Thursday, June 28, 2007

How Safe Is Your Food?

When I first read and heard about
reports of tainted pet food from China and then toothpaste as well, I had a sinking feeling that there would be more to come. I have nothing against China as such but I this whole rush for making them our supplier for everything we consume, because it is cheap was bound to come up against the harsh reality. Food safety laws are lax in China.

This is news to some maybe. But food safety laws often are lax in a lot of parts of the world especially in the developing world and other poor nations (not to mention corruption that makes enforcement harder). The efficiencies that accrue from having one global supplier of farmed fish, tooth paste and other consumables do help with the bottom line. But it also increases the risk of something like this snowballing when the controls and regulations that are meant to assure food safety and quality are lax to nonexistent.

So now the Chinese authorities scramble to get their act together, look at some of the stuff that is going on there. From the NY Times
link, and if you want take a listen to the story from NPR here.


SHANGHAI, June 27 — After weeks of insisting that food here is largely safe,
regulators in China said Tuesday that they had recently closed 180 food
plants
and that inspectors had uncovered more than 23,000 food safety
violations.

.....
“These are not isolated cases,” Han Yi, director of the
administration’s quality control and inspection department, told the state-run
media. China Daily, the nation’s English-language newspaper, said industrial
chemicals not intended for use in foods had been found in products as diverse as
candy, pickles and seafood. Among the substances were dyes, mineral oils,
paraffin, formaldehyde and malachite green, a chemical primarily used as a dye
but also used as a topical antiseptic or treatment for parasites and infections
in fish.



You can read the whole article if you are interested.

We are very wary about eating farmed fish, including ones raised in the US. While they may be sure that they are not raising fish that are feeding on its own waste what about the food that the fish consume? It could surely be from a source that could not be vouched for right?

A few weeks back we tried to get some Tilapia (or other kind of fish if we did nto find it) and you can imagine our surprise when almost all the fish that we wanted to buy was farmed in China. *A* very rightly insisted on not buying it.

With these latest reports I am even more convinced that I don’t want to buy fish raised in China or some place that can’t guarantee it’s safety.

This also brought to my mind memories of why I stopped eating greens when I was in India. For the longest time greens (Spinach etc) used to be trucked in to Bombay from farms outside the city. Then suddenly I started noticing plots of land next to the commuter rail lines in Bombay planted with greens. The irrigation source? Water from open canals or drains that often ran next to the tracks which often were contaminated with sewage. You can tell how quickly I stopped eating greens!

My folks made the mistake of eating some brought from the vegetable market some months back. They usually buy things from vendors who they can trust, but that was not the case this time. Mom came down with a very bad stomach virus that needed her to be hospitalized.

Not to say this won’t happen here, we know about the recent Spinach
scare. I guess the industrialization of food and sourcing from countries with lax food and drug enforcement plays a hug role.
I guess when we can be in a food coop, buying locally and from sources we can trust is the way to go.
No large point to this, just my rant of the day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Mighty Heart (Not A review).. Thinking Blogger Award..

Thinking Blogger Award

I have been nominated for this award by Anali. Thank you Anali! I don't have enough words to thank you. I am humbled that you think this blog makes you think. To quote Anali..

Sanjay at Karmically Speaking always has some interesting news, stories, sometimes funny and sometimes not, mindblowing poetry, and even some cooking.

I am supposed to nominate 5 other blogs that make me think. Here is my dilemma. Every blog that I read makes me think and brings something different to the table. Each of your blogs have their own unique signatures, which make it very difficult for me to pick just 5 blogs that make me think. I guess I am going to leave it at that.

A Mighty Heart

Rated R

1 hr 43 mins

Drama

I had a chance to watch the movie “A Mighty Heart” last weekend. To those of you who may not be aware, this movie is based on the kidnapping and eventual murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl and is based on the memoir by his wife and fellow journalist Mariane Pearl.
There is more about the movie here.
I have often wondered about how much a movie based on a real life story would grab my attention. For after all, the broad outlines of this tragic episode are well known along with some unanswered questions. I was therefore very curious about how this movie would work for me at a level that was different from say one of those quick made for TV movies that clutter up that wasteland.
I have to say that this movie succeeds in it’s objective in that it is an engrossing, riveting and a touching portrait of the central characters involved in the search for Daniel Pearl covering the frantic, tension filled days from just before his disappearance to his death. The film directed by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People ,The Road to Guantanamo). The movie has been made/shot in a quasi-documentary style thereby giving it a very authentic feel and despite knowing how it will end it will it draws you in and you feel as if you are in the thick of things.

Things that I loved about the movie..
The casting is just perfect. Yes Angelina Jolie can act. I read a few stories questioning her being cast in the role of Mariane Pearl. I wonder if the naysayers were unable to look past the glamour and celebrity hoopla around her and they overlooked her potential as an actor. I thought she more than held her own, in fact she does an excellent job portraying Mariane Pearl with a quiet intensity and steel about her, yet one can see the anguish that churns within her. From certain camera angles, she looks very much like Mariane especially with her curls and the French accent (just don’t get caught up with her pillowy lips).

