crackers.

We've found a nanny, for far more than we planned on paying. She interacted very well with Emelia at the interview, and all signs are that she's very good -- Kathy and I decided that these, and not the expense, are the things that are really important. The nanny's name is Avery, and she starts May 7, the day Emelia turns six months. It's almost like we're saying, "Happy half-year birthday -- you're officially old enough to be left with a stranger, so see ya!"

Kathy went part-time (Monday through Wednesday) as of last week -- she's already much happier with the balance between work and family.

While Kathy was home this past Thursday, I returned to work for the day. I'm also going in this Friday, then I return to regular schedule on May 3 (and with Kathy off on the 3rd and 4th, that's why we don't need the nanny until the 7th).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

But, But -- Republicans were in Control When It Passed

After reading this letter to the editor, I have to conclude that newspapers don't have any responsibility to protect people from themselves.

Update 4/25/07

Monday, April 23, 2007

Flags at half-mast

Over the weekend as I drove around town, I saw that flags were at half-mast all over town. Since then, I confirmed that President Bush had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast through yesterday in honor of the Virginia Tech dead.

While it's sad that those 32 people died, and while I don't have an objection to their being mourned nationally in such a way, I was struck by the lack of similar recognition given to the American soldiers, many the same age as the students who died in Blacksburg, who are dying every day in Iraq, and to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. The Blacksburg 32 get a week of such recognition, while the 3,000+ who have died over the past five years in the service of their country are recognized as part of a day of national mourning (Memorial Day) along with all other fallen soldiers from all other wars.

It's not my call to decide when flags should be flown at half-mast nationally, but it is for my blog. So in honor of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, I've added a flag at half-mast to my blog, and will continue to display it for as long as we have combat troops dying in these countries. If you click on the flag, you'll be taken to a Washington Post site that provides information on all the American casualties in these two countries.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Meme 4

Egad, Dave tagged me. I think this is the first time in a while I've been tagged, but maybe not -- I haven't been too good about reading everyone's blog lately, so another one could have slipped through the cracks (so if anyone out there tagged me and I didn't respond, please let me know, so I can at least have the choice of ignoring you rather than merely being ignorant).


Q. What is your salad dressing of choice?
A. Ranch (easy when I don't have to change the answer from the previous person)

Q. What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A. I'm not really a fast-food person, but I do enjoy hitting Taco Bell every year or so.

Q. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A. Nam Viet in Arlington (this was a tough one -- there are a lot of restaurants I really enjoy, but Nam Viet is probably the only one I've been frequenting for over a decade).

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A. Probably about 18% (again, just like Dave).

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick off of?
A. Back in the summer of 1985 I think I probably did live off of Little Caesar's for a couple of weeks when i worked there, but I'm not sure I could do that again, even if I got to pick a different pizza place. Now, I'd be more inclined to go with sushi.

Q. What is your favorite type of gum?
A. Dunno -- it's been at least 20 years since I bought any.


Q. What is your wallpaper on your computer?
A. This one (though I need to put a more recent one up).

Q. How many televisions are in your house?
A. 2 (one is unplugged and due to be left at the curb for whoever wants it).


Q. What’s your best feature?
A. My eyes (so says Kathy).

Q. Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
A. My adenoids, wisdom teeth and frenum.

Q. Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
A. Taste or touch.

Q. When was the last time you had a cavity?
A. 18 years ago, or so.

Q. What is the heaviest item you lifted last?
A. What a silly question -- the heaviest item I last lifted is by definition the last item I lifted. The last "item" I lifted was Emelia.

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A. If being strangled into unconsciousness counts, then yes, otherwise no.


Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A. Yes, but I'd rather know the year than the exact date.

Q. Is love for real?
A. Yes, on many different levels.

Q. If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
A. I wouldn’t change it (gotta agree with Dave on this one too)

Q. What color do you think looks best on you?
A. Green

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A. Not that I remember

Q. Have you ever saved someone’s life?
A. No

Q. Has someone ever saved yours?
A. Not that I'm aware of, other than my parents by taking care of me when I was unable to care for myself.


Q. Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?
A. Yes, if (a) the question is about public embarrassment -- in other words, there wouldn't be additional consequences such as being arrested for it; and (b) the weather was ok for walking around nude (don't want to scorch my feet or freeze to death).

Q. Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?
A. Sure, if I got to pick the person.

Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A. No.

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A. Yes.

Q. Would you pose nude in a magazine for $250,000?
A. No -- I'm worth more.

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000?
A. No.

