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Magic Spot
Lexie's Journal
29-Jun-2008 14:17 - Content from elsewhere
pie, happy
Just a reminder for those who have recently added me as a friend (thank you!): new content of the type that used to be posted in this journal is under the account magic_spot, syndicated from my blog at http://lyspeth.com/blog. Check my recent entries for the explanation for this if you are curious. I use this account for reading and commenting, and there are extensive archives available, but I no longer post new content to it.
02-Jan-2008 00:28 - End of an era
pie, happy
My first post in this journal was on Jan 1, 2001. The last post will be, unfortunately, January 2, 2008, instead of January 1, because today was a busy day and I was making cupcakes and tagine and packing and watching Season 4, Disc 2 of The West Wing.

Per results of my previous poll, you all are quite fond of me -- no one unambiguously plans to stop reading my journal, and most of you who responded want me to continue reading here. I've decided I'll do that, although probably not with as great a frequency. I will be moving my blog to one of the ties for first place, an independent hosted blog on my website. The new address is http://www.lyspeth.com/blog. There is an RSS feed, magic_spot. Add it to your friends list, and it'll be semi-seamless, except for having to enter your comment info on the new site. No, I don't know why you have to enter an email -- something to do with WordPress that I haven't quite figured out. You can enter whatever you want as long as it looks like an email; I don't care.

If there are problems with the blog, or you just want to keep in touch, use the contact info on my journal. And I'll see you all around, but you'll only see my content if you remember to add the feed!
20-Dec-2007 14:07 - But what to do? Where to go?
So, I'm somewhat breaking my rule about posting (though I have resisted all temptations brought on by the FISA bill mess and the exciting arrival of a new vegan cookbook!), but I finally decided that I need to know more about what my readers wish I would do before I decide. There are some basic pros and cons about moving, things like accounts, comments, and syndication.

Blurty doesn't seem to have syndication, and it would require people to have accounts to make comments unless I enable anonymous commenting. I might do that, but I eventually had to disable it for this journal, because I was getting spam comments and there's no real system for dealing with them on LJ-clones. It also doesn't have tags to organize my entries. Perish the thought! Tagging is the most useful LJ feature in many, many years.

Blogging services or self-hosted blogs have non-threaded comments (yuck) and either require (easy) registration, or allow anyone to comment. In both cases I may have to run some kind of spam comment plugin because true blogs tend to get flooded with spam comments sometimes. They also have syndication so that people who stay on LJ can read my posts on their friends page using syndication.

There's also the question of whether I might come back to read (if anyone even wants that) or how to keep in touch with anyone who might be interested if it can no longer happen through LiveJournal. So, without further ado, the poll.

Poll #1109323 Where should I/we go?

Will you still read my journal if I move it away from LiveJournal? (I won't be offended if you say no.)

It depends (see options below)

Would you like me to come back to read your journal once I am not posting here?


If not, how would you like to keep in touch?

Phone/In person
I'd rather not

Where should I go?

LJ-code clone (e.g. Blurty)
Other social blogging service (are there any?)
Independent blog
Other non-social blogging service (e.g. typepad, blogger)

Will you also change your journaling/blogging location?


Any other comments? Site suggestions, complaints, your plans, etc.

If you have more to say, please comment, and if you can't fill out the poll but you do read my journal and want to tell me your answers, please send me email with your answers. Please respond as I am very interested in any suggestions.
07-Dec-2007 14:28 - No, really.
normal, newer, thoughtful
Okay, for serious this time: I'm leaving.

Most likely to Blurty (an adult-only LJ clone currently without ads) since I can't seem to get my current webhost to activate a blog for me, and it would be nice to have a community capability.

I'll post here when I decide. I will not be posting anymore on LiveJournal at all, in either journal, except to announce where I'm going. If you want or need to contact me please email me or otherwise appropriately use my posted contact info.


LJ has been sold on from 6A, who were merely clueless, to a Russian company that most likely has little interest in LJ except as a moneymaking vehicle. This kind of intent is hostile to community intent -- see also Facebook Beacon, which I haven't said anything about in part because I'm busy and in part because it's par for the course for Facebook -- they've been violating privacy and refusing to apologize since the mini-feed came on the scene.

This kind of bullshit pattern-matching censorship which everyone knows just doesn't work.