Dan Futterman plays Danny Pearl, and I thought this was one of the weaker points of the movie. Not to say Dan does not do a good job, he just is not as well fleshed out, but that is just my opinion. We get to see Danny Pearl mostly via flashbacks and I don’t think I got a real sense of him as much as I would have liked.

Archie Panjabi (Bend It Like Beckham, East Is East) is excellent as Asra Nomani, a colleague of Danny Pearl and it is her rented house in Karachi, Pakistan which serves as a nerve center for the search for Danny Pearl and is also the place where Danny and Mariane lived when they visited Karachi.
The Indian actor Irfan Khan, who was seen recently in “The Namesake” (as the CID officer Javed Habib, in charge of the Pakistani team trying to find Danny Pearl) does a splendid job. He conveys a whole lot with just a gesture, a look and his eyes, quite a powerhouse of an actor.
Will Patton (Remember the titans) plays Randall Bennett from the American consulate. I read reviews about him being this shady character who frequents the murky worlds that overlap diplomacy and intelligence. I did not quite get a sense of him as being that.

There are a host of other actors American, Pakistani and Indian who inhabit this movie and contribute to it to being a really good movie.

The movie has been shot on location in Pakistan (where most of the action unfolds), the US, France and India (Pune, India where they chose to shoot in a place called the Sindh colony where a lot of people who formerly lived in Pakistan (pre partition) live).
Those of you from Bombay might appreciate the scenes served in flashback of Mariane and Danny’s time in Mumbai (Bombay), India including those of landmarks like the Gateway of India and scenes of them on one of Bombay’s commuter trains.

I cannot emphasize enough how well shooting the movie on location in Pakistan works. In captures the crowds, scenes of the place very well. One can almost feel the sense of the place it slowly seeps in to you, for me having lived in India the place felt eerily familiar given that that country has its own substantial Muslim minority population and neighborhoods. I also tried to take a step back imagining myself as being in a foreign land such as Pakistan with the teeming mass of people some of them hostile to you because you are in some ways an infidel. I can imagine what it must have meant to be the “other” there and also the challenge of finding someone in a place that always feels as if it is about to erupt.

The police work and how they go about their jobs also felt very real, including the use of torture. There is one scene where not much is shown but it is rather chillingly obvious what it happening as the cops try to get information to try and rescue Danny.

There is a whole lot I can go on about as to why the movie felt so real but in the interest of keeping this post short and not boring you I won’t.

The movie does not feel exploitative or overtly sentimental. I thought it struck the right balance there. Despite this there are a number of scenes that will be gut wrenching to watch, including the one follows when Mariane is told simply “Danny didn’t make it”.

It is however not free of its amusing moments, including one where the authorities cut off the telephone lines of the neighbors so that they can provide more lines to Asra’s place while remarking that if the neighbors need to make a call they can always come by to Asra’s place.

The film conveys to us the pain, suffering and the loss endured by those affected by terrorism and the forces of religious intolerance and hatred. It also affords us a view of how hard this fight is going to be and that there are no clear cut military solutions. There have to be multiple approaches both by us and the forces of progress and reason in the Islamic world.

This representation of Mariane Pearl’s memoir also conveys to her message about peace, understanding and the need for a dialogue between these different worlds. The members of the Pearl family are already engaged in this process via the Daniel Pearl foundation (The foundation's mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications).

Daniel Pearl’s dad Judea Pearl has been active in this, and I recall listening to both him and Akbar Ahmed on NPR (link), (Akbar Ahmed, a leading Islamic scholar born in Pakistan, joined Judea Pearl in cities all over the US, England and Canada to lead public dialogues about the divisions between Muslims and the West and between Jews and Muslims. Their discussions ranged from policy issues to theological perceptions to truth, lies and deepest fears. This personal yet public dialogue continues to carve a path for mutual understanding between the two communities. Click here for more information.)
Their commendable efforts I hope are not lost amongst the craziness and cry for blood that one often hears.

While I liked this movie there were other voices that thought it did not quite do justice to the memory of Daniel Pearl. One voice that does carry some weight is that of Asra Nomani, his former colleague (who now teaches journalism in Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies). While I don’t completely agree with what she has to say, she raises some interesting points in her article in the Washington Post (*A* pointed out this piece to me, thanks!).

I would surely recommend watching this movie.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Silliness..Friday word (or my lack of doing anything about it)

As per
Mona, the Friday word is "Crush". I could not get to it so maybe over the weekend. I instead have this for which no credit should go to me. From here, please be advised that the link may not be work safe.

Arno: Mixes everything perfectly - Bill Clinton
















Arno: Mixes everything perfectly - George W. Bush














One of these days..

