Friday, June 30, 2006

Kitchen Confidential

Loving it. Not so crazy about Anthony Bourdain, but that's life. It's not the arrogance, the drug use, or the swearing, but the cynicism and negativity that I don't like about him. He is, in the end, pretty unsparing in his self-portrait, which is admirable. I just don't like his constant description of the paying customers as rubes, hicks, idiots, suckers. It especially bothers me the way he has so much attitude about out-of-towners in New York. People that come to a restaurant with a good reputation for a nice evening out, excited to be in the big city -- how are they supposed to know the food is really lousy ahead of time? Does he really think that nobody who ever gets ripped off by a big-name restaurant can tell the difference? After the fact, what, exactly, are they supposed to do? Not go there anymore?

You have to hand it to the guy for hard work though. Even if you discount his own description, I've read about line cooking elsewhere. Anyone who stays in the business is by definition a machine. And I love his descriptions of work both in the kitchen and around it. I'm not sure we share the same taste in food. It's my experience that people who smoke are not so good at appreciating subtle flavors, tending more to like spicy foods that can still have an impact on their numbed taste buds. So where I say subtle, they would say bland.

I've never lived in New York, never spent too much time there, but this book just seems to reek of an attitude and outlook on life peculiar to that city. It's an interesting combination of simultaneous self-loathing and superiority to the rest of the world. It took me a long time to say this, since I grew up on the East Coast myself, and love it there, but I like California better.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


A related but slightly different reason -- I do not have to drop them off or pick them up in the madhouse that is the beginning or ending of almost any school day I have ever seen. I was trying to find a soccer class one day and I accidentally drove into a school driveway right when parents were picking up their kids. Boom! Instant parking lot. I could not go forward, backward, or around. This was all the more frustrating as MY kids were getting later and later for their soccer class, and I was not getting anywhere closer to even knowing where it was. It's bad enough being late when you know how much traveling you have to do, but when you're already driving around cluelessly, getting stuck in this kind of situation is doubly painful.


This is actually more of a why I'm glad I homeschool than a real reason for homeschooling, but still: my children will never, ever have to ride in a school bus. Not to get to school, not for a field trip, not ever. Although safety standards have improved (I can remember standing up on the bus as a child, trying to hold on to my school books with one hand while clutching the back of a seat for balance with the other -- seatbelts? Are you kidding?) I still don't like the idea of some underpaid anonymous person driving my kids around. Or anyone else's either for that matter. I personally also have memories of some really unpleasant kids on the bus, making life hard for all and sundry. There was one girl in particular who suffered at the hands of bullies on the bus when I was in grade school, and I remember it to this day. I bet she does, too -- why did she have to go through all that just to get to school? Summary: I think school busses are a bad idea and I'm glad my kids don't have to deal with them.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I'll start off with an anecdote -- this happened this afternoon.

We were at a park day with lots of kids from the homeschooling coop. Unfortunately, we got there late, so there were groups of kids doing group things, and Ziad had trouble blending in. There were better and worse moments, but by the end of the afternoon, when the kids he had been playing with left, he found himself odd man out in a group of boys. Things went from bad to worse, and finally he was in a real state.

So one of the other moms called a meeting. We all sat down together, her two sons, another boy, that boy's mom, me and Ziad. They talked. Ziad was acting very angry and savage, but everyone bore with him -- moms, boys, and me. They hung in there with him when he was very difficult. The immediate problem was resolved, life went on, and even though it still took a while, before we left all the kids were really genuinely playing together.

I like that I didn't have to ask for special consideration for my son. I like that the values of those moms were such that they wanted their kids to work on a solution. Not necessarily be "nice" or "polite" but to acknowledge a problem and try to solve it together, not just laugh it off or hold one kid or another to blame.

I'm not saying you have to homeschool to find moms like this. I just know that that's how I found them.

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So, I had no idea I hadn't posted in so long. Never good at locating myself temporally to start with, I have been in the middle of a veritable whirlwind of weird short-term deadlines and crises, with nary a guest blogger to cover my sorry behind.

What crises, you may ask? Well, little miss not going to participate in a parent-participation school because you end up spending too much time away from your kids on school activities ended up on the Steering Committee of the homeschooling coop. Not really a smart move from a family viewpoint. Perhaps more than other communities, homeschoolers are a contentious, free-wheeling and diverse lot, and the past few weeks have taken a toll. Or who knows, maybe everyone is like that. Be that as it may, there have been a lot of decisions to make, and no shortage of people to make them difficult and even unpleasant, and lots of diplomacy to engage in with people who seem unable or unwilling to reciprocate.

Enough whining. I have decided to use this post to launch my new series: 100 reasons why I homeschool my kids. Which will begin in the next post because I have to get back to my e-mail.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Is it Saturday already?

Well, no, actually I guess technically it's Sunday. How did that happen? This week was just a blur. Meetings, e-mail, and more meetings, and not a lot to show for it in the end.

Ziad and Maya played in a guitar concert. For an adult, it was a great concert. The advanced students at their school are pretty impressive. They played a guitar arrangement of Pachelbel's Canon that was very beautiful. For a small child, it was a nightmare. Really long bouts of sitting still in the audience while other people played, followed by really long sessions of playing onstage. Ziad did as well as anybody could have expected, and Maya, as always, was great. They both got trophies for practicing daily and continuously (three years now for Ziad), there was a reception outdoors that was fun for them, and then we were done.

