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Uuh, physical activity. It was 65 degrees yesterday and 70 today so there was really no way around getting outside and doing stuff. Today it was raking leaves, and we have 5-10 large oak trees and haven't raked at all this year, so there was a lot to do. And there are already mosquitoes. Spring is supposed to be the one time of year that we can actually enjoy the outdoors because it's not blazing hot yet and the mosquitoes haven't taken over the world. Damn you, global warming. I'm sad to know that 14-degree nights don't do anything to the nascent mosquito population.
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What movies on DVD do I need to see?

I have a month's subscription to Blockbuster-by-mail (it was free). I plan to veg out.
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Horrors.

The remote for the TV that is now in the bedroom doesn't work anymore. It may be the TV's fault, not the remote's, but at any rate, the upshot is that it reset itself to only over-the-air channels and I can't get it to find the cable channels without the remote.

This means that if I want to lay in bed and vegetate at the TV, I am stuck with network channels. I have never seen this show Private Practice before, and I understand it's an offshoot of Gray's Anatomy, which is awful too from what I can tell, but wow. It's horrible. There is some female character on this show whose fake accent is so bad I can't tell if she is supposed to be Southern or Australian. There's someone else who is supposed to be Afghan and, well, she sounds like an American high school student who's in a high school play.

That is all.
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I am so relieved to read this letter to the editor of the NY Times, after a bunch of idiotic letters ranting that Obama is a socialist:

To the Editor:

Fair taxation isn’t about “redistributing the wealth” — it’s about giving back to the great country that gave you the opportunity to benefit so greatly.

It’s not about taking money from “Joe the Plumber.” It’s about making sure that “Joe’s Mega-Plumbing Incorporated” gives back to the country and the people who gave him:

¶Roads and bridges for his trucks to roll on.

¶Support for research for his latest plumbing equipment.

¶Public education so he can have a well-trained work force.

¶Markets so he can raise capital.

¶Police and firefighters so his business is protected.

¶Health care so the employees who helped him build his business can stay on the job.

¶Freedom so that he can build his business creatively.

If “Joe” has been able to become wealthy because of the bounty of America, then he should pay his fair share back to America — that is patriotic.

Daryl Altman

Lynbrook, N.Y., Oct. 16, 2008
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Um. I think I may have gone overboard. I just came home from Goodwill with what looks like at least 7 pairs of "new" jeans. I am not sure how this happened. I'm really not a shopaholic, though I had been getting increasingly desperate at my poorly-fitted-clothing situation. Maybe I need shopahol treatment.
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This is probably not news to anyone, but Candace Bushnell (responsible for Sex and the City) is the biggest idiot I have heard in a long time. Worse than Sarah Palin. I'm listening to an hour-long call-in show with her on WBUR for some reason. She's incredibly self-important and has an awful voice. That is all.
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I started reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union. The writing style is too herky-jerky for me. Is it so awesome that I really should get over it and keep reading, or can I just stop now?
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How classy is this? Because my tomato plants have contracted a fungus, I have to pull them all out, replace the soil, and put them in separate containers so they don't contaminate each other. What containers do I have available? Empty cat litter pails. Scoop Away Fresh Organic Tomatoes. Yum yum.
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I wonder if there is any way to hire a home organization consultant for less than $Exorbitant. My house is out of control and I don't know what to do short of throwing away all our possessions.
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Geez. I just read some web forum hosted by the BBC that was all about the chemical reactions that result from ammonia + bleach--you know, chlorine gas. And what exactly it does to you. And now I want to get rid of all cleaning products in the house except for baking soda, borax, vinegar, and water. Yikes. It's terrifying to think of what all I have lying around here that's insanely toxic.
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Dental care for injuries resulting from participation in a riot are specifically excluded from my dental plan's coverage.