I am afraid I will run over this dog. No I won’t.. I am very careful that way. So here is the deal. I park at the parking lot at the train station, it’s one of those open air types right off the street. I park right next to the wall against which there are plants and other greenery. On some days there is this tiny woman walking an even tinier dog (no don’t ask me what breed it is, it is small not as small as a Chihuahua though). The dog usually runs away from her amongst the bushes doing its “business” and the woman follows or keeps track of it. They have never been close to where I am parking, but have seen the dog dart amongst the cars. I just hope I know it is around when I back out of my spot. I love dogs and I surely don’t wanna run over this one.

No point to this, it’s the end of the week and I am sort of tapped out. :-/

Have a good weekend folks! Will be over to read your blogs over the weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday... I got nothing post

Funnies from overheardinnewyork

Explain the Waffle Iron, Then

Black NYU boy: For some reason, every Asian here has a rice cooker.
Black girl: Why?
Black NYU boy: I don't know, I guess because they're Asian.
Black girl: That's so stupid. I'm black, but you don't see me with a chicken fryer.

--8th St & University Pl

Overheard by: yo mama

via Overheard in New York, Nov 9, 2006

Her People Love Fashion at a Bargain

Older woman: Excuse me, miss?
Younger woman: Yeah?
Older woman: Your veil, your burqa is very beautiful. I didn't know your people were allowed to wear it in bright colors.
Younger woman: It's not a burqa, it's a poncho. I'm Jewish. It's for the rain. I got it at TJ Maxx.

--53rd & 7th

Overheard by: Pam

via Overheard in New York, Jun 9, 2006

Flushed bra causes sewer collapse
link

A bra and a pair of knickers have been blamed for a flood and road collapse in County Durham.

Northumbrian Water said the underwear was flushed down a toilet and caused a blockage in a sewage pipe in Middleton-St-George, near Darlington.

Heavy rain, together with a build up of grease and fat, caused the pipe to burst and the road above to collapse.

The road will remain closed for days and Northumbrian Water estimates repairs will cost more than £15,000......

"When we dug down to inspect the damage, we found a bra and knickers had snagged itself across the nine-inch diameter of the pipe.

"There was also a heavy build-up of grease and fat, which contributed to the situation. We were forced to repair a 2m section of sewer and a 10m section of road was affected.

"These pipes are not designed to carry bras and knickers."

The spokeswoman said it was impossible to trace the owners of the underwear.

She added: "Unfortunately no-one wants to even touch the offending items. They will remain bagged for a time and then disposed of properly."

Diet Dog Food Ad link (may not be safe for work)



The sorry state of our media
I could not find the source for this picture, but it says a lot about our media.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Photo Essay From Iraq

Baghdad, March 2007

I didn’t want to go back.

When I began reporting from Iraq in 2002, I was still a wild and somewhat
naïve twenty-four-year-old kid. Five years later, I was battle-weary. I had been
there longer than the American military and had kept returning long after most
members of the “coalition of the willing” had pulled out. Iraq had become my
initiation, my rite of passage, but instead of granting me a new sense of myself
and a new identity, Iraq had become my identity. Without Iraq, I was
nothing. Just another photographer hanging around New York. In Iraq, I had a
purpose, a mission; I felt important. I didn’t want to go back, but I needed to—and for the worst possible reason: I wasn’t ready for it to end. After twelve months away, I had a craving that only Iraq could satisfy.

My wife didn’t like the idea. Neither did my shrink. “If you go back to Iraq
now,” he warned, “you’ll probably keep going back.” To be completely honest—and
I wasn’t being honest with myself then—part of me knew they were right.

Those are the opening lines of a remarkable moving photo essay by the photographer Ashley Gilbertson, in his article titled "Last Photographs" as it appears in the Virginia Quarterly Review. I am not a regular reader of the review and neither had I heard about Gilbertson (although I may have seen his pictures in the NY times), until I heard him interviewed on fresh air on NPR. Even without the benefit of being able to see the photographs that he was talking about I was riveted by the story. The story was not just about him but about the tragedy of war and the effects it has on those in the midst of it. In the interview, he talks about how he has gone from being pro-war to someone who is documenting a demise. You can interpret whose demise that he is documenting here, in addition to the obvious perhaps it is a metaphor for something larger.
Look at the photos in the article if you feel like and read his thoughts. Our media has hardly covered the war that way it ought to have but there are islands of excellence. This is one of them in my opinion. The part in the article that touched me..

I was winning a card game in the Kurdish headquarters when Times reporter Edward Wong rushed in to say a call had just come in from a Sunni woman in the process of being illegally evicted from her home. With no time to get our flak jackets
and helmets, we jumped into the back of a Kurdish armored truck. At the scene,
two men stood against a wall, arguing with a woman in a blue headscarf. One of
the men was armed with a pistol, the other with eviction papers. The men would
listen to the woman for a moment, then shout at her. Even after soldiers had
arrived at the scene, the men spoke and acted with conviction.