And there's also the new ability for people to "flag" your content as being unsuitable for kids. And a lot of stuff gets flagged, either purposely or accidentally. I was warned while logged out (I don't see the warning when logged in of course, since I'm over 18) about an entry that contained a very innocent use of the word "shit". And like the above, people know this doesn't work, because if you're under whatever age? Hello, happy checkbox that says you aren't.

It really adds up to an environment that I can no longer trust with my content, even more so than the community-oblivious, somewhat censorious uproars over breastfeeding in icons and explicit content/fanfic. Thoughtful attempts to comply with what do tend to be ridiculous laws in this country are one thing, under-the-radar CYA bullshit is another thing, and I for one refuse to keep supporting a company that participates in the latter with glee and vigor1. I'm so done.

1LiveJournal unfortunately recently renewed my account, so it'll be paid through next November. If only they had been stupid a little sooner. My account content will be staying because there's no way to preserve comments otherwise, except in private backups, but I'll have my own backups and possibly repost some material as time goes on if I can.
shiver, cold weather
Fargo, day 2: Snowy!

It snowed overnight and through the morning, so I stayed inside. At lunchtime I ventured back over to the Plains Art Museum, site of the Monday concert/lunch, to see a quilt exhibit that caught my eye, and the rest of the museum while I was at it. The walk over involved a lot of clambering over snowdrifts that hadn't been cleared yet. The snow in the road here does funny things. It doesn't melt much, so it turns into a slippery layer of packed snow instead, which is oddly more treacherous than just regular snow. Right now it's not snowing but the snow is blowing around and creating a glittery layer on top of the dry, powdery snow.

I had lunch at the museum again. I didn't like the salad as much (it was pesto on roasted vegetables, which were undercooked) but the tomato soup was just as good as before. The quilt exhibit was just great, absolutely wonderful and amazing. I wish I had taken my camera -- instead I made do with my cell phone cam for a few of the best. I've seen quite a number of exhibits at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, so I'm familiar with art quilts as a genre, and these were possibly some of the finest art quilts I've ever seen. They were all done by quilters in the region, and included all sorts of complex techniques like beading, circular seams, 3-D fabric constructions, non-paneled quilts, weaving, hand-dyed fabrics, and more. Lots of fancy fabric overlays, and one quilt done entirely in silk, which is very difficult to work with. That quilt looked like a sunset and was made of tiny triangles. (It's the first picture in the exhibition description. The other picture was also one of my favorites.) One had a Tyvek top layer which had been selectively destroyed, leaving an interesting nubbly texture. I liked so many, but my absolute favorite was a 'quilt arrangement' done of 32 small squares, each in one dominant color. There was so much creativity in those little squares: mosaic-style piecing, a crocheted basket, a 3-D hydrangea, leaves, fruits and vegetables (I liked the 'citrus' square), faces, and just really neat designs. They had a little handmade book about the collaborators and their work which I wish they had been selling. Overall, all the quilts were interesting and a good half of them were just stunning. I kept walking around going "WOW! Oh my gosh, WOW!" and I think I spent 45 min in the gallery (which wasn't huge; it's a small museum).

Their stuff upstairs was also neat. What I liked is that except for one piece I had never seen the art or artists before, but they explained it really thoughtfully, and it was varied and of local interest, with mostly Plains area artists and some Native pieces (Canadian and American). I liked several of the pieces quite well, including one by a New Mexican artist that was a very simple picture of varying shades of green, blue, and gray with lines drawn on it suggesting water or clouds. It was so spare, and so peaceful, very carrying of the feeling of deserts and plains.

The whole top floor was devoted to an exhibition of photographs by Wayne Gudmundson, who takes pictures of North Dakota and the Plains. A lot of his photographs focus on the marks that humans leave, even after they are gone. My favorite, though, was an early work of his of a rock illuminated with light. Also neat was an island in Iceland with some blurred flying seagulls making the foreground complex and interesting. It was interesting to see how the plain isn't really totally flat like we all think it is because there are no big hills.

My favorite moment this afternoon was begin told a Norwegian joke by one of the kids I recorded:

Q. What kind of cars do Norwegians drive?

A. Fjords.

I got a good chuckle on that.

