Flabbergasting Statistics

For some reason, I read a number of shocking statistics this week (my emphasis in bold):

  • “In Iraq, women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”
    Jessica Valenti, “For women in America, equality is still an illusion”, Washington Post, 02/21/2010
  • “The components in Apple’s cheapest iPad tablet computer cost an estimated $229.05. The device will retail for $499 when it goes on sale in March, giving Apple a gross profit margin of 54 percent…”
    The Week, 02/26/2010, quoting Business Week
  • Forty percent of AT&T’s wireless-broadband capacity is taken up by just 3 percent of the network’s users.”
    The Week, 02/26/2010, quoting The Economist
  • “‘Bad’ genes of the inherited variety are thought to account for less than 10 percent of breast cancers, and only 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have any known risk factor…at all. Bad lifestyle choices like a fatty diet have, after brief popularity with the medical profession, been largely ruled out. Hence, groups like Breast Cancer Action argue, suspicion should focus on environmental carcinogens, such as plastics, pesticides…, and the industrial runoff in our ground water. No carcinogen has been linked definitely to human breast cancer yet, but many carcinogens have been found to cause the disease in mice, and the inexorable increase of the disease in industrialized nations–about 1 percent a year between the 1950s and the 1990s–further hints at environmental factors, as does the fact that women migrants to industrialized countries quickly develop the same breast cancer rates as those who are native born.”
    p. 25 in Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-sided, 2009

Embrace Tofu

Does tofu frighten, revolt, or confuse you? Well, it shouldn’t. In the right context, tofu can be amazingly satisfying and delicious. For a long time, I had no idea what to do with the stuff, but then I found 3 recipes in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Nutrition Action. Suddenly, I had the keys to the kingdom of tofu. The recipes are available here. I haven’t made the Satay Tofu yet because I love the Soy-Balsamic Tofu recipe so much and make it frequently. The Sesame-Crusted Tofu is also very good (pictured over salad on above), but has a gentler flavor than the Balsamic recipe. Use extra firm tofu for all recipes and be sure to drain and blot dry (as best you can) the tofu before use.

If you feel similarly apprehensive about tempeh, take a look at Carole Raymond’s Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook. Although aimed at 18-year-olds rethinking their diet of pizza and Natty Bo, this cookbook contains a few gems, including Crusty Tempeh Cutlets (pg. 201) and Italian-Flavored Tempeh Nuggets (pg. 124). The recipes are visible on Google Books, just follow the link above.

Onion Lovers of the World, Unite!

Last night John made French Onion Soup, one of our favorite comfort foods. I compiled the recipe from a few different sources, but he’s the one with enough patience to sit by the stove and wait for the onions to caramelize. I’ve shared the recipe below; I would have liked to include a picture, but this isn’t a very photogenic soup.

This makes two large servings. If you want leftovers, make double.

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 onions, quartered and sliced
4 cloves garlic
dash of sugar
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart vegetable broth
French bread
Gruyère cheese, grated

Melt butter with oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, until they soften. Add garlic and a dash of sugar (to assist caramelization). Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until the onions turn a rich brown (approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour). Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning.

Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to blend. Add white wine and let bubble for 1 minute. Pour in stock, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Place sliced French bread on baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Broil until cheese melts.

To serve, either place soup in bowls with cheese toast on top or place cheese toast in bowls and ladle soup over top.

Smithsonian Favorites

John and I went to both branches of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art today.  I’ve always found the Museum of Am. Art, attached to the National Portrait Gallery, a perennial hit, but I had never been to Renwick before.  Designed by the same architect of the Smithsonian Castle, the Renwick began as the Corcoran Gallery and now focuses on American decorative arts and crafts.


A few months ago, my mom and I went to Faces of the Frontier at the National Portrait Gallery.  Having seen the people who constructed the West physically and mythically (John Muir to Buffalo Bill), I was curious to see Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan.  O’Sullivan accompanied geographic and geologic surveyors to Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, among other states.  His work served both functional and artistic purposes; in addition to aiding the surveyors, the photographs contributed to the development and colonization of the West.  The pictures portray a world of extremes (thundering waterfalls, deep canyons, craggy mountains), but also a world of potential.

Humans and animals make only rare appearances.  Although many of the pictures from “Faces of the Frontier” and “Framing the West” are contemporary, they show very different experiences of the West:  one illustrates a land of larger than life figures and the other a vast, contemplative wilderness Edward Abbey would savor.  It would be neat to see an O’Sullivan albumen print next to a recent photo of the same location.  I’m curious to see how much or little humans have changed these remote places since O’Sullivan’s explorations in the 1870s.


The small, but impressive and impeccably decorated Renwick Gallery was a lot of fun. The Grand Salon, filled with a number of striking paintings, reminded me of the Corcoran Gallery. I liked seeing the work of so many unknown (to me at least) American painters. Check out the paintings from the Grand Salon on Flickr. (The painting to the right, a self portrait by Alice Pike Barney, was one of my favorites.)

In the Grand Salon, John and I found ourselves repeatedly drawn to paintings by Romaine Brooks. Like so many artists, she wasn’t well known in her own time, but Wikipedia tells me that her androgynous portraits have attracted the attention of modern critics.

In the other rooms of the Renwick, we saw “decorative arts and craft,” but I would prefer to think of it all as sculpture.  Most fascinating were the pieces that worked on two levels:  they were things made out of unexpected materials.  Carved wood that looked deceptively like cloth in Ghost Clock. (I had to walk away because only my finger tips could tell me the truth, but there was a giant DO NOT TOUCH sign.) A banquet made of glass. A fish made from fiberglass, beads, scrabble tiles, and other objects. I just really liked the Renwick. It was a sublime mix of traditional painting and modern sculpture.

Love Burns. In a Good Way.

Israeli playwright Edna Mazya’s  first novel concerns a love affair and a murder, with a dash of astrophysics (summary available here).  Love Burns has the psychological thrill of Crime and Punishment, tempered by the absurdity of the narrator, a middle aged professor, who swings from self-pitying passivity to well…I wouldn’t want to give it away.  Mazya’s experience with the theater shows  as the chapters sometimes feel like monologues and she excels at concocting tense, awkward situations where the characters’  subtexts shine through.  It’s the kind of book where you go to stifle your laughter and find that your hand was already covering your mouth in dismay.

Postscript:  I would like to express my love for all things published by Europa Editions.

An Epic Snowstorm or Why This Blog

I haven’t been to work in over a week due to the record amounts of snow in the Mid-Atlantic region. I needed to do something…whether productive or not remains to be seen. I had encouragement from a colleague and I had been reading about the low cost of failure in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody so I had no excuse not to try.

I’ve been using WordPress for two projects at work, but I was curious to see the .com side. Also, I didn’t feel like paying for hosting (yes, I know it’s cheap) or dealing with backups or customization (although the creative side of me regrets the limitations) for an endeavor that may or may not succeed. But here’s to the fun while it lasts.