The woman in the blue headscarf was Suaada Saadoun, a widowed Sunni mother of
seven. After a year spent in Syria to escape sectarian violence, she and her
family had returned home to one of only four remaining Sunni households in the
Shiite Ali Salah section of Khadamiya. Suaada explained that the two men
claiming to be from the Ministry of Finance carried fraudulent eviction papers,
and that this was the second time since her return that they had attempted to
forcibly evict her and her family. Exasperated and with nowhere else to turn,
Suaada had called the Kurds....

The soldiers eventually concluded that the men were probably Mahdi Army
fighters. Working hand in hand with the Iraqi police, the Mahdi militia, under
orders from renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was trying to ensure that no
Sunnis or other “undesirables” entered their neighborhoods. Captain Morales, the
US officer in charge of the Kurdish soldiers, sent the suspects back to base for
questioning. Suaada sat down in her courtyard, smiling warmly at her family and
the crowd of soldiers. She looked genuinely happy, elated even. I took a picture
of the pleasant, unusual moment, and walked out to the street with the Kurdish
troops, who were heralded with clapping and cheers from Sunnis living in the
neighborhood. Many of them also had been threatened, and celebrated Suaada’s
small victory as though it were their own. Later, Captain Morales told Ed that
helping Suaada had been the most successful mission of the company’s tour.


Suaada smiles after Shiite militia were stopped from evicting her from her house.

The next morning, Suaada was shot dead in an alley near her home. A distraught
Captain Morales and his platoon drove to Suaada’s house where her hysterical
daughters and grandchildren lined the driveway. While they interviewed her
calmer family members, I stayed outside with the funeral party. It was
heartbreaking. The day before, her grandchildren were playing pranks on me,
joking around while Suaada defended their home; her smiling daughters had held
my gaze for longer than usual for Iraqi women, to the point of actually making
me uncomfortable. I felt like a bastard taking photographs of them now, framing
their pain, but I had to tell their story.



Suaada’s daughter wails after hearing her mother had been executed.

Suaada had been walking home from the market when she was shot eight times.
Some neighboring bakers said they’d heard the pistol fire, but saw nothing. By
the time we arrived, Suaada’s body had been taken to the morgue, and all that
remained was a pool of blood sinking into the soil around a tree’s roots, one
brass shell casing, and Suaada’s upper denture plate. The dentures were
disturbing. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, and standing there, it occurred to
me that once again I’d made the final photographs of a murdered human being.
Reporters began telling me I was bad luck. I was starting to believe them...

This murder troubled me on many levels. Suaada’s story contained a simple
truth about Iraq today: the Americans, regardless of how hard they try, are
powerless in combating sectarian violence. And the soldiers know it. Throughout
my entire rotation I’d hear a variation of the same bleak outlook from officers,
noncoms, and enlisted men. With few exceptions, American soldiers I came across
felt their mission to quell the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was pointless. “What
can you do?” Captain Morales’s first sergeant said after Suaada’s murder. “It’s
their problem. This is their country, and they need to work it out among
themselves. There’s nothing we can do about it.” The soldiers don’t dwell on
this, but after Suaada’s death, after all the deaths, I do. My photographs of
Suaada’s last hours and death might make a poignant point, but they can’t bring
her back to life.



Suaada’s dentures lie on the ground after she was assassinated.

To anyone interested...

Award-winning photographer Ashley Gilbertson has spent much of the past five years in Iraq, taking incredible photographs for The New York Times and other publications. Born in 1978, Gilbertson has captured some of the world's most dangerous places on camera. A book of his work, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War, will be published this fall.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is This Fascination With How A Candidate Smells Just Weird Or Is This Something I Don't Get?
Update: Maybe I should have titled this post .. "The scent of a man"
Or "How Republican presidential candidates smell all manly and the Democratic ones are all wusses" *snark*
link

THE OLFACTORY PRIMARY:
Chris Matthews caused some eyes to roll (and some predictable heads to explode) last week when, musing on the "sex appeal" of Fred Thompson, he asked:
Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of -- a little bit of cigar smoke?

And now, courtesy of today's "Hotline," comes this comment by CNN
anchor Alina Cho after the network aired an interview with Mitt Romney this
morning: He looks great, sounds great, smells great.
It's almost as if Mike Gravel is just one spritz of Old Spice away from being taken seriously by the political press.
--Jason Zengerle



This is supposed to be a serious election with primaries and all no?
But they turn right around and focus on the trivial, superficial ""look and feel"(and now smell) aspects of a candidate. And then they wonder where there audiences are gone?

So the candidates have a new smell test to pass? And what is with Chris Matthews strange fascination with another man's smell? Is he one of those types who can't do with out a manly man types or something?

*Bangs Head On Desk*

Monday, June 18, 2007

First Memory Tag

I have been tagged by the charming Lotus of Lotus Reads to come up with my earliest memory. I have one but I decided to throw in a few more mostly because they seem to be etched deep within my memory banks, and I don’t seem to have much trouble recalling them. They are not of any particular significance to anyone except me, I am not sure they have a huge roll in shaping me as a person but probably one of the multitude of many that help shape me and continue to do so.