Dinner was disappointing. Before I came, I looked to see what places might have vegetarian options, and one of the places listen was Cafe Aladdin, which is near enough to walk to. I read and heard good things about the food, though people said the ambience was a bit dull. But I didn't have a good experience of the food at all, and it was empty when I went because it was fairly late so it was not just dull but dead, though the man serving (probably the owner) was kind. The hummus had too much tahini and a flavor of olive, and the spanakopita was greasy and not at all delicate -- the outer layer of dough was not phyllo dough, though the inner layers were -- and there was hardly any feta. The salad was actually disgusting. Sprinkled on top was some kind of weird flakes that tasted of fast food, and it was just iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and olives, soggy with too much dressing. Not that I'm expecting miracles in ND in December, but making the raw materials worse is unfortunate. Maybe I just chose the wrong dish but the poor hummus didn't leave me wanting to go back. I ate most of the pita plain because it was pretty good.

After eating I walked back rather slowly, checking out the historic movie theater to see if they were showing anything I wanted to see (no). It was actually a pretty nice walk with the wind a bit calmer. While I was stopped at a light, a school-age kid in a car also stopped waved at me and smiled. I saw a bookstore that I might check out if I have time. Tomorrow I'm going to try to take some pictures before I leave. I'm beginning to get a little fond of this city, I think.
silly, amused
Fargo sits on the western bank of the Red River of the North in a very flat region known as the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley was once a part of glacial Lake Agassiz, which drained away about 9,300 years ago. The lake sediments deposited from Lake Agassiz made the land around Fargo some of the richest in the world for agricultural uses. Early settlers sometimes called the Red River Valley a new "Garden of Eden".

I begin with this quotation from Wikipedia because one of the most momentous experiences of my first day in Fargo was finding several boxes of Red River cereal on the shelf of the local health/gourmet grocery/restaurant. I ate Red River as a kid at my grandmother's house, and it's the best hot cereal I have ever had. Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain is a decent substitute, but nothing holds a candle to Red River with milk and brown sugar. Mmm. I'm going back tomorrow to buy at least two boxes.

So, Fargo. It's a nice town. It's a city really -- the metro area has 150,000 people (Fargo proper has 90,000). That's a quarter the size of Albuquerque. I've so far had many, many people be nice to me, gone to a lunchtime concert at a museum cafe with very good food, gone to a nice coffeehouse with free wi-fi, and had a decent dinner at the aforementioned grocery/restaurant. Downtown seems nice -- they are restoring, or have restored, some of the old brick buildings. There's an art museum with a quilt exhibit (where the aforementioned cafe is). There's an old-fashioned movie theatre, which I may try to go to tomorrow. It's still a little bit droopy, I guess is how I would put it -- a lot of buildings are partly empty or look like they haven't changed in many years. But nice. There are old-style freight trains, which I find charming, being a train geek.

It's also COLD. I was wearing long underwear, a turtleneck, a polartec jacket, and a wool coat, plus a scarf, hat, and mittens, and I was still cold if I stayed out longer than about 15 minutes (even if I was walking). My cheeks got unpleasantly cold, so tomorrow I'll be wrapping my face up better. There's snow covering anything that isn't a path, and packed snow on a lot of the sidewalks, though I was impressed by the number of snow-free sidewalks. I stepped into a foot-tall bit of unpacked snow by accident and was very glad I went and got waterproof boots on Saturday (they're light hiking boots, so I'll still use them at home). It's supposed to snow again tonight, which will be interesting because I'll probably see snowplows and shovels and all those things we don't bother with in places where the snow pretty much melts the next day.

Definitely an adventure. And now that I've read about this winery I almost want to come back to Fargo someday.

But -- in the summer.
shiver, cold weather
Apparently we still can't bring water or oh-so-dangerous shampoo onto the plane, but people can bring lighters again.

Yes, let me repeat: lighters yes, 4 ounces of water, shampoo, or peanut butter, no.

If only there were a Wonko the Sane to build the world an asylum.

