Dear AKC:

I read your statement “dispelling the myths of ear cropping and tail-docking.” You claim that the procedures are not aesthetic, but are instead functional, allowing dogs to perform their “traditional” functions.

Ok, fine. When you show me a Yorkshire Terrier, Brussels Griffon, or French Bulldog that is used to chase vermin, I’ll accept your argument. Otherwise, tail-docking and ear-cropping are really just aesthetic, and you should admit that.

(Note: I am not wading into the argument as to whether tail-docking and ear cropping are good or bad things, and I recognize for some working, herding, and sporting dogs the procedures may make them more suited for the work they do. And if you have a terrier doing field trials or work where they are headed down rabbit holes, then having a docked tail may be helpful. All I am doing is point out that for some breeds the “it’s not aesthetic” stance is patently ridiculous.)

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Small miracles.

It has been a day.

I had to have a minor diagnostic procedure this morning, after which I was going up to San Francisco to meet a friend to go see the Walker Evans exhibit at SFMoMA. As I was leaving the doctor’s my friend told me she was ill and wouldn’t be able to go to the museum after all.

With the Rocket Scientist’s encouragement, I went up to the city anyway. Caltrain is a pleasant way to travel, for the most part.

Once there, I realized that I desperately needed to eat. I started to go to a Panera, when I realized that eating at a Panera while in a foodie city like SF is silly. Instead, I went to a local sandwich shop — the cheese steak was okay, but I would have eaten healthier at the Panera.

I had a brief moment of panic when I thought I had lost my wallet, but once that was resolved I headed for Golden Gate Park and the De Young. Taking Muni from the train station to the park took me through beautiful neighborhoods with the gingerbread houses the city is known for.

I decided once I was there that it was too beautiful a day to spend wandering around a museum. I did go to the museum cafe, however, and enjoyed delicious albeit overpriced flourless chocolate cake and a clementine San Pellegrino.

While there, I got a call from a dear friend from Wellesley. We talked politics (as we usually do), and especially the Nunes memo. She’s a lawyer and brings a lawyer’s sensibilities to discussing the current state of the nation, which is always interesting. While on the phone she told me that another Wellesley friend of ours had dredged up an incriminating picture from my freshman year. It showed several students of various years standing in front of a Rodin called Running Man which we had um….. augmented. It was snowy — as I recall, it was finals week and we were all a little punchy. Campus police removed our vandalism shortly after we put it up.

After hanging up, I left the cafe and headed to the Japanese Tea Garden. While not as extensive as the garden in Balboa Park in San Diego, it was still beautiful and almost peaceful.

I do not hold the view that children should be sequestered from the world. That said, if your five-year-old is pitching a fit because you won’t let her climb down without your help from a structure she should not have been climbing on in the first place, you should grab her and leave. Those screams echoing throughout the park tend to disrupt the zen atmosphere. Of course, so do the adults who talk and laugh loudly and who block the walkways while they fuss around taking selfies.

I found a bench and was able to calm and center myself.

I was listening to NPR the other day, and the guest was asked if they believed in miracles. They (I can’t remember the name, or even the program, sorry) said while they didn’t believe in grand miracles they did in small miracles, the sort no one pays attention to. Since then I have been looking out for the small miracles in my life. The Tea Garden was one. What happened next was another.

I was supposed to meet the Rocket Scientist in North Beach. This meant that I need to change from Muni to a bus near the Embarcadero station., while useful up to a point, totally fails at giving walking directions. Thus I was walking down Montgomery Street, doing something I never do (with good reason): looking at my phone while I was walking.

The totally foreseeable happened — I tripped on a grate in the side wall and fell. Hard. Hard enough to knock the wind out of me, throw my backpack off my back, and break my glasses (it was only later that the pain in my ankle started).

That was not the miracle.