1. This is my first ever memory... All I know was that I was 2 or 3 at that time, and this begins with me walking to the bathroom of the apartment where we lived. My mother was getting ready to bathe and had gotten a bucket of hot water ready. I think you know where this is going right? I make it with my baby steps to the bucket and before mom has a chance to stop me, promptly plunge my tiny hand in to the bucket of water. Yeoww!!!! Yep, needless to say I found out the hard way and I learnt fairly soon the meaning of the term “being in hot water”! No the burns were not serious, nothing that some cold water and the antiseptic cream “
Burnol”(I am sure some of you remember this one? Especially the distinct turmeric yellow colored tube and the black cap that this product came in!) did not make right. The tears took a while to subside though and one of many lessons was learnt that day.

2. I loved tossing things out. We lived on the 4th floor and my mom had one of her gold bangles lying around. I picked it up and tossed it out of the window. My mom saw me doing it and she promptly picked me up and ran downstairs to the street. Yes the gold bangle was found, and these things were valuable.

3. I remember my first day at kindergarten in school. I even remember the classroom where my first ever class was. On the first floor right next to this huge brass bell that was rung after each class was over and when school began and ended. Of course I cried my heart out, being away from mom and dad and my baby sis was not easy, especially on that day.

4. I recall being with my grandmother once, she was very old then with very soft wrinkled skin and gnarled hands from a life time of work on the farm and a hard rural life. She visited us once when I was a kid. I remember her kissing me on my cheek and I cannot forget the feel of her skin and her touch. I can’t quite say why, perhaps because I was born pretty late to my parents and I have not really experienced what it means to have grandparents, who love and spoil you unconditionally, and hence this memory is burnt into me?

5. I have visited my parents ancestral village in the
Ratnagiri region (home to the famous Alphonso mangoes) in Maharashtra. Back then in the mid 60s it was a place with no running water. I missed that as a kid and remember crying over not having a proper toilet to use. But one of my enduring recollections is that of walking across a shallow river bed, the water was barely ankle high. I distinctly recall the stones on the bottom, smoothened by years of being caressed by the crystal clear water and by the air in the dry seasons and rains when they first came. But mostly I was simply enchanted by the sight of the small silvery black fish that scattered away at the disturbance our feet in the water created.

Now that I started writing these down I suddenly am able to recall a whole lot more to reminisce about.

Anyway, those were some of my earliest memories. I am not tagging anyone else, but if any of you feel like it, please run with it, I will always be interested in reading what you have to say.


And last but not the least, Lotus.. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this tag, thank you so very much for tagging me!

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's Friday!

Baltimore Street Scene

On my way home saw this scene below and took a quick cellphone pic. So this horse driven cart is going around the neighborhood, selling vegetables and fruits. There were two guys, one of whom is not in the frame was going to a building close by with a bag of produce. I haven't seen anything like this and thought it was kind of neat. It reminded me of my childhood in India when we used to have this vendor with a pushcart selling vegetables in our neighborhood.



Frivolous Lawsuit? link
Man sues over erection drink
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
A man is suing the maker of a health drink, claiming the vitamin-enriched beverage gave him an erection that would not subside.
Christopher Woods said he had to be hospitalised because the erection would not go down.
His lawsuit said he bought the health drink Boost Plus made by the Swiss-based Novartis pharmaceutical company, at a US drugstore on June 5, 2004.

Novartis' Boost Plus Web site describes the drink as "a great tasting, high calorie, nutritionally complete oral supplement for people who require extra energy and protein in a limited volume," in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
Woods' court papers say he woke up the next morning "with an erection that would not subside" and sought treatment of the condition, called severe priapism.
More strange news link


A teenager who hit on the idea of dialling random numbers and offering drugs for sale really got a wrong number when he called a policeman.

Det Matt Parks arranged to meet the 14-year-old at a school in Gulfport, Florida, to buy marijuana and crack cocaine and then arrested him.

The youth has now been charged with possession and intent to distribute drugs near a school.

Via Atrios From Cliff Schecter's Blog

Our justice department's resources are devoted to cases like the one below.. Lovely eh? Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

Funny Ad And Prduct (link..may not be work safe)

Each of these photo-realistic paper cups comes emblazoned with a new nose. When you tip your head to take a drink – voila – you get an instant nose job, and a chuckle from the crowd. Remember, never turn your nose up at a good laugh! There are 24 12-oz. cups in each pack, evenly divided between male and female proboscises (errr, noses). Packed in a nice clear box. Fred Party


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday All Over The Place (Also known as I have nothing much to say ;-))

In which my head meets my desk! (The overheard in new york/office links below may contain offensive language)

Just Not in Any Recent Incarnation

Clerk: What's that symbol on your shirt?
Chick: It says 'Nepal.'
Clerk: What's Nepal?
Chick: It's where the Dalai Lama lives.
Clerk: What's the Dalai Lama? Is that an animal?
Chick: Yeah, it's like a Yeti.
Clerk: Oh.