I'll be in Fargo for the next four days (for work). See that you don't miss me too much. Apparently I do often blog about every four days, so maybe I'll tell you about Fargo while I'm there -- if you're lucky and I don't get frostbite. No, really -- people actually do get frostbite up there. They have temperatures in the negative degrees Fahrenheit. Those aren't real temperatures...right?
24-Nov-2007 18:31 - Flexible todays
I haven't tried to plan a trip on 511.org in a while, and I just realized that it has a funny limitation. If you ask it for the latest trip for today, it doesn't have a flexible enough concept of 'today' to include trips that involve taking a transit vehicle that departs after midnight, i.e., tomorrow. So when I ask it for the latest trip, it excludes the ability to take the 12:01am Caltrain of the Damned, which rather perplexes things because without that option, for the trip in question, I would have to leave earlier than I arrive.

I'm pretty sure it does allow you to take a trip that involves arriving tomorrow, just not one that also involves departing tomorrow. However, it is helpful enough to tell you what the later trips for a particular leg are, so it's not too hard to get from there to figuring out when you actually need to leave.
shiver, cold weather
For anyone who's ever tried to use Caltrain to get home from the city late at night:

They are planning to add new trains in the evening -- YAY!

But the trains are prosposed to leave on the half-hours, with no train between 10:30 and 12:00 out of San Francisco. If you want an 11:00 train, please write to Caltrain at the address on the page, or plan to attend one of the info sessions.
12-Nov-2007 10:34 - Grassroots leadership
naive, young, formal
So the next entry I was going to write, before the astonishing stupidity and arrogance of Caltrain distracted me, was about an interesting conversation I had with a friend the other night at a (terrific) party. I was chatting with him about vegetarianism and mentioned (as I do frequently here) that my primary concerns are the concerns of humane treatment and environmental impact. He said that he thinks those are valid points, but that my individual decision to be vegetarian doesn't have enough impact to change those things -- it has to come from above; there has to be leadership.

Coincidentally, I recently read a similar contention in a column by Thomas Friedman. Friedman's point was about environmental impacts in general, another subject dear to my heart. He talked about one person buying a Prius, versus a some people high up who got in meetings with New York's taxi organizations to start converting the taxi fleet to hybrids (mostly not Priuses -- SUVs -- which is a bit unfortunate but perhaps more practical from a taxi standpoint).

I certainly agree with the point that change is almost always going to happen faster and be more effective when it's promoted at a high level, and that for things that are ingrained habits for most people, and seem kind of minor (like what they eat and what kind of bags they get at the supermarket), it's very hard to effect massive change on a grass-roots level only.

However, there are two counter-contentions that I would make about why it's essential for all of us to act on our personal ethical beliefs.

The first one could, with rhetorical flourish, be called the Argument From Hypocrisy. With less flourish, we could call the the Argument From Moral Consistency. If I think everyone should eat only animals who are raised humanely and sustainably (and vegetables raised sustainably), then it's ridiculous if I go around telling other people I think they should do it, or setting up laws to promote it, while not doing it myself, even if I say I'm going to start doing it as soon as there are laws or other people are doing it. I don't think this argument needs to be elaborated much. To have any moral standing, I have to be acting out my own ethical standards to at least a high percentage. If I'm preaching and not practicing, what I say rightly has very little weight.

The second one I would call the Argument From Demonstrated Opportunity. If no one is trying to eat sustainably raised animals or produce, then going to Cargill or ADM or whoever and saying "Geez, we think you should raise your chickens/corn/etc sustainably", they'll laugh and say "But look, everyone is buying our corn. No one cares about that, they're happy with what they have." The fact that not everyone is buying their corn or chickens lends weight to the concept that they should change their practices. The same would be true if you go to Congress and say "You should make a law about this". If no one is doing it, they'll say "But no one does this. No one cares." Whereas, if you go to Congress in our world today, you can point to the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who are vegetarian or eat only sustainably raised meat, who buy organic produce, who go to farmer's markets. You can say "You should encourage this." It also kills the argument "It's impossible to do this and make money" or just "It's impossible to do this" period.

The same is true for the New York hybrid taxis. What would have happened if no one had bought a Prius, as Friedman is basically recommending (because it doesn't make a difference, right)? That's easy. Hybrids would have been declared a business failure, something no one wanted, and there would never have been an opportunity to even discuss using hybrids in the New York taxi fleet. Therefore, those who decided to buy Priuses to satisfy their personal desires actually did make a difference: they made it possible to discuss implemented hybrids on a wide scale.

