Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Save a tree; eat an e-reader?

Sometimes, the way people's actions come back to bite them can be kind of hilarious. I shouldn't laugh, but I do. I think it's hysterical that people's quest for ease and convenience makes them do things they otherwise rant and rave about. 

Remember in the whole post-9/11 environment when there was a big to-do about whether the Feds could get all up in your reading business, the better to see what suspected terrorists were checking out of the library, or buying at bookstores, and/or the better to find some suspected terrorists by seeing what everyone was checking out from the library, or buying from bookstores?  

I do. I remember it well. I was working for Borders at the time, and, touchy-feely earthy-crunchy company that it occasionally aspired to be, there was lots of jabber as it officially released company statements about how our customers' privacy is respected and so on. If any spying NSA types came in to demand customer data, I suppose that I, as a manager on duty, would have proudly stood my right-to-read ground and protected my beloved customers' freedom from the thought police, or something like that. (This scenario never actually occurred, of course.) When silly young twentysomethings came to my cash register with The Anarchist Cookbook, defiantly giggling and exchanging "what's-she-going-to-say-as-she-rings-us-up" looks, I was unperturbed. "Your secret's safe with me," I wanted to say. That, or "No one cares." 

Well, now? Hello, e-books?  You all do realize that with this whole I-love-my-Kindle/I-read-on-my-laptop/I-never-go-to-bookstores nonsense, with Amazon doing your selling (and credit card saving, and wish listing, and recommending) and with your Nook or Kobo or iPad or other e-reading device noting and tracking and remembering searches, highlights, sales, what was started and not finished, which words were looked up, what was synced, and more, that you are handing over all the data a spying company, government, military-industrial complex, or Orwellian corporatocracy could want? All for the silly "convenience" about which you are so enthused? And that you think, somehow, "saves trees"?  (It doesn't. You run these devices on electricity. You charge the batteries with electricity. You manufacture these devices in factories and with plastics and other products and they are planned to be obsolete within a couple years so that you toss them in a landfill and buy more. Have you ever seen what a coal mine does to get you your electricity? Try visiting Appalachia. Your trees have been destroyed, all right. Books last way the hell longer than you keep your phone or tablet before upgrading it. They're also made of super recyclable paper. They can also be made from recycled paper. Meanwhile, you're blithely pillaging the Earth for your electricity consumption and pretending it's not using resources. For hours and hours and kilowatts and kilowatts each day. A book's production uses the kilowatts once, and that's it. Stop with the "saving trees" line -- it's nonsense.) 

So, enjoy that e-reading folks. You are a data-mining government spy's dream come true! Why should they hassle the booksellers and librarians for your hard copy data when you are willing to upload it all for them with your beloved e-books? 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Home Making

"Tastes just like homemade..." they say.

There are two kinds of people in the world. (Yes, yes, I know: those who say there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.) One kind is me. The other kind is people who, upon tasting something delicious in a restaurant/cafe/coffee shop/diner/bar/deli immediately think to themselves, "How could I (re)create this at home?"

You know what I hear in that question? "Wow, I've just eaten this delicious meal or perhaps I'm still eating it, and isn't it nice to sit here relaxing and enjoying it with my friends in this beautiful ambiance overlooking the water, or perhaps I'm having a quiet lunch with a book in my go-to spot, or maybe we're celebrating and accompanying this food with lots of wine on a fun night out. and all I can think about is how I could eat the same thing, but with more work involved on my part!!"

I'm thinking about this because I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition this, well, morning (duh) and I heard the host introduce the next story by asking, "Do you like Nutella? Well, you can make Nutella at home!" and I'm just over here all like, "But why? Why would you want to?" Of course the story proceeded to answer that question (nothing new here, folks: it's cheaper! it's healthier to not have the commercial preservatives and stabilizers that sometimes appear! it's "fun"! that last being debatable, of course) but mostly it proceeded to make us listeners spend time with one of the America's Test Kitchen  chaps who talked about how to make your own graham crackers and kale chips.

Personally, I have other things that I want to spend my time doing besides making my own graham crackers. That's not to say other people shouldn't make their own graham crackers. Two kinds of people!