--Pelham Pkwy

Overheard by: raginggoatboy

via Overheard in New York, Jun 12, 2007

9AM Plus Clowns

Coworker #1: What is Cirque du Soleil anyway?
Coworker #2: I went to the website -- it looks like it's just a bunch of Asians stretching.

Columbus, Ohio


via Overheard in the Office, Jun 13, 2007

Can You Google "Schmuck" Real Quick?

Tourist on cell: I am looking at a big board that says LIRR. This can't be Pennsylvania station.
Commuter: Hey, schmuck -- LIRR is in Penn Station.
Tourist on cell: Oh, I am in the right place. Someone was nice enough to give me directions.

--Penn Station


via Overheard in New York, Jun 9, 2007

Ready To Get Creeped Out?

The Japanese have been pretty good at robotics and as the technology progresses and robots evolve (sic), we are bound to be confronted with more humanoid robots. If the pic below from the Tokyo Times blog don’t creep you out, the video surely will.

An event that saw the organisation proudly showing off a 33-kilogramme effigy that can make facial expressions, react to its surroundings by blinking and stand up with assistance. Giving it a set of skills and abilities that its maker claims allows CB2 (Child-Robot with Biometric Body) to emulate the physical abilities of a 1- or 2-year-old toddler.

The only problem being that unlike the real thing, CB2 is neither comical nor cute – far from it in fact.




Fast Food In Ads Versus How It Looks For Real

I saw this at the West Virginia Surf Report Web Site (Don't ask me what they are doing with this). Click here for more pictures.

Each item was purchased, taken home, and photographed immediately. Nothing
was tampered with, run over by a car, or anything of the sort. It is an accurate
representation in every case. Shiny, neon-orange, liquefied pump-cheese, and all

McDonald's Sausage Breakfast Burrito


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Almond and Buttermilk Sorbet

This is the first time I used our ice cream maker this year. I am hoping to make a different ice cream/ sorbet, every other week or every 3 weeks.

And in case you wonder if we consume all of it, we don't. I take some to work for my co-workers ;-). And like it says in the recipe, it really does take 15 minutes to make (chilling and freezing time excluded).

And this one really turned out well, the fresh taste of the lemon juice and the buttermilk combined with the almonds, seemed just right. Unlike in the recipe below I did not completely process the almonds to a powder but let it be just a tad coarse. I liked how that felt while eating the sorbet.

From the New York Times dining section here.

Adapted from“Vegetable Harvest” (Morrow, 2007)

Time: About 15 minutes, plus 1 hour and 45 minutes chilling and freezing

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup whole (unblanched) almonds
2 cups buttermilk, shaken to blend
1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

1. Combine lemon juice, 1 cup sugar and corn syrup in small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

2. Place almonds in small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake until nuts are fragrant and evenly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

3. Mix almonds and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in food processor or blender. Process to a powder, and set aside.

4. Stir cooled lemon syrup, buttermilk and almond extract in bowl. Refrigerate well. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve in small bowls, with almond and sugar topping.

Yield: 12 servings (about 1 quart).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hands...
Since there was no Friday word with Mona being busy, it was easy for me not to mention that I did not feel up to it anyways. Then while I was reading the eloquent and fun Patches @ Clawless, I saw that she did a great Friday word post with the word being “hand”. So below is a picture of my hands and a.. err.. feeble attempt at what pases for a poem.















These are the hands…

That held me when I came in to this world
Their firstborn..
Barely holding on
When all seemed lost
I must have brought them joy then
But what do I bring them now?


These are the hands…

That nursed, nurtured and protected me
That helped shape me..form me..
But not in their own image
That I run from only to be revisited at the next turn
And my place in abaddon seems to crystallize

These are the hands…

That pick me up, dust me down
When I stumble and fall as I try to find myself
That compartmentalize.. slot it away, deal with it later
Or hope it perishes under its own gravitas
Fragmented, to never be whole again

These are the hands…

Raised feebly warding of blows
As he yet again asserts his “right”
To hurt, to dominate, to tower
That can no longer stop
Words sharper and harder than his fists
Slamming against her face
Unrelenting in their daily banality

These are the hands…

That wag their fingers
It’s a part of life, your fate
Said they that raised her
Chided her for being a woman
A burden to be disencumbered
Disposed of as chattel
Unloved by those that bore her
And the one she is shackled to

These are the hands…

That bid me adieu as I left to find
A new life for me
While they are left behind
Hands gnarled
Bodies withering
Minds unraveling
Spirits broken
Loneliness their only shadow
Till death does them apart



Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pork Meatballs With Yogurt Dressing

Recipe from the New York Times. Link.

*A* told me about last week's dining section from the NYTimes and that it had some good recipes for meatballs. Not having made them ever at home, I thought I would give this a try. I have to say they turned out really well and *A* concurred. The mild spiciness of the meat balls along with the tender juicy meat, combined well with the cool yogurt dip that ended with the slight kick of the added chili. The cool mint helped finish it all off.