And it applies to almost any issue: if no one rode bikes on the roads, we would have nobody to point to when we ask for more bike accommodations (indeed, it would seem clear that we didn't need more). If no one doesn't have a car, if no one actually uses public transit to get around, then we have no one to point to when we ask for better transit. In fact, one of the hardest things to make happen in the transit world is a new route or a new allowance (like bikes on Caltrain). Because it's currently nonexistent or prohibited, there's no direct evidence that it's needed, and so usually (since these things cost money) it's assumed that it isn't needed. There is latent demand for such things, but latent demand has to get very strong and very vocal to be as powerful as demonstrated demand that we create by our own actions. Latent demand is calculated every time a new product is launched or a company is started -- but trying to find latent demand is risky. It's much easier if there's a clear need for a product or service, and we create that proven need for services we desire if we act on our beliefs.

Change has to come from the ground up, as well as the top down. In fact, I would bet that almost all top-down change ultimately originates at the ground level. That's why we write letters to (and lobby) our Congressional representatives. That's why Leo made all the West Wing staffers listen to the fringe people for one day a year. We all have an obligation to do what we can, and tell others what we believe, or most top-down change will never even get started.
tn, snark
As a follow-up to my previous post(s) about Caltrain, I've just had probably my second-worst customer service experience with them, after the obnoxious letter I received last year about bikes on Caltrain. And it's only better because they haven't managed to indirectly insult me yet.

Sometime in July, I submitted an inquiry about the removal of the bike rack at the north end of the southbound platform in Menlo Park using their web form: namely, will it be replaced, if so, when, and why was it removed? It took quite a while for me to get a response at all, and when I did, the response named the wrong station and did not address either of the other issues. I wrote back to ask if in fact there was a bike rack in the works for the station I inquired about and was told that there was and the original response had been a typo and yes, there was a bike rack in the works at Menlo Park.

In September, not having seen any bike rack in evidence, I wrote to ask about when the rack might appear. I should observe that the email responses do come with a note that for new and unrelated inquiries, you should re-file with the web system, and that email inquiries may not get an immediate response. But this wasn't unrelated and I didn't expect an immediate response; also, I had received a previous response. I just don't think it should take six weeks to install a bike rack that was originally removed to make car parking nicer, and I wanted to know when the rack would be installed. I also don't think it should take four months to install it, as it has at this point.

I wrote several times and got no response. Two days ago, a month after my last request, I got a longish response informing me that I should file a new inquiry because that was somehow the correct thing to do, and I should not write to the person because I wouldn't get a response. Except that I did just get a response telling me I couldn't get a response.

I would presume that the person is question is busy, but it takes a fair bit of time to write such a response. Why not just answer my question? Surely it isn't that hard to contact whatever the appropriate department is, ask the question, get an answer, and write it in a very short email. Unless, perhaps, there is no such bike rack. With no concrete objective to hold them to, I have no way of knowing that they're not lying to me. Alternatively, the person in question is essentially being deliberately lazy, obnoxious, and unhelpful.

I responded again to point out that it would have been easier to just answer my question, and got, get this, yet ANOTHER letter saying the exact same thing in different words, still not answering my question. This kind of behavior would have been not only unacceptable, but virtually unthinkable, when I worked in a customer service job. You answered the question, or you called someone who could, or helped the person find someone who could. Regardless of whether it was your problem or your customer or related to your area or not. You certainly did not repeatedly tell someone (at length!) "Sorry, I can't help you" unless you actually couldn't because they were asking for something that was impossible to provide. Clearly I'm not asking for something that's impossible to provide, because if I refile, the request will go to someone with the exactly equivalent job description to this person's.

If I thought this was a problem with the particular person I'm interacting with, I would certainly be happy to 'name and shame', but it's clearly an institutional problem and that attitude must be either tacitly or actively encouraged, because it runs through every single response I've ever received, even the ones that nominally address the question I wrote to them about.

If there were a contest for "how unhelpful can we be by pretending to be helpful", or "most politely hostile customer service reps", Caltrain customer service would definitely win the platinum trophy.

I'll have to see if I can get better responses by calling (it's harder to stall someone who can say immediately 'Excuse me, I think you're not really addressing my question'), or else if it's to do with bikes on Caltrain, I'm going to start going directly to the SVBC (now including the PBPC), because otherwise I'm clearly getting nowhere.