But I have actually talked (you might say: argued) about this before with Brian. He and I disagree about what's a fun/appropriate time to spend cooking at home. I'm more into cooking/baking (mostly baking) things spontaneously, for fun. I actually get annoyed when I have to cook because I'm hungry. It's like having to do laundry before you can get dressed. One day, I thought maybe it just comes down to a two-kinds-of-people thing, and I compared it to buying a home espresso machine. Remember when that happened for a little while? A bunch of yuppies/earthy-crunchies/hipsters were all about getting their own espresso machines. Did that trend go away? Or did all the people who are going to buy one just take care of that already and now the market is done with that particular durable good until another generation or two goes by?  Anyway, I still remember the first person I talked to about that. I was a very young twentysomething in L.A., and a friend who worked in the cafe at Borders!!  I must emphasize this point!! started telling me about how she wanted to get an espresso machine for her apartment and so on and I just stood there staring at her. She didn't even have the "it's cheaper!" excuse because she worked there and had the whole free coffee/employee discount/I do this all day/access thing going on. She just wanted to have an espresso machine at home to be able to make espresso drinks at home, as did a bunch of other people who moved from having just coffeemakers to having espresso machines on their countertops and I just sit there thinking, no. I WANT to go to the coffee house! I want the barista to make it for me! Two kinds of people.

So when I had this epiphany, I told Brian that I just couldn't get inside the head of someone who's sitting there in a restaurant enjoying something and their first thought is, "I should make this at home!" My thought is: no, I shouldn't. I should enjoy it here. I should be here now.  And I certainly shouldn't think I can one-up this chef's delicious creation.

That's another part of the equation that confuses me. I enjoy going out to eat (not really in an expensive way, but in an Anna's Taqueria/take-out/street food way) and I am hard-pressed to think of any friend or relative who has ever made some particular dish that tastes better than what I can get in a restaurant, but I can think of plenty of restaurant foods that taste better than what I can get in a friend's/a relative's/my own kitchen. Let's see, I'm thinking...Brian makes a lot of delicious marinades for grilling and I understand the fun grilling out/summertime (with a beer, please, thank you)/tailgate grill/cook-out tradition, and he makes these amazing delicious burgers on the grill that will definitely blow you away, know, if you like to eat meat... but I can't think of much else. There is no sandwich/pasta/potato/ burrito/enchilada/ stir-fry/salad/cake/curry that someone has ever made in a home for dinner that inspires me to not go back to a professional for sandwiches/pasta/potatoes/burritos/enchiladas/ stir-fries/salads/cakes/curries. I mean, don't get me wrong. Brian can (and does!) make delicious food. I'm all for people making delicious food. What I don't relate to is sitting in an eating or drinking establishment enjoying something delicious and pondering how I could do it myself instead of enjoying the convenience of paying someone to do it for me.

So when we had this conversation a few months back, Brian didn't really understand how interesting this insight was to me, that there are just two different kinds of people, one kind (me) who sit there enjoying their food in the restaurant, and the other kind who sit there wondering how they can do the work themselves to enjoy that food with more effort at home. Then it was really funny to me because a mere week or two later we were in a great breakfast spot in Detroit with his parents -- we're talking all the good Yelp! reviews and whatnot, that we found by searching "Best breakfast Detroit" and all that -- and while we're enjoying the pancakes that are so good and I'm plotting how to return there in the future for more pancakes or waffles or whatever, his mom pipes up, "I could make pancakes at home!" and I'm like, "Eek! See, Brian, this is what we just talked about!" and I thought it was really funny but Brian doesn't think it's really funny because he thinks I'm being mean (?) or something because I don't really jam out in the kitchen with him and his parents (which, they are there all the time. In the kitchen, I mean. Hours. Every day.) but it's not mean, it's just: two kinds of people in the world. There's me, and there's his mom.

There's "How great is the world that we can all be in a society and divide up our duties to sustain life, like some people build the roads, and some people design the houses, and some people work in the hospitals, and some people write the books, and some people make the wine, and restaurants exist and some people cook delicious food and I pay them and then I eat it!" and there's "I'm going to make this!"