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A. No.

Q. Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?
A. Yes, though it's not like I watch much anyhow. That being said, maybe I'd use some of the money to fund some DC United road trips.

Q. Give up MySpace forever for $30,000?
A. That's easy money -- I've never gone over there, and even if there might someday be something that interested me at such a place, odds are that a new website will show up in a couple of years that'll become the new MySpace.


Q: What is in your left pocket?
A. Keys and receipts.

Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A. I didn't think so.

Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. Both

Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A. "Dumbology" seems like the appropriate category for this question. I stand.

Q: Could you live with roommates?
A. I used to all the time before I got married, and even since then we've had long-term house guests (6 months), so yes.

Q: How many pairs of flip-flops do you own?
A. 1

Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A. About a year ago -- a cop decided to pull over the person in front of me in a turn lane -- she was in the straight-ahead lane, and when the light changed she tried this wacky maneuver to go after him. When she stopped him, she got immediately got out of her car and stopped me, accusing me of interfering with her efforts and threatening me with arrest if I ever did it again.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. If I knew the answer to that, I might have done something about it by now.


Q: Friend you talked to?
A. Tom

Q: Last person you called?
A. Elisabeth (the person we're doing the nanny share with)


Q: First place you went this morning?
A. The bathroom, but if we're talking outside of the home, CVS.

Q: What can you not wait to do?
A. Wear shorts -- the weather here really stinks this Spring.

Q: What’s the last movie you saw?
A. Borat, the day Kathy went into labor.

Q: Are you a friendly person?
A. Yes, except when I'm grumpy.

As for tagging others with this Meme, that's not really my style, so anyone who wants to answer these questions go right ahead. That being said, if either Kathy or my brother wants to use this meme as an excuse to revive a dead blog, I'd be delighted.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Anyone Got a Sand Refill for an Hourglass?

I'm in the last three weeks of my paternity leave, and while it seems like it's been a long time, it's been far too short. Emelia keeps developing, and it's wonderful to be witness to it. She's sitting by herself pretty consistently, and the other morning she was able to push herself back upright after she had fallen too far forward (she still rolls onto her stomach when she falls sideways, and often bonks her head when she goes backwards (which is the most common way she falls)). She greedily eyes our liquids when we drink, and she loves it when one of us lets her drink water from a cup. She grabs onto whatever gets within her reach, and is interested in so much of her environment. Truly it's a special time, and I feel fortunate that I've been able to be here for so much of it, even as I want to keep doing this instead of going back to work.

Alas, I cannot stay here -- we can't afford to retire, so I need to continue to draw a paycheck. Kathy has decided to go to part-time -- she'll be working three days per week. We've found another family with whom to share a nanny (Jonah is three months younger, and it's amazing to see him and realize how much has transpired in Emelia's last three months), now all we need to do is find a nanny. We've sort of waited until the last minute, and I hope we're able to find someone good (and quickly). We've got a couple of promising leads, so we'll see what develops.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Family Photo

Posted by Picasa

We're not great about taking photos of Emelia, but we've taken a fair number along the way. One thing we haven't done is take many (any?) photos of the three of us, so as far as I'm concerned, this photo, taken on Tuesday by a colleague of my Mom's, is a keeper. The colleague's name is Georgina, and while we were having our difficulties getting (and staying) pregnant, my Mom told me that Georgina's father was praying for us. We thought that was very thoughtful, never mind that neither of us are religious. Call it what you will -- coincidence, divine intervention, or something in between -- but we were rather surprised to learn, after Emelia was born, that Georgina's father's name is Emilio.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Raw Shark Texts

Eric Sanderson wakes up with no memory of who he is -- all he has is a note from himself telling him to contact Dr. Randle, who tells him that his memory loss stems from a severe associative disorder caused by the loss of his love, Clio. Over the course of many months, he receives numerous letters and packages from his earlier self, the First Eric Sanderson, in an attempt to explain what is going on, and what he needs to do to first protect himself and then defeat his enemy. As for what his enemy is, it's a concept fish, the most deadly of them all, the Ludovician. The Ludovician keeps attacking its prey, devouring its memories and sense of self. As for concept fish generally, they're entities that evolved naturally as the result of human communications.

In his attempt to survive, and to face down his deadly foe, Sanderson seeks out un-Space, where he hopes to find Trey Fidorous, someone who aided the First Eric Sanderson, and who is considered an expert on concept fish. His quest is greatly aided when a young woman named Scout rescues him from danger, and agrees to help him find Trey. That Scout reminds him of what he knows of Clio serves to both arouse and confuse him.