The miracle came in the form of two angels named Keith and Liz, who helped me to a set of stairs where I could sit, and who stayed with me while I tried to recover and stop crying. They were strangers not only to me but to each other, but they cared enough for a random somebody who was in pain to stop and help. Keith insisted on getting me an Uber, and refused my offer of payment. Robert, the Uber driver, found me a cafe in North Beach.

And so I am sitting here in front of Alimento (507 Columbus, great gelato, nice people — check it out when you’re in North Beach) typing this. And in spite of my injured ankle (and the back which is starting to throb), I am at peace with the world.

My faith in humanity has been restored.

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Bucket list!

Having completed my museum bucket list, I have been searching for a new one. For a while, I thought I would settle on visiting all the National Parks, but that seems a) impractical and b) does not fill me with passionate excitement. It’s interesting, but not compelling. But now…

I just bought a book, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (Seventh Edition), Steven J. Schneider, general editor. They chose movies with a wide range of cultural impacts, from silent Great Train Robbery to Raging Bull to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (The book goes up to 2107: Moonlight is the latest entry.) They even include movies with problematic content but which are important culturally and aesthetically, without glossing over their evil: Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will. (Indeed, one of the reasons to watch such movies is to see how horrible, oppressive ideas are glorified and how beautiful propaganda can be.)

So now, I am going to try and see as many of them as I can. Thanks to having somewhat selective moviegoing habits and a subscription to both Turner Classic Movies and Netflix, I have already seen 165 of them. (When I first looked at the list, I counted about 200, but then realized that I had counted some films such as Un Chien Andalou under both its foreign and English titles. Un Chein Andalou, by the way, is the most disturbing film I have ever seen, although I suspect that will change.)

The movies I have seen range from beloved (e.g., A Room With A View, Spotlight) to detested (Terms of Endearment, one of the most manipulative movies I have ever seen, Best Picture Oscar be damned). I realize that in subsequent editions new movies will be added and some current ones dropped, but you have to start somewhere.

So yay! New goal!

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One unexpected advantage of going to trivia is that I am exposed to new music. Most of it is rap or hip-hip, and I can take it or leave it alone, but last night I was introduced to the Dead South. “In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company” may just be my new theme song. Who knew that Canadian bluegrass could be so great?



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I am not a hateful person.

Correction: I used to not be a hateful person. Donald Trump and his minions changed all that.

I hate Donald Trump.

I hate Mitch McConnell.

I hate Paul Ryan.

I hate Fox News.

I hate Devin Nunes.

I hate Trump’s supporters and enablers, in Congress and the media and elsewhere.

I hate them not with the cliched burning heat of a thousand suns, but with the intense freezing cold of an Antarctic ice sheet.

I’m not used to hating people. With the exception of one person in my past, for the most part, I never hated people. Rage is different — I spent much of the presidency of George W. Bush absolutely enraged. Rage is about actions, though: stop doing whatever it is and I’ll stop being enraged at you. Hate is about existence: there is nothing that Donald Trump can now do that will make me not hate him.

I hate him — and them — because they value lies above truth; power above people; their own narrow selfish desires over the best interests, continued health, or even possibly the existence of our democracy. I hate them because they are willing to humiliate or destroy anyone who questions or threatens to expose them, from the special prosecutor to a grieving widow.

They are evil. I hope they die horrible, painful, deaths. I hope they rot in hell.

Hating them is changing me, tearing me apart. Hate and its handmaiden impotent fear overwhelm me, freezing me like a rabbit on a lonely country road watching the headlights approaching. Hate is crushing my soul and turning me into someone I really don’t like.

And I have no idea how to change back.

I hate that.

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Achievement unlocked.