Note to self: no rioting.
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We went to Red Lobster tonight because we had a coupon that I thought would make it a cheap meal, and I was curious what the deal was with Red Lobster anyway, having never been. So...we got there at about 6:20 pm and there was already a waiting list. By the time we left, it was a total mob scene, probably a 30 minute wait for a table. And the place is a glorified Denny's! The meals we had were adequate, but without the coupon we would have spent enough to have had a nice meal at a nice restaurant...here, we had heavily fried heavily breaded or heavily sauced fish with steamed broccoli, instant mashed potatoes, and heavily greasy biscuits. The sweet tea was fine, but my stomach is somewhat angry now that I have filled it with all that grease. So in conclusion, I don't get it. Why is Red Lobster so popular in a city with plenty of decent restaurants in the same price range to choose from? Is it more exciting if you actually eat lobster? Or is it like TGI Friday's, where they market "fun" so people go there to have "fun" even though the food is not very good at all?
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On the NPR call-in show I am listening to now, the guest said that a bowhead whale had been found in Alaska with an unexploded harpoon thingie in it from the late 1800s. So the whale was over 100 years old. I wonder how long it would have lived if they hadn't killed it in this more recent hunt. Interesting article here. Says the oldest whales that have been found and aged were around 200 years old. Amazing.
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Since I was thinking about this topic anyway, I copied the whole results list. Read more... )
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I ordered a new cell phone because I couldn't find the charger to my old one anywhere. The new one is supposed to arrive today.

So what did I find in my backpack this morning? The old charger. I *looked* there already, too. Argh! This is the same thing that happened with the party invitations last week.
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Because Atlanta has relocated to whatever the hottest circle of hell is, we went out to eat last night rather than cooking at home. We went to the "nice" kosher restaurant, which is expensive but they ran a bunch of buy-one-get-one-free coupons in the Jewish newspaper so it was only about 100% more than we usually would spend rather than 200%. As for its "niceness"--the food is pretty good, but it is severely lacking in ambience. It's not that much nicer in atmosphere than a Picadilly cafeteria. The "nice" kosher restaurant tries to serve some Southern foods, and their fried chicken is actually good. So last night I tried the "country-fried steak."

What a bizarre dish. I'm sure I've had the TV dinner version of it before, but this was something else. It was whatever kind of beef they use in Chinese dishes like beef & broccoli; whenever I got a taste of it with the peppers on my plate it confused me because it tasted like Chinese food. And the slab of beef was encrusted with fried-chicken coating. And then there was about a gallon of white gravy on top. If I had been working out on the farm all day, it probably would have been a fine meal, but since I had been cowering from the heat behind heavy curtains all day, it just made me feel like an obese American who shops at Wal-Mart.

In conclusion, I will probably not order country-fried steak again, even though it tasted fine. It's just too weird.
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Yesterday I was reading some stuff about kinship theory in anthropology and the authors described Lévi-Strauss's structuralist theory as having "put [Durkheim's] theory out of its misery." It cracked me up. I kept imagining Durkheim's totem theory staggering around gasping "help meeeeeee....." and then Lévi-Strauss comes along and it's like Old Yeller or something. Anthropologists don't usually have much of a sense of humor, at least not in writing, so I appreciated very much this one little remark.
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Now that I have had two challah coaching sessions, I think I may have figured out why my challah always fails. In the first session, I learned that I wasn't kneading the dough long enough, and that the kneading does something magical to the glutens to make the dough rise properly. In this last session, we learned by trial and error that you must never under any circumstances use all-purpose flour instead of high-gluten/bread flour. All-purpose flour yields a big, sticky, gross-looking blob of dough that you can't shape or braid, because when you try to roll out each strand it's too elastic and snaps back into a blob no matter what you do. High-gluten flour makes a nice snake that you can braid.

So now that I know these secrets, maybe sometime I will be brave enough to make challah without a coach.
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I and a friend made soap today. It started out quite rocky--we realized we didn't have enough lye, went to two stores in search before finally getting smart and using the telephone machine to narrow it down to an Ace Hardware w/fancy junk in stock (i.e. Burts Bees and designer aprons). We made one "traditional" castile batch, just olive oil, w/honey-almond scent thrown in. It took forever to get the lye solution and the oils to the same temperature, and my glass candy thermometer suddenly shattered for no apparent reason in the first batch of lye solution, so we had to throw it out and start over. Anyway, once we got through all that it went really fast because we sacrificed my stick blender to the soap cause.* So we decided to make a second batch w/mostly canola and the leftover olive oil, using our gained-through-experience learnin' about how to get those things at the same temperature (set up the ice bath first for the lye, then heat up the oils second and not so hot). It took a little longer to trace than the olive oil-only batch did, but it eventually did thicken up. So now we wait. In 3 weeks, we ought to have a lot of soap.

*My sister the scientician says that since lye is water-soluble, the stick blender should be fine for regular use as long as it gets washed well. My soap teacher said to designate stuff for soap use only. I hardly ever used the stick blender anyway so it's not a big deal, but I wonder.
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