Archive for October, 2010

I really hope that the other tenants of our house on Claremont Avenue have Googled me at one point or another and perhaps follow my blog without my knowledge. If you do, let me just say that WHOEVER GOT INTO MY CAR, LOOKED FOR THE CIGARETTE LIGHTER IN MY GLOVE COMPARTMENT, AND SMOKED ALL, OR AT LEAST PART, OF A CIGARETTE WHILE SITTING IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT, I HOPE YOU GO TO HELL.

Let’s backtrack for everyone else now. We keep our cars in a big driveway behind the house. Since I don’t have to park on the street and I had assumed my neighbors to at least have some sense of human decency (however miniscule), I often left my driver’s side door unlocked. I did it mostly for the ease of getting into my car in the morning, when I often have my hands full and would rather not have to dig my keys out of my purse.

This morning I was leaving the house to go get a haircut, and when I got into my car I was instantly greeted with the odor of cigarette smoke. Then I saw that my glove compartment was open. Since I don’t use the cigarette lighter, I keep the little button part in the glove box, which is what they must have figured out. Then I saw the leftover ashes on my seat. Feeling pretty dumbfounded, I called Michael and he said that he thought our neighbor Hugh had some people over last night, because he heard them outside. So, I’m going to assume it was either him or one of his stupid friends. I don’t think the other tenants smoke, so they’re more off my radar, although at this point I really wouldn’t put it past them either.

Of course there will be no confrontations on the matter, but if anything fishy ever happens again, BE ADVISED THAT YOU WILL BE DEALING WITH MORE THAN AN ANGRY BLOG POST.


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Dear Rachel,

Seems like mental gymnastics and verbal calisthenics will be needed to explain the enclosed fifty-five dollar check. Grandpa saw a major crisis when granddaughter decided to pass up a carefree summer in favor of working to earn some money.

Reconciliation came out of accepting that work experience is a valued part of life experience, ordinarily not as enticing as a lazy summer, but nevertheless valued.

Grandpa felt a compulsion to do something to balance the tradeoff. What? Suppose we try a supplement to the wage? But it can’t be just a handout conveying the notion that there is a free lunch.

Let’s call it an object lesson underscoring the reward that comes out of commitment, application, sacrifice (all for fifty-five bucks)!!

I understand that you worked fifty-five hours last summer and this represents a supplement of one dollar per hour for each of these hours.

It really represents our immesureable love for you.


Dear Rachel,

You are now an official adult! That gives you the right to vote!! We know that you are extremely intelligent, and so we are counting on you—together with others of somewhat comparable intelligence—to knock that pipsqueak named Bush right out of the ballpark.

Counting on you with love and pride,
Grandma and Grandpa

A fun fact about Rita—she used to work for Irving Kristol, a conservative journalist/columnist/magazine editor. He died in 2009, and all of the subsequent articles written about him also make mention of her.

Only slightly larger than a college dormitory room, that Public Interest office was as stuffed with manuscripts and books and magazines as it was with people maneuvering around all the obstacles, including two or three interns, a managing editor, Irving’s longtime (and universally adored) secretary Rita Lazzaro, and of course Irving himself, issuing a steady stream of wisecracks, phone calls, and dictated correspondence into the chaos.

Today she is missed.

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Natural gas drilling is something I knew nothing about until recently. Based on what I’ve learned, I think it is an issue that way more people need to be aware of. Here is my brief summary.

There are two types of gas drilling. There is the conventional method, where the drilling is conducted into pockets or reservoirs to pull out natural gas. Then there’s the newer method that injects water, sand, and chemicals into tight shale deposits, horizontally fracturing the shale to release trapped gas. This is known as hydraulic fracturing, and it is a process used in 90% of natural gas wells in the United States.

Click on the thumbnail for a bigger view of this graphic, which gives a step-by-step breakdown of the process.

“Fracking” has had a negative impact on the environment. Calculations performed by the EPA show that at least nine hydraulic fracturing chemicals may be injected into or close to underground sources of drinking water at concentrations that pose a threat to human health. These chemicals may be injected at concentrations that are anywhere from 4 to almost 13,000 times the acceptable concentration in drinking water.

In the HBO documentary Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox travels west to Wyoming and other surrounding states, where fracking is extremely prevalent. The documentary shows tap water so contaminated that it can be set on fire, chronically ill residents, and huge pools of toxic waste that kill livestock and vegetation. Watching this film was a real eye-opener for me and just before it was over, I found myself breathing a little sigh of relief, because at least this isn’t going on on the east coast. Right? Well, actually, no.

The Marcellus Shale is a unit of marine sedimentary rock found in eastern North America. Named for a distinctive outcrop near the village of Marcellus, New York, it extends throughout much of the Appalachian Basin. The Marcellus Shale could meet all the United States’ natural gas needs for more than two years, according to some geologists. With energy prices reaching record highs, at least nine companies are trying to lock up leases to drill in the Marcellus Shale, which lies as much as 9,000 feet beneath the earth’s surface under New York, Pennsylvania and the southern Appalachian states.