I find the notion of concept fish, along with the associated power of words and ideas, quite clever. For example, Eric is able to camouflage his thoughts from the Ludovician by putting four dictaphones in the corners of a room, each playing a recording of a wholly unrelated individual going about his/her business during a day.

Other than concept fish, however, I found the story rather unoriginal, constantly reminding me of other stories. First there's the obvious Memento concept of someone's earlier self assisting his memoryless present self. In addition, there are two books I very much enjoyed, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and William Browning Spencer's Zod Wallop. Like Neverwhere, The Raw Shark Texts introduces us to a world beneath the "real world," whose existence the real world doesn't seem to recognize, together with a guide/love interest to show the clueless protagonist that under-world. And like the protagonist in Zod Wallop, Eric Sanderson's difficulty in dealing with loss results in his willingness to change reality in order to bring back the person he lost. Finally, the hunt for the Ludovician is ridiculously close to the shark hunt in Jaws, from the captain's underestimation of the shark to the details of the final battle.

As much as I got caught up in reading Steven Hall's novel, in the end it disappointed me. Much of the writing is nothing special, with the dialogue between Eric and Scout being particularly weak. I was also particularly bothered by the final scene's virtual theft of Jaws. In addition, Scout's nemesis, an entity central to Eric's efforts to defeat the Ludovician, is hardly real -- all it is is the "anti-matter to the Ludovician's matter," a weapon for Eric rather than a serious threat after a single early encounter. It's not even clear why the two entities would destroy each other should they intersect. And lastly is the Scout/Clio connection. How Hall resolved it seems too pat, too movielike, a perception aided by the knowledge that the movie rights to the book were sold before the book itself was released.

In sum, I think this is worth reading for the world it creates, but it didn't "wow" me.
Rating: 7/10.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Carrot Kugel

(Amended 4-5-07)

4 eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
1 cup tightly packed grated carrots
¼ cup shredded peeled apple
¼ cup sweet red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup potato starch
grease for the casserole

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Add the grated carrots, shredded apple, wine, lemon juice and rind, and the potato starch. Blend well. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff; fold them into the yolk mixture. Turn into a well-greased 1½-quart casserole. Bake for 35 minutes in a preheated 375o F oven or until nicely puffed and set. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6.

The Complete Passover Cookbook, Frances R. AvRutick, New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc. (1981).

My friend Barrett has been providing his delicious carrot kugel for the Seder we host for the past several years, but this year, with him in South Africa and us in Clearwater to be with my folks, Barrett would not be bringing his kugel to our Seder. Fortunately, Barrett is a kind soul, and e-mailed the recipe (shown above). What with the 22-person Seder the following night, that meant doing a triple batch. In the hands of an experienced baker, this recipe wouldn't be anything special, but with Kathy committed to making her amazing matzo balls, Mom and I attacked it.

First we needed to overcome the fact that potato starch wasn't available at either of the supermarkets near where the folks lived. We substituted potato pancake mix, as potato starch is the second ingredient in the mix (behind potatoes). Grating carrots was done in the blender, but the baby carrots on top didn't get grated, so after a few rounds of putting a few carrots in a time, I decided to put more in, pushing the ones on top down with a wooden spoon. Consequently, we had a dash of wood chip in our version. Neither Mom nor I know how to separate egg yolks, so Kathy stepped in, and got us our egg whites. Unfortunately, she hadn't read the recipe, and assumed that we didn't also need the egg yolks, and so dumped them. To the store she went for more eggs. While she was out, sans cell phone, we took the one lemon that Dad had bought and discovered it didn't produce enough rind or juice. Upon Kathy's return, she repeated the egg separation process, and we added the sugar to the whites. Mom had trouble getting the mixture to the right consistency, so Kathy proceeded to mix it, accidentally spilling a good chunk of it right around the time I realized that the sugar should have been mixed in with the yolks rather than the whites.

After all that, we shrugged, said we did the best we could, or even if not, we weren't up for throwing everything out and starting from scratch. Into the oven the kugel went, we handled the baking time without incident, and it was served to great acclaim at the Seder. Sadly, we could only provide a semblance of the recipe to the folks who asked for it.

I know there's a moral we should have gotten from this experience, but I'm having trouble figuring out what it is. Regardless, Happy Passover.