Which kind are you?

Friday, July 18, 2014

When will we ever get a clue?

In the immortal words of Colonel Mustard, "WHY are you shooting that thing at us? I could have been killed! I can't take any more scares..."  (At which point the spinning chandelier crashes to the ground right behind him...)

Pretty rough listening to the news the last 48 hours or so. First, Gaza. I sat there at the dining room table while the photographer who took the picture of the man carrying the dead boy described the scene, and there was much hand-wringing and somber outrage from various media at the idea of dropping bombs on children who were running away from where the strike a minute or so earlier had hit.

Next up, a Malaysian Airlines plane -- that poor airline -- that was shot down over Ukraine by perhaps Russian-led rebels, and there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the shooting down of a commercial airliner, and today there is the added weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding whether the plane should have been flying over this particular space, which some commercial airlines had apparently deemed too dangerous, etc.

What's that old saying--something about a forest and trees?  What's that other old saying--something about noses and faces and how plain they are?  In other words, why can't you people see?

If it's horrible and wrong to drop bombs that kill four boys running on the beach -- and it is! it is! -- then perhaps one ought to think about the father who finds his 18- or 19- or 20-year-old son's body, or, more likely, the flag-draped coffin containing his son's body, which has been blown to smithereens?

If it's horrible and wrong to be shot out of the sky when you are experiencing the amazing modern phenomenon of commercial flight, then maybe, just maybe, it's a terrible idea to shoot down anyone's plane, anywhere, ever.

It may just be that acts of war, you see, are horrible and wrong. Here are all of these innocents teaching us this lesson--indeed, they have given their lives--and yet, you still can't see.

"When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Don't Forget Poland!
How to be one of the 190 coolest people I know

This September/October, at long last I shall return my DNA to the land of my great-grandparents' birth, Poland. I have never been there, and I am excited about finally traveling to the place where the mere thought of pronouncing the name "Napikoski" will not give people fits. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that I am going to do a volunteer Habitat for Humanity project there.

To read more of my Habitat/Poland thoughts, click here on my personal Habitat fundraising page. And if you are so inclined, I would be most appreciative if you would consider a donation to the cause. I am trying to raise a total of $1900 for this project. We all know the easy math: if 19 friends each gave $100, I would reach my goal. That would (obviously) be incredible. But lets not forget that if 190 friends each gave $10, I would also reach my goal. Will you consider making a contribution?

I am a big believer in Habitat. Working together with people from around the world to eradicate sub-standard poverty housing is just that: working together. The volunteers, masons, Habitat staff, and homeowners I have met on Habitat for Humanity builds are some of the most interesting people in the world (that's right, Dos Equis man), and I have heard fascinating stories, seen immense generosity, and felt both humbled and tired (it's hard to build a house! Sawing wood, pounding nails, laying bricks, mixing concrete--these are no picnic!)

You're probably going to spend $10 on something dumb at some point in the next few months. (Hey, I know I am!) I think it's misguided to say "take that money you were going to spend on iced lattes and donate it to Habitat instead." Who am I to deprive anyone of their lattes and cappuccinos and Oprah chais? I'm just saying that when you think about all of the things on which you're willing to spend ten bucks, I would love it if Habitat for Humanity is one of them.

Let's get real: obviously, I don't think there's anything dumb about iced coffee. It's one of my favorite things on Earth. I say, have an iced soy latte AND make a Habitat contribution! But I am completely serious when I say that any donation amount to my Habitat build in Poland is welcome and greatly appreciated. (And don't let the page fool you--it suggests various amounts, but you don't have to do those amounts. Once you click "Make a Donation," you can enter your own amount. Sorry 'bout that -- I didn't create the page template.)

And don't forget Control My Blog For a Day: a $25 donation earns you one free blog rant, right here on Linda Without Borders. You can either write the guest post or just choose the topic and I'll do the writing on your behalf. For one day, whatever you want to tell the world shall be told.

Here's that link again. Click now!

Friday, July 11, 2014


If I am not careful, I am going to reach the point of having spent more of my total lifetime in Michigan than in Utah! That is just wrong. I am *definitely* closing in on having spent more time in Michigan than Illinois. I might even be passing it right about now...