Perhaps these are meant as hors d’oeuvre but we had them with Naan bread as our dinner. I think you can combine them with Pita bread too, and maybe make a quick sandwich. The recipe is as found in the NYTimes, the changes I made are in parentheses. Sorry the picture is a bit dull, as I was in a rush and did not use a flash.

While the dish may seem more like a Greek dish, to quote Akthar Nawab the head chef of E.U in the East Village in New York.

“I did some research into an Eastern European recipe, but it evolved into a more Greek recipe, with Moorish and North African influences,” he said.

The cumin-, fennel- and coriander-spiced pork meatballs Mr. Nawab serves are roasted in butter and oil, and served on a skewer, drizzled with two sauces: a sweet-tart slurry of shallot, mint and sherry vinegar, and a yogurt sauce made of thick Greek yogurt emulsified with olive oil and fired up with toasted ground cumin. Mr. Nawab credits their tenderness mostly to his treatment of the protein and the fat.

“I do a really fine grind on the meat, and I use richer pork — 35 percent fat to 65 percent meat. That makes the meatballs a little more succulent, and helps to caramelize them when they go into the fryer.”

Unlike him, the pork I used had a lot less fat, but they turned out really well. The prep time is as mentioned, takes about an hour or so.

Adapted from Akhtar Nawab

Time: 1 hour

FOR YOGURT DRESSING

1 cup high-fat Greek yogurt (I used low fat yogurt, that was the only one we had and it was non Greek too)

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I also tossed in chili powder for some extra spicyness)

FOR MINT DRESSING

1/2 cup finely sliced mint leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallots

1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR MEATBALLS

1 cup crustless country bread, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons olive oil

Half a large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes (I added some extra red pepper flakes)

2 1/2 pounds ground pork, chilled

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

4 tablespoons butter. (I left the butter out)

1. For yogurt dressing, combine yogurt, cumin, and sugar. Slowly whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.

2. For mint dressing, combine mint, shallot and vinegar in small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate.

3. For meatballs, combine bread and milk in a bowl, and stir until bread has absorbed milk.

4. Combine 1 tablespoon of oil and onion in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sizzling, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook until onion is softened but not colored. Transfer to food processor, add bread mixture and purée.

5. Combine coriander, cumin, fennel and hot red-pepper flakes in small skillet over medium heat and stir until lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and grind to a powder in a spice grinder.

6. Mix meat, the bread mixture, spices and salt in a large stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add parsley and oregano, and mix again. With wet hands, roll into 1-inch balls.

7. Place large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter has melted, reduce heat slightly and begin adding meatballs, allowing them to brown on the bottom, then turning gently to continue browning on all sides. Work in batches, transferring meatballs to a platter when they are cooked. To serve, drizzle with yogurt dressing and sprinkle with mint dressing.

Yield: 50 1-inch meatballs (serves about 12 as an hors d’oeuvre).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Zemestan (The winter) And A New Way To Watch Movies

Some of you may be familiar with the fact that there are more than a few ways to legally download and watch/rent movies online (cinemanow.com and a couple of others). The selections are however pretty mainstream and for someone like me who likes to watch offbeat or serious cinema (those times when my tastes are not down in the dumps that is) the options despite the presence of the excellent Bryn Mawr Film Institute theater close by are rather limited. So I have been rather enthusiastic since I read the NYTimes piece about legal movie downloads from sites such as Jaman.com, joost.com and greencine.com that have documentaries and independent and international cinema.

I have been meaning to pick a movie and watch and finally managed to do this weekend from Jaman.com. You can’t really rent a movie and watch it on your TV unless you purchase it. So you are stuck with watching it on the computer monitor unless you set up a contraption to hook it up to your TV. So we watched the movie on A’s apple computer,
she has one of those with a decent sized screen.

The movie picked was Zemestan, I have never seen an Iranian movie and the story and the fact that the movie has been making the tour of the film festival circuit intrigued me.
Oh and before I go on about the movie, a note about the quality of the video. I would say it was really good it is not DVD quality but pretty good. That the film is visually quite stunning does not hurt either. It must have taken over an hour to download over *A*’s wireless connection and Jaman lets you watch the movie for up to 7 days.

Clip from the movie below.

It's Winter (Zemestan)


Should you stretch out a hand
They won’t stretch one back
For the cold is too harsh..too bitter
The breath coming out of your chest
Turns in to a dark cloud
That stands before your eyes
Like a dark cloud
What do you expect from your close or distant friends
..
Air is gloomy , heads ducked in to collars
People worn out..heavy hearted
..
The trees nothing but crystallized skeletons.


The lines above are from a song that plays a few times (in Farsi) during the course of the movie. The words talk about a tough harsh existence in winter, but it is about more than winter in this movie set in an industrial town in Iran where everything seems to be in a decrepit state with battered cars, trucks and factories. Both the people and their surroundings appear to be struggling and just getting by.