And I certainly no longer have any presumption of good faith on Caltrain's part. Individuals within Caltrain, maybe. Caltrain as a whole? No.
tn, snark
I think that, as usual, Glenn Greenwald has said it well in the case of Mukasey:

"Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.

How, then, can this be explained?

The Senate confirmed Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night, approving him despite Democratic criticism that he had failed to take an unequivocal stance against the torture of terrorism detainees.

The 53-to-40 vote made Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge, the third person to head the Justice Department during the tenure of President Bush . . . Thirty-nine Democrats and one independent [Bernie Sanders] opposed him.

Beyond that, four Senate Democrats running for President missed the vote, and all four had announced they oppose Mukasey's confirmation. Thus, at least 44 Senators claimed to oppose Mukasey's confirmation -- more than enough to prevent it via filibuster. So why didn't they filibuster, the way Senate Republicans have on virtually every measure this year which they wanted to defeat?"

And what the hell was going on with this coming to vote with so many of the '08 candidates not there to do, or not do, what they promised? Do Democrats control when things come up to vote, or don't they?

Democrats are just not serious about bringing the administration to account, in general. Opposing is not enough if you aren't willing to use the legitimate means at your disposal to make your opposition real.

There's a number of good comments on the article (it's one of the most civilized and substantive blog comment threads I've ever read, actually), one of the best of which is jayackroyd's, which relevantly brings up the only good argument that I ever saw about confirming Mukasey, namely that we could have ended up with so much worse:

"It is not merely that we could have done no better. It is that we would have had much worse. Failing to confirm Mukasey would have ended the confirmation role of the senate for presidential appointments for the remainder of the term. Bush would simply have left postions open...or filled them with interims who could never be confirmed....The administration modified the Patriot Act after it was passed to permit unconfirmed USA appointments. (Question to Leahy: "Why are most of those appointees still in place?")

The appointment of a purely political commissar to the AG post would do even more damage to the DOJ, and to the rule of law of in general. Looseheadprop over at FDL has been writing recently about the greatly reduced productivity of the depattment, with many fewer prosecutions, and even fewer convictions than under previous administrations. Putting someone in who could rebuild the department is not without merit...."

He goes on to say:

"However...this whole line of argument implciitly assumes that the Congress has no remedy to a president who holds the confirmation process in contempt, and will willfully violate the confirmation provisions of the Consititution. What Bush has said here, again, is that if you want to stop what I am doing, then start impeachment proceedings. Short of that, there is no letter nor spirit of the Constitution that binds me.

It is absolutely breathtaking that impeachment is off the table in the face of this contemptuous disregard for what I thought were inviolate, core American values."

Couldn't have said it better. This is a really good analysis, and one that I hadn't quite gotten to -- I was still stuck at "Mukasey should not be confirmed, but man, we actually could end up with worse." It shows that the fundamental problem is much deeper than what to do about Mukasey: it's what to do about a president who doesn't care about the rule of law. And the bulk of the Democratic party power structure has decided that the answer is to wait it out, rather than fight it out. Let things get worse and worse and worse, don't care about anything that happens to Americans or anything that happens to anyone who runs afoul of the illegal, immoral behavior being allowed to go on. Anything they grandstand about to the contrary is exactly that: grandstanding. Bullshit. Lip service. There is no line in the sand that they won't erase when a Republican trips over it, no line in their souls that they won't blur for the sake of political tactics.

With the confirmation of an AG who isn't willing to call a spade a spade on the matter of torture, I couldn't disagree more with their decision than I do right now. And I couldn't agree more with ondelette about the digustingness of Feinstein.
pie, happy
I glanced through the article in the Mercury News yesterday about Tom Lantos saying to Jerry Yang and Michael Callahan "Morally, you are pygmies" (it's been republished widely, so various accounts and commentary are easy to find). My first reaction is that like Lantos, I think that what Yahoo did is morally reprehensible. However, I also think that Yahoo is a public company whose primary, if not only, imperative -- under the law of this country -- is shareholder ROI.

China is a huge market. The day that either 1) Yahoo's shares go down when they do business in China or 2) Doing business in China is made illegal is the only day that they can justify a decision not to do business there -- and not complying with the Chinese government's repressive rules is in effect a decision not to do business there, because it'll get them blocked.