Luckily, this issue is starting to get a lot more attention. According to an article in The New York Times, “Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York introduced legislation this summer that would require drilling companies to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and disclose the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing processes. Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Charles Schumer of New York introduced companion legislation in the Senate.”

I know that there won’t be an end to this type of natural gas drilling, but I can only hope that we will see more regulations in the future. Do you want flammable tap water?

Additional sources consulted for this blog:

Hydraulic Fracturing 101

Pro Publica – Hydraulic Fracturing

The Wall Street Journal – Drilling Tactic Unleashes a Trove of Natural Gas—And a Backlash

WBFO, Buffalo – How hydraulic fracturing impacts environment

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Last night I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which led me to do a little research on Georges Méliès, one of the earliest filmmakers. One of his most famous films was A Trip to the Moon, which you’re probably familiar with, even if you don’t realize it.

According to Wikipedia, “A print of the film was acquired by Thomas Edison, who then duplicated and distributed it in the United States, where it achieved financial success; however, Edison did not pay any revenues to Méliès. In 1913, Georges Méliès’ film company was forced into bankruptcy by the large French and American studios and his company was bought out of receivership by Pathé Frères. Méliès did not grasp the value of his films, and with some 500 films recorded on cellulose, the French Army seized most of this stock to be melted down into boot heels during World War I. Many of the other films were sold to be recycled into new film. As a result many of his films do not exist today.” Luckily, Méliès was later rediscovered, honored for his work, and given numerous prestigous awards.

Other people were not so lucky, and were doomed to fade into Edison’s shadow.

Do you know who Joseph Swan is? He was a British scientist who invented the light bulb in 1879. Edison patented his lightbulb in 1880. Swan was actually one of many other people who were developing the light bulb at the time, but Edison is the one who always gets the credit.

And then there’s poor Tesla, who got screwed over, not just by Edison, but by a lot of people. His is a long, but interesting story.

Anyway, those are just a few examples of how Edison piggybacked on the work of other inventors. Everyone thinks he’s so great, and I’m sure we do have a lot to thank him for…but I still don’t really like him.

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I wanted to turn your attention to the recent story about how FritoLay decided to forego its biodegradable Sun Chips bags in favor of the old packaging, because they received a ton of complaints about the bags being “too noisy.” I hear a lot of ridiculous things on a daily basis, but this one was pretty unforgiveable and unjustifiable. This just goes to show that people really only care about helping the planet as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them in any way. I’ve eaten Sun Chips since the new bags were launched, and yes, they are pretty noisy and crackly. But halting their production because of that? What kind of people would make such an outlandish complaint? Spoiled, fat Americans—that’s who. You KNOW they were mad about the bags because all of the crinkling, crackling noises made it harder for them to hear the TV while they were sitting on the couch chowing down on an entire bag of Sun Chips.

I think people are starting to believe that simply having a more heightened awareness of the environment and talking a lot about “going green” will be enough to cause some sort of planetary change. Those of us whose lives are based more in reality realize that the things that we do on a daily basis are what effect the world around us. As such, some of the things we do will need to be changed if we want the environment to change for the better. And to me, this whole chip debacle doesn’t bode well for us as a society that is trying to be more environmentally conscious. If people don’t wise up soon, I don’t think we stand a chance.

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If you’re looking for a nice, savory, aromatic bread, this one’s for you. I made it a couple of weeks ago and it was heavenly. I made the biga (starter) the night before, but was also charged with the added task of making some mashed potatoes as well. I got up early the next morning and busied myself with chopping fresh rosemary and roasting some garlic while the refrigerated biga got back up to room temperature. By 9am, my house was already starting to smell like Thanksgiving, and I hadn’t even baked the bread yet.

Once all the prep work was done, I combined the biga, mashed potatoes, olive oil, coarse black pepper, rosemary, salt, yeast, and more flour. After kneading the dough for a few minutes, I patted it down into a rectangle and spread the roasted garlic across the top—then continued to knead a little bit more. The formula yielded enough dough for two loaves, so I decided to make one loaf and six dinner rolls, which I baked in muffin tins.

Baking this bread made my house smell. so. good. The combination of garlic and rosemary scents made me want to roast a turkey, cook up some stuffing, and make a pumpkin pie. Definitely a great fall bread. And it looked pretty, too!

We had it with dinner that night, along with the rest of the mashed potatoes (seen in the background), and some sort of entree that I have since forgotten (not turkey). The inside of the bread was light and spongy, and we could really taste the rosemary in every bite. The crust was soft; not crunchy at all, which wasn’t really a bad thing with this particular loaf, but this continues to be an issue I have with almost all of my breads. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of that.

While this bread did require a little extra prep, it totally paid off and I would recommend the recipe in a heartbeat. Happy Early Thanksgiving!

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