It is against this backdrop that the movie unfolds as one man decides to leave town as the shop that he works at closes for good. He leaves behind his wife Khatoun (played well by
Mitra Hajjar) and his daughter (Zahra Jafari) and her grandmother (Safari Ghassemi). There is not much work to be found in town he explains and he must go abroad to make more money and takes the train out of town. Not a lot is said in fact the movie has pretty sparse dialogue and uses emotions conveyed by some very talented actors to achieve its aim.

As the man leaves a drifter arrives in town. Marhab (Ali Nicksaulat) is a mechanic homeless and an orphan. He wants to work (but does not always seem inclined) and is on the lookout for a better life. He claims to be able to fix anything and with the help of someone he befriends at the local restaurant he finds a job at the local auto shop. His eyes fall on Khatoun and he starts to woo her. We are talking about wooing here not in the western or bollywood style. He marries her but he is soon disappointed, his poor work habits, a boss who does not pay him and he is soon picking fights with the only other friend he has. His attempts to find another job in town draw a blank, and he starts thinking about leaving town, even as the Khatoun’s first husband returns penniless and broken. Does he try to reclaim what was his and he left behind? Can he gather the courage to face his family? Does Marhab leave town?

One of the things that stood out for me was the portrayal of Khatoun’s daughter, I believe
Zahra Jafari has no lines, but she acts with her face and eyes and to me that was a very moving portrayal of a child abandoned once and now facing abandonment again by a parent. I liked the visual style of the film, the depiction of a barely surviving grimy town, the cold harsh winter and the often bare, simple interiors of the simple house that belongs to the family of the little girl frame the mood of the movie very well. The long shots, often of the principals walking alone thru long empty lanes of the town or the railroad tracks are nice, I wonder if they are meant as metaphors for lonely journeys thru life or a sense of being overwhelmed by an environment beyond their control.

The scenes of the industrial town will remind some of you familiar with India of similar scenes from that country. This movie offers an incisive look at the struggles of the Iranian working class, and if this is a commentary about the failure of the Iranian revolution in it’s failure to help its citizenry live a better life it is done pretty well given the shackles that the clerics and their cohorts have placed on their people.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Support Your Local Farm..How much does your food travel?

I have sort of had an idea of how much some of the produce and meats we consume has to travel. But the effect it has on our environment and us sunk in to me more as I read this piece at sustainabletable's web site.

"Food miles" refer to the distance a food item travels from the farm to your home. The food miles for items you buy in the grocery store tend to be 27 times higher than the food miles for goods bought from local sources.i

In the U.S., the average grocery store’s produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between the farm where it was grown and your refrigerator.ii About 40% of our fruit is produced overseas and, even though broccoli is likely grown within 20 miles of the average American’s house, the broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average 1,800 miles to get there. Notably, 9% of our red meat comes from foreign countries, including locations as far away as Australia and New Zealand.iii

So how does our food travel from farm field to grocery store? It’s trucked across the country, hauled in freighter ships over oceans, and flown around the world.

A tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air pollution. Even the refrigeration required to keep your fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling too soon burns up energy.

Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep food fresh (or at least looking fresh) for a longer period of time. This packaging eventually becomes waste that is difficult, if not impossible, to reuse or recycle.

...Buying food from local farms means getting food when it’s at its prime. Fresh food from local farms is healthier than industrially-farmed products because the food doesn’t spend days in trucks and on store shelves losing nutrients.v Food transported short distances is fresher (and, therefore, safer) than food that travels long distances. Local food has less of an opportunity to wilt and rot whereas large-scale food manufacturers must go to extreme lengths to extend shelf-life since there is such a delay between harvest and consumption.

.. Local foods from small farms usually undergo minimal processing, are produced in relatively small quantities, and are distributed within a few dozen miles of where they originate.

I am not trying to get preachy or anything, just saying if we could all try to more cognizant about how the food we eat arrives at our tables we may be better off in how we treat our land and environment. We try to do the right thing and buy as much local produce as we can once the growing seasons begin, and not everyone can do that.

It was at some point last spring that we discovered amongst the suburbia that we live in, there is also the “Highland Orchards Farm” a family owned farm that sits atop this small hill a couple of miles from where we live. This is on my jogging path too and is one of my favorite places to visit on the weekend. The farm has been with the family for years (more about their history at their web site here) and I love to pick up their fresh farm produce including veggies, and fruits and eggs. Even the meats they sell is from places over the state line in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
A slide show of the pictures from the farm store is below.

Perhaps they are a bit more expensive than the chain grocery a few miles further down, but some things I am just more sentimental about I guess.

Some advantages of supporting a local farm from the sustainable table link…which has a lot of other info as well.

According to the USDA, the U.S. has lost over five million farms since 1935.vii Family farms are going out of business at break-neck speed, causing rural communities to deteriorate. The U.S. loses two acres of farmland each minute as cities and suburbs spread into the surrounding communities.viii By supporting local farms near suburban areas and around cities, you help keep farmers on the land, and, at the same time, preserve open spaces and counteract urban sprawl.