Obviously, the states where I've spent the most time are the states where I've lived. So the top eight are, in order:
1. Arizona
2. California
3. Massachusetts
4. New York
5. Wyoming
6. Utah
7. Illinois
8. Michigan

But, see, I haven't really actually lived in Michigan, like lived-lived, and yet I kind of transitionally in progress have. And that's why it's annoying. Because of the not-really-ness of it.

FYI, the two states I have not been to, and which I really need to get to, are Alaska and Hawaii. As for the other forty states in the middle, between my eight lived-in/"lived"-ins and my far-flung unseens? There are a few where I've spent a fair amount of time (at least several weeks in a row, if not more, with multiple stints):
Virginia * Maryland *Pennsylvania
(also, D.C.)

And states I've been to a bunch of times, where I've racked up lots of days:
Nevada * Texas * Colorado * Vermont * New Hampshire * Connecticut  * Georgia * Florida * New Mexico * Louisiana * Washington

Or where I haven't been as many times, but have still spent some quality time:
Rhode Island * Maine * New Jersey * Indiana * Ohio * Tennessee * Iowa * South Dakota * Idaho * Nebraska * Missouri * Alabama * Mississippi * Oklahoma * Arkansas * North Carolina

And states I've visited, though briefly, where I should see and do more:
South Carolina * North Dakota * Wisconsin * Minnesota * West Virginia
And the states where I've done little more than pass through and look around, and definitely need to revisit:
Kentucky * Oregon * Delaware * Kansas * Montana

I like states.

Now I have to go think about how many state capitals I've been to. It's at least thirty. I like capitals, too.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Who Should Win the World Cup?

World Cup Fever: catch it! No, I didn't make that up (duh) but Brian and I have been saying that to each other for the past few weeks to amuse ourselves as we watch the 32 teams whittle themselves down to a mere four via the process of football aka soccer aka fútbol aka #becausefútbol matches. The benefit to being unemployed a part-time freelancer (me) and between jobs (him) is that we can watch pretty much every game and do the other things we need to do at other times of the day. Bosses are for suckers! Ha!

But seriously, folks. The World Cup is great fun, especially if you like soccer and if you like it when nations get together for peaceful endeavors instead of to blow one another to bits with guns and bombs. I'm big on the whole Make Sports Not War idea. Now, the USA sadly failed to advance to the quarter-finals, despite the Tim-Howard-and-his-many-saves performance, and some of Brian's and my other chosen teams are also out:  Mexico, where we lived and where the fútbol spirit is always fun, lost to the Netherlands and thus did not make the quarter-finals, while my good friends (Republic of) Korea and Honduras failed to make it out of their groups. The Honduras national team is always my first second choice (after my patriotic duty), ever since I happened to be in Honduras in 2008 for a Habitat for Humanity trip and we attended a World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula. Vamos catrachos! Alas, they did not see fit to do any winning this year.And France, Brian's other-other team, lost to Germany the other day, while our CONCACAF solidarity pick Costa Rica, despite a noble effort, went down to the Netherlands. Since those Dutchies also beat Mexico, and even Chile (my other-other-other pick, although that was early and didn't eliminate Chile), I am basically against the Netherlands right now, my fondness for Curaçao and the former Netherlands Antilles notwithstanding. (And despite the fact that I like the color orange.)

Which means I need to cheer for Argentina against the Netherlands tomorrow. What about the other match, today's exciting encounter between Germany and Brazil? Well, folks, I have nothing against Brazil (in fact, I really want to go there, AND we've been drinking caipirinhas during several of the games...) but Brazil beat both Chile and Colombia, which was annoying, plus when it comes to choosing between a massively hyped superpower home team favorite and their opponent, I'm generally going to go for the opponent. Guten tag, Deutschland!

In honor of the World Cup, I've already added a film from each of the eight quarterfinals teams to my Netflix queue, and I've also decided to add a book from each of the final four countries' literature to my to-read list. Do you have any suggestions for a great book by any authors from Brazil, Germany, Argentina, or the Netherlands?