If we want to change this state of affairs, we should either outlaw doing business with China, or we should change the laws under which companies are incorporated so that they can incorporate something besides profit into their decision-making without having to go through a lengthy justification about how this other thing is really in their long-term monetary interest too, or we, as a nation, should stop buying their stock if they engage in business in China (which is a free-market way of outlawing doing business there).

Besides which, I don't think Lantos is much of a moral giant himself. I haven't done research yet, but from various comments it appears he's not much for protecting American constitutional rights either. Let's get our own government straightened out before we go around telling people who do business with other governments that they're moral pygmies.
magic in the kitchen, cooking
Well, zetetyc has insisted that I address the nomenclatural issues involved in being vegetarian or otherwise selective about the way one eats animal products.

I'm most likely going to offend someone in the course of writing this entry, so consider yourself forewarned.

The ordinary definition of 'vegetarian' in common use in the US today is someone who doesn't eat products that are the result of animals being killed. I think some people who are less aware of how it's used would just think of it as not eating animal flesh, but for people who are vegetarians and those familiar with the issues, I think it's much more along the lines of the former.

Pescetarians, vegetarians, and omnivores, oh my!Collapse )

Ultimately, I'm certainly not going to go around being the vegetarian definition police. Not only is it annoying and unjustified, but also I seem to remember something about a beam in my own eye...
Ran across an enjoyable post and comments where the comments are brief descriptions of people's favorite vegetarian recipes. Most of them look really tasty but this one caught my eye for a different reason:

Easy, and one of my favorite recipes - Vegetarian Risotto. I use veggie stock, sundried tomatoes, spinach, white beans and parmesan (it's even vegan).
lekkercraft at 3:50PM on 10/29/07

This kind of thing makes me crazy. Any recipe that involves parmesan? Not vegan, unless it's brazil nut parmesan, i.e. nut shavings that look like powdered parmesan and are tasty in a very different way. Often, recipes that involve parmesan are not even technically vegetarian, because most parmesan is made with rennet (calf stomach), which you have to kill the calf to get.

It really is not that hard to remember what makes something not vegan, or not vegetarian, for that matter. If it contains something that came from an animal, it's not vegan. If an animal involved in the process has to be dead for you to use the item, it's not vegetarian. Just think through that, read your labels, and you should be all set.

Gelatin: not vegetarian. (Use agar instead.) Chicken stock: not vegetarian. Fish: not vegetarian. Chicken: definitely not vegetarian. I wouldn't even write it down, except for the number of times that every vegetarian I know has heard, "So, you're vegetarian. But you eat chicken, right?" Is chicken a fruit, vegetable, bean, grain, nut, seed, or fungus? No? Is it still alive when you eat it? No? Okay then.

Eggs: not vegan. Butter: not vegan. Honey: to be avoided if cooking vegan, unless your favorite vegan has told you they eat honey. Cheese: may not be vegan or vegetarian, read the label. Processed foods? Always read the label. Casein? Whey powder? Not vegan; they come from milk.

There are marginal cases that can get a little confusing, basically because contrary to stereotype, not every vegetarian/vegan is an absolutist. For example, some vegetarians eat cheese made with rennet. Some people who call themselves vegetarian also eat fish, though common definitions of vegetarian exclude this possibility. (The debate about nomenclature here is a whole other entry, which I will write if demanded but otherwise would prefer to skip.) Sugar is also a case where you should be aware: some sugar is bleached with bone-char (burnt animal bones), so you can use unbleached or buy a brand of sugar that states clearly that they don't. But many people don't actually worry about this. I certainly would not quiz anyone who told me that something contained sugar about what kind of sugar it was. But some people would. And some beer isn't vegan/vegetarian because it's clarified with isinglass (...ew). But basically, the animal/dead animal proscription is a safe one to follow.

Cooking vegan isn't hard and it is tasty, but it takes a minor amount of forethought, or better, a vegan recipe or cookbook. Don't butter the foil, don't saute the vegetables in butter, don't stir in cream in the last step, and don't garnish with parmesan! And don't lie to the person you're cooking for about what you used. It could make them ill, perhaps seriously so, because many vegetarians and vegans are intolerant of the proteins in the foods they don't eat either because of pre-existing sensitivity or because of lack of exposure. Plus, it's just disrespectful. If you like someone enough to cook for them, you should like them enough to take the extra steps to be careful and to be honest with them about what you made.
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