Over the years, I have requested various pieces of cooking equipment that I have been told I need to have. (Watching massive loads of Food Network and the Cooking Channel, with an emphasis on shows with my all-time media crush Alton Brown, will do that.) Mandolin (the culinary kind), cast-iron dutch oven, stand mixer, pressure cooker…I have them all now. (Or at least access to them: the stand mixer (by far my favorite piece of equipment) is on indefinite loan from a friend.) All of this for a person whose idea of cooking dinner most nights is heating a jar of Classico tomato sauce and pouring it over pasta. (I do bake, hower, sometimes: brownies, biscuits, and date bread, and birthday cakes. This is where the stand mixer comes in so handy.)

One of my goals for the year is to start really cooking and to use the equipment I have now, both the new and the things gathering dust in the cupboard. (One of my other goals is to figure out the proper dosage so I can make pot brownies, but that’s another post.)

So… I ordered a pair of Kevlar gloves, to replace the handguard to the mandolin (that I misplaced before I even used the thing) and a kitchen scale. And last night I made… sweet potato chips. I cooked them in the cast iron dutch oven, which I think will probably be even better for cooking chicken in than the cast-iron skillet. Which means I may make fried chicken more than once every few months.

I followed the advice from the cooking shows to have the oil hot enough, and I sprinkled them with a mixture of salt, brown sugar, and paprika. They were really tasty and not greasy at all. The only thing I would have done differently would be to use more paprika, or maybe replace it with ground chipotle.

After slicing:


After frying:



I know they look dark, but they were really good.

Next up: using the pressure cooker.



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Well, that was fun.

I had a VERY bad night at trivia. I got the lowest score of any team for most of the rounds, and as for the sex round, aside from a couple of questions I found troubling and which I am going to talk to the host about next week, the less said the better. (I don’t know much about raunch. But then I knew that I would do badly on that going in.) I blew the bonus question, but then again only one team of the twelve got it. (Quick: On a standard Monopoly board, name in order the five purchasable properties (excluding the railroad) between “Pass Go” and “Go to Jail”. You have about twenty seconds.)

The opening round (called “Mindf***,” as it is every week), consisted of two handouts. The first handout was ten Internet brand logos. I got two: Pinterest (because I think half my friends have Pinterest accounts) and WordPress. The only reason I got WordPress is because of this blog.

The second handout… Ten paintings. Name both the picture and the artist.

I knew absolutely that  I have seen seven of the ten. I am pretty sure I have seen the Magritte (Magritte’s style is pretty distinctive) as well but couldn’t remember the name (which as it turns out was “The Son of Man”), and as for the Pollack… It was a 1.5″ square black and white photo of a large Jackson Pollack painting. Do you think you could have identified it as being “Convergence”?

The only one I was positive I have not seen is Munch’s “Scream,” and that’s because  I haven’t been to Oslo. Yet.

I even put the full name for the Whistler painting: “Arrangement in Gray and Black: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother.”  I also gave first names for almost all of the artists, and I put Whistler’s first and middle names. (Yes, I was showing off. Sue me.) For at least six of them, I could have identified the museum the painting is in, but that would have been past showing off into being obnoxious.

I nearly didn’t get credit because it took me so long to write everything. I dashed up with ten seconds left, and then realized I hadn’t put my name on the paper and hastily scribbled it, turning it in with three seconds to spare.

Eighteen out of twenty. I would have gotten a perfect score except for missing the titles of the Magritte and the Pollack. The second-place team in that round got sixteen — and they had six people. No other team got more than fourteen.

As I sat waiting for the host to give the answers, I grumbled: “I’ve been waiting for you to do an art round.”  I sort of had been daydreaming about an art round, and getting a perfect score… It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good.

It’s always fun when you can show off some hard-earned knowledge.

It does, however, make me want to go to New York and visit the Met, and MoMA, and Paris so I can go to the Orsay…. and Amsterdam for the Rijksmuseum…. and the Hermitage, of course, although I’m not sure I would want to be an American in Putin’s Russia right now… and Chicago to see the AIC, which I didn’t have near enough time in… and I mentioned I haven’t been to Oslo, yet, right? And the Prado! Can’t forget the Prado….

I love art.

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