Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lucky Kitchen

We've been having some good luck in the kitchen lately. I mentioned to my Mom last week that we had a lot of eggplant and tomatoes from our farm share. As luck would have it, she came across a recipe for eggplant and tomato stacks that she sent our way. We tried it last night and it was incredible. I'm not a huge fan of eggplant, but I loved it in this dish. We made a number of modifications to the recipe, including omitting the zucchini since we didn't have any on hand, substituting dried oregano, basil, and parsley for the fresh herbs that the recipe called for, and reducing the amount of olive oil and cheese, but it was still delicious. If I ever own my own Italian restaurant, this is going on the appetizers menu. Full disclosure: I generally find Williams-Sonoma (the source of the recipe) a tad pretentious (we certainly didn't bake our stacks in a 12 in. cast iron fry pan ($120.00) as the recipe suggested), but a good recipe is a good recipe.

This morning, I decided to make omelettes. I started by sauteing some onions and fresh garlic in a little olive oil. As an aside, we've been getting fresh garlic from our farm share, and I'm completely hooked on it. It is so much better than the pre-minced garlic that we had been getting from the grocery store. I then added the eggs, some Monterrey Jack cheese, and some diced tomatoes to the onions and garlic. The end result was delicious. Omelettes are the casserole (or fried rice) of breakfast; you just throw in whatever ingredients that you can find and see what happens. The best omelettes tend to be the ones that have the least amount of planning, and this was no exception.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good Knight

We finally went to see The Dark Knight last weekend. It's as good as everyone says it is, for the most part. It's certainly the darkest of all the Batman films (though, oddly enough, it probably has more daylight scenes than any of the recent Batman movies). All I can add to the litany of praise heaped on the film are my own, mostly geography-related observations. For one, it appears that Gotham is both a city and a state (or perhaps a city-state) since all of the cars in the movie had Gotham licenses plates. These license plates look very similar to those of the State of Illinois, which leads me to my second observation - Gotham City looks a lot like Chicago in this movie. As it turns out, most of the movie was filmed in Chicago. I thought it was kind of strange, since I had always assumed that Gotham City was a synonym for New York City, but as it turns out, the real-life location of Gotham has been a subject of considerable debate for quite some time. This isn't a case of slopping filmmaking however, Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight, deliberately used Chicago as the prototype for the Gotham City of his movies. Finally, (mini spoiler alert) I thought that scene at the beginning of the movie where the Joker shows up at a meeting of Gotham's criminal underground was a subtle reference to the 1960s Batman movie, but I'm not sure if that's something that a director like Nolan, who has succeeded brilliantly at rescuing the Batman franchise from its descent into camp and idiocy in the late 90s, would even want to do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wardrobe Malfunction

I really enjoy biking to work, but scrambling to stuff my backpack with a change of clothes before heading out the door had been a bit of an issue. On Monday, I forgot to bring a change of socks, so I had to wear my loafers with my white athletic socks. Today, I remembered the socks but forgot my shoes. Thank goodness for the relaxed dress code of the 21st century office.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

IZSM

I've been listening to a lot of IZSM lately, a band that I recently discovered on last.fm. I'm particularly enamored by a tune called Izmus, which you can download (legitimately) here, if you're interested. I don't really know a whole lot about the band, other than that they're from Venezuela. The have a MySpace page, of course, but it's in Spanish. Two of their MySpace friends are Living Colour and Vernon Reid, which is a strong endorsement, at least in my book.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Collective Bargaining

If nothing else, the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics sure featured a lot of people. At the time, I joked that it was simply due to China's huge population; they have so many people that every square inch of space is occupied. My second, slightly less lame take on that joke was that it was an immense make-work project. Anyone who has ever visited China should know what I mean; transactions that usually only require a single salesperson in US seem to require two or three in China. Leave it to David Brooks to see something more sinister at work. He sees the opening ceremony as a collectivist challenge to the individualism of the west. Whether or not he saw the same threat to western values during the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, or the 1964 Tokyo games, all of which took place in Japan, a country with a culture that is much more suspicious of individuality than China, he doesn't say. I suspect that you getting a better insight into what he's thinking if you replace collectivism with another -ism beginning with c, but that also doesn't really work since China wouldn't be hosting the Olympics right now if they hadn't decided to start ditching most of their communist economic system 30 years ago.

This piece, along with this rebuttal from The Economist, tie in well with the book that I just finished reading, Edward O. Wilson's On Human Nature. Wilson's thesis echoes The Economist's view that humans across all cultures generally act in their own best interest. Furthermore, Wilson argues that there is a common genetic basis that constrains the full range of human social behavior and that cultures can change quickly under the right conditions and humans can quickly adapt to different cultures. In fact, two of the examples that he used to demonstrate humanity's cultural flexibility involved Chinese immigrant populations in Jamaica and Guyana.

On Human Nature is as heavy as its title implies, but it was still a fascinating read. Had I had the proper amount of time to dedicate to it, I certainly could have read it from cover to cover in one sitting. The book is now 30 years old, but as far as I can tell, still incredibly relevant. I picked this book up because my interest in evolution and evolutionary psychology has been sparked over the past few years by all of the intelligent design nonsense that's been in the news. It has certainly motivated me to learn more about science in general and evolution in particular and I hope that it's had a similar effect on others.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Air Supply

With the Beijing Olympics officially getting underway today, there have been plenty of stories in the news about the air quality (or the complete lack thereof) in Beijing. I certainly noticed the pollution when I visited China last fall, but it didn't really affect me physically. Had I not been able to see the haze, I don't think that I would have noticed that the air quality was any worse than a typical American city. Of course, I didn't attempt any strenuous physical activity while I was over there. The morning we left Shanghai, there was a road race going on right in front of our hotel. Although the air quality hadn't bothered me up to that point, the idea of running a 5K in the middle of Shanghai did make me feel a little queasy. In a strange way, I was almost disappointed that I didn't find breathing the air in China as uncomfortable as I thought I would. It's been such a big story for so long that it's almost become a tourist attraction.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Unleash the Beast

I've been laughing all day at this lame joke from today's installment of The Box of Paperbacks Book Club that for all intents and purposes, I shouldn't even understand. It's a recycled joke from some 1980s hack comedian whose name has been lost to the ages. Ready for it? What does HBO stand for (ca. mid 1980s)? Hey!, Beastmaster's on! Beastmaster, of course, is a 1980s sci-fi/fantasy movie that was in heavy rotation on cable during my childhood, but I've never actually seen the movie. I think I knew some people who were big fans of the movie, but I'm not even sure. For whatever reason, I've always found Beastmaster amusing, and I watched so much bad stand-up comedy on basic cable in the late 80s/early 90s that I can picture in my head the exact kind of comedian who would make a joke like this one.