Today, Sunday we begin our business trip/vacation to San Francisco.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Well, first the news about Watership Down. My recollection of the general consensus boils down to "Why rabbits?" Also, "This is very violent." That second was most prominently voiced by those of us who had relied on the movie rather than actually reading the book, but as someone who put the book down feeling distinctly disturbed, I second that view. I am perhaps excessively squeamish in that regard. But then again, so many people these days are so unmoved by excessive and gratuitous displays of violence in the media, I figure I might as well just go to the other extreme. Which is why nobody who knows me could understand why I thought the movie Tremors was actually funny. But I digress.

There also seemed to be some mutterings that could be taken to mean that this blog is not very bookclubby. Well, guess what? If you want to have a discussion about something, you can't just leave one comment and check out. You have to see if anyone replied to your comment (I often do) and then comment again. This is how a discussion progresses. So if you had any thoughts about Watership Down that somehow didn't get said before the discussion moved on, let's hear them. If something just popped into your head on the drive home, by all means, I'd like to know. I can't be a bookclub all by myself.

I know I should say something about Jennifer leaving, but for some reason this is all I can manage. I think I'm in denial.

And the next book, just to remind you, is Kitchen Confidential. July 10. Looking forward to it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Watership Down

certainly gets more compelling as it goes along. In fact, it's downright hard to put down. The appearance of the evil, arch-villain super rabbit adds immensely to the drama. So finishing the book was not a problem after all.

I'm looking forward to our discussion tonight.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Another Editorial

From the Thursday Mercury News, an editorial by Sylvia Earle

Deep ocean bottom trawling is a travesty that must be stopped

As we prepare to celebrate World Ocean Day on June 8, a conservation tragedy of epic proportions is unfolding. With 70 percent of the world's coastal fish stocks over-exploited or collapsed and 90 percent of the biggest fish wiped out, we have turned to the deep oceans in our increasingly relentless and destructive pursuit of the dwindling supply of seafood.

The high seas that lie beyond the 200-mile exclusive zone of each coastal nation represent Earth's true last frontier, a vast, unexplored and virtually lawless region that covers about 64 percent of the world's oceans. The same industrial fleets that have e depleted and destroyed so many continental shelf fisheries are now churning through this virgin, deep ocean wilderness, pillaging the resources, and despoiling everything in their path.

When we were young children, the high seas seemed endless to us. It was almost inconceivable that one day our activities would reach their furthest limits and the deepest depths. Each day, fleets from a dozen or more nations scour the deep oceans with scant regulation and little oversight. They target undersea mountain ranges, oceanic ridges and plateaus that provide the richest habitats for fish and other marine life.

Massive seabed trawls with names like "canyon buster" are deployed, indicating the sheer scale involved and the damage inflicted on the delicate undersea habitat. The nets, sometimes mounted on heavy rollers, are dragged across the seabed, strip-mining everything in their path. It's the equivalent of bulldozers flattening entire forests to catch songbirds and squirrels.

Everything from ancient corals and sponges to 200-year-old fish is caught in their nets. In a single trawl., as much as five tons of marine life can be scooped up to capture a relatively small number of high-value fish. The rest is by-catch that is simply thrown away, dead or dying. What remains, deep and unseen, is the marine version of a lifeless, sterile desert.

Over the past decade or so, we have caused significant damage to largely unknown ecosystems; depleted numerous species of fish, along with marine birds and mammals; and doomed many others to extinction.

Hunter-gatherer societies have harvested wildlife sustainably for tens of thousands of years without destroying the forests an plains that produced their prey. Today's indigenous peoples still do. The indiscriminately careless techniques used by today's high-tech, high seas hunter-gatherers are completely unsustainable -- and that's the tragedy. They are destroying the habitat the produces and replenishes the resource.

Beneath the waves, the high seas are out of sight and out of mind. We forget what is at stake, and we seem not to care. We safeguard about 12 percent of the world's most biologically important lands as national parks, reserves, corridors, or other forms of protection, but only a fraction of 1 percent of the oceans.

The high seas have become a marine version of the Wild West, lawless and ungoverned regions where fishery freebooters plunder at will. Given the fragility of these environments, we simply do not have the luxury of time, but we can act before it is too late. The United Nations is studying how to protect the deep oceans within the framework of the 19821 Conventions on the Law of the Sea. In two weeks, scientists, fishing industry representatives, conservation groups and government officials will have an opportunity to recommend the U.N. protection of the high seas.

I urge the Bush administration to support the imposition of a moratorium on deep ocean bottom trawling, a pivotal first step. We need to establish marine protected areas and ensure management improvements across the high seas. We need to make certain that every activity, be it fishing, scientific research, minerals exploration, energy development, bio-prospecting, or others, is a conducted in a sustainable manner now, and far into the future.

My sincere hope is that the next generation will look back of ours and say two things. We were really smart and realized what needed to be odne for matrine conservation, and we made the right mvoes and acted before it was too late. At stake is preventing the extinction of countless species and ecosystems that we are only just discovering, let alone beginning to understand. The next few years will be critical in deciding whether we deliver or rfail. Let's act now to protect the last, vast wilderness on Earth.