June 2008

We tend to enjoy composed salads, so I tried a recipe I found in Epicurious for Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Dill. It got raves from the site’s users. I thought it was basically just OK, and that I have a better lentil salad recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. The salad ingredients are fine, I think, and it’s mostly the dressing that I didn’t find appealing. The Epicurious recipe uses a dressing with red wine vinegar, whereas Cook’s uses Dijon mustard in theirs.

Woo hoo, local strawberries are here! I got a couple of pints at a nearby farmstand the other day, and they were delicious. The difference between local and out-of-state big agribusiness strawberries is huge. Berries you get in the grocery store are like pebbles dunked in red food coloring and weak strawberry flavor. The local ones are tender, juicy, flavorful, … a total knock out. Yay!


Somehow in nine years of living in Seattle I’d never been to Chop Suey. What caused me to break that unintentional snubbin’ streak? Why, the prospect of seeing 9 local bands covering Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, in order.

It was a party thrown by Three Imaginary Girls, in honor of the album’s 15-year anniversary and the Girls’ own 6-year anniversary of publishing about the local scene. Each band performed two consecutive tracks, and the bands were well matched with their songs – each band seemed able to show its strengths.

Of course, some were stronger than others. A couple of bands sounded like they’d just completed their second semester at U-JIG (aka the University of Jamming In the Garage). Even so, it was SUCH a treat to hear these songs live!

I went with two friends; sadly theCultFigure couldn’t join us because he was playing tennis. Details after the jump.


donkeykong Good documentaries about little-known subcultures often seem to be about more than just the subculture. The King of Kong is one such documentary. On its surface, it’s a fascinating look into the world of competitive Donkey Kong. Yeah, I had no idea that actual adult humans still cared about who has the highest score on a classic arcade game. I guess that makes as much sense as anything else. But the real focus is on timeless universal themes of good and evil, integrity, hypocrisy, one man’s longing to succeed at something…

The protagonist who drives the movie is a sincere, likeable, borderline sad-sack guy: Steve Wiebe from Redmond, WA. Despite having what seems like a supportive, decent family and network of friends, he is haunted by feelings of inferiority and failures from his past. To cheer himself up after losing his job, he throws himself into Donkey Kong and sets his sights on the longstanding high score from 1982.

And break it he does, early in the movie, out in his garage. He sends in the videotape to the central authority in Iowa that certifies these things (again, who knew?). But Steve’s an unknown in the insular circle-jerk world of competitive video gamers, which has seen countless cheaters and debunked high scores…

Steve’s quest to be recognized as Donkey Kong champ has to be seen to be believed. The reigning champ and villain of the story is such a self-adoring pompous egomaniac asshole, he too has to be seen to be believed. I was amazed at how invested in the outcome I became. See The King of Kong ASAP!

Is this one of the most cognitive-dissonance-inducing headlines you’ve seen in a while?

Catholic charity helped teen get abortion

RICHMOND, Va. – Authorities are investigating whether a Catholic charity violated state and federal law by helping a 16-year-old illegal immigrant who was in the organization’s care get an abortion.

This organization, Commonwealth Catholic Charities, subcontracts for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which receives

federal funds to place unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in foster care until they’re reunited with relatives, sponsored, or returned to their homeland.

The issues are exactly what you’d expect:

Federal law bans the use of federal money to pay for abortions with exceptions for rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother. Virginia law requires parental consent for an abortion for a girl under 18.

What a nauseating reminder of who’s near (or at) the bottom of the proverbial pile in this country. I have a LOT of questions.

I can’t help wondering how a 16-year old immigrant winds up pregnant. Are we sure she wasn’t raped, in which case the federal law wouldn’t apply? Did she even leave Guatemala voluntarily? Guatemala is connected with human trafficking, including selling teen girls into U.S. brothels, i.e. into rape slavery.

According to the article, Commonwealth signed the abortion consent form for the Guatemalan teen and helped her to travel to and from her appointment. The article is thin on details but it doesn’t sound like there’s evidence (yet) that they helped pay for the abortion. Maybe whatever transportation costs were associated with helping her can be traced back to their budget?

As for the state law, I wonder how someone in her situation is supposed to obtain parental consent. Trafficked or not, we are talking about a teenager who would leave her family and country and emigrate to the U.S., a situation that does not seem conducive to obtaining parental consent for a very time-sensitive procedure. Furthermore, can an illegal immigrant expect to go before a judge and ask to have the consent waived? Why can’t an organization that was essentially this girl’s caretaker be allowed to sign the consent form for this?

Personally I’m glad this organization chose to help her get an abortion. An immigrant teenager all alone in this country might feel that carrying a pregnancy to term is not in her best interest. Especially if she is hoping to be placed in foster care, as per the organization’s mission. What a sad story.

By total serendipity, an IMAX movie was recently finishing up its run at the Pacific Science Center: Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. Having just finished reading about it, I was really interested to check this out. One of the benefits of being underemployed is being free to go to the IMAX in the middle of the afternoon :-)

I’m not convinced that $8 for 30 minutes is a great bargain, but it was a fantastic movie. It combined breathtaking footage of the icy Antarctic seas and continent with still photos and video footage from Shackleton’s expedition. They also staged some current-day recreations of what it might have looked like to camp on those ice floes among those beautiful and gigantic icebergs, to row those ridiculously little boats in the stormiest ocean on Earth, and to hike across the glaciers and mountains of South Georgia Island. Incredible.

HNIC I still can’t believe this is happening – my favorite show is losing its theme song. Hockey Night in Canada has been using the same theme song since 1968, apparently, and the owner of the song’s rights was asking a renewal price that was too rich for CBC’s blood. It is going to be so weird next year to tune in to hockey and not hear that song. Gaah!

The rights to the song were purchased by a rival network in Canada (one we don’t get in the States). That tune is so thoroughly and, you’d think, inextricably linked to both HNIC and CBC. It seems counterintuitive that another network would even try to make it their own:

[CBC Sports executive director Scott] Moore said he was surprised a rival network would purchase something so inextricably linked to the Hockey Night brand.

“It’s a constant commercial for our network,” he said.

Like the quote on the back of the book says:

“For scientific discovery, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” –unattributed

I figured after reading a book that took place in the Arctic (The Long Exile), why not follow up with a book that takes place in the Antarctic? In 1914, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship became trapped in ice, drifted for ~9 months, was eventually crushed by the ice and sank, and the crew of 28 men drifted on ice floes for 5 more months. And that is the backstory. This incredible account of their eventual safe rescue, written by his ship’s captain, begins after all that – when their ice floe camps finally reach the edge of the ice pack and they’re able to put their three little rescue boats back in actual water. It’s positively mind-boggling what they endured, and an amazing testament to Shackleton’s leadership and dedication to his crew.

There were many fascinating photographs of the crew, the seas, the ice, their original vessel trapped in the ice, and their camps. The front of the book also had an excellent map showing their whole path, which I loved being able to refer to. The only downside of this book was all the technical sailing jargon. It’s like, every damn rope on the boat has its own name. I have zero background in sailing, so most of that went over my head entirely which was kind of annoying.

Bottom line: recommended, especially if you can put up with sailing jargon.

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