Fear Of The Unknown

I work about an hour from my house, which sucks out loud for any number of reasons. For many months, I rode with a carpool to try to mitigate the financial and environmental downsides of the commute. I found two guys who also lived in the general area, and after some initial hurdles relating to how ridiculously early they liked to get to work in the morning, we settled into a fine little carpool.

That’s not to say it was perfect. For one thing, our compromise departure time still had me leaving the house at 6:45 a.m., which is not my favorite time of day. If that wasn’t enough, while they’re both very, very nice people, the three of us have different pain thresholds when it comes to more-or-less inane small talk before 8:00 a.m. They like football; I only follow baseball. They enjoy talking about work on the drive there and back; I want to forget about work the minute I leave the building. And so on.

The biggest difference between them and me, though, is this: they’re extremely politically and socially conservative Christian Republicans. I’m none of the above. Our carpool boasted a fundamentalist Evangelical (whom I’ll call “Mark”), an extremely observant Catholic (whom I’ll call “Dan”), and me.

Our political and religious differences really were not, on their own, a problem. I think there’s real value in confronting oneself with people who think differently. It’s healthy to talk, debate, and even argue with people who believe things that you don’t. Most of the time, I really enjoyed talking about religion, politics, and morality with people on “the other side.” I got to hone my arguments, understand the other position, and maybe even start to make inroads towards convincing them of my way of seeing things.

I wasn’t surprised to find that we had different perspectives on the war, on abortion, contraception, on stem-cell research, or on gay marriage. On the other hand, I was (perhaps naively) stunned to find that I shared a carpool with two college-educated software engineers who didn’t believe in evolution. We spent several car rides talking about evolution and I like to think that I made some small amount of headway against their knee-jerk opposition. I don’t think I changed any minds, but I might have planted the tiniest seed of doubt. I even lent Mark my copy of Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, hoping that he might get something out of it and maybe even learn a little.

A few weeks ago, Mark came by my office to say that he was dropping out of the carpool. I wasn’t heartbroken to see it come to an end. I’d been thinking about leaving the carpool myself. The opportunity to sleep an hour later in the morning was, I’m ashamed to say, worth more to me than the opportunity to save a tank of gas a week, and I had some angst about associating so closely with people who opposed what I believe to be fundamental principles of fairness. What was shocking to me was the reason he chose to leave the carpool. It wasn’t that he could no longer stand to associate with heathens such as myself; rather, he wanted to spend more time praying in the mornings, and to use the hour-long ride to and from work to work on “Scripture memorization.”

A few days later, I found my copy of Finding Darwin’s God in my mailbox at work. A year after I’d lent it to him, Mark had returned it with a post-it saying, “I didn’t quite get through it, but it was very interesting. Thanks.” I wrote him the following email: “Didn’t finish? What happened, man?” He wrote back saying that he just “didn’t have time” to finish it, but that he’d read another book instead. It was a book on “Intelligent Design,” a concept I thought we’d thoroughly dispatched with in the carpool.

I find the entire saga somewhat dismaying. It points out what I think is one of the most damaging and depressing aspects of the fundamentalist community (of any fundamentalist community) – its insularity. Mark passed up the opportunity to associate with two people with different beliefs (because let’s not forget, I might be Jewish, but Dan’s Catholic, and apparently Catholics and Protestants really don’t get along that well, theologically speaking) in favor of spending more time by himself. How many other people in his life, do you think, would argue with him about whether English should be the national language, or whether condoms lead to promiscuity, or whatever other half-thought-out opinion he holds?

About a year ago, Mark was very proud to have delivered the (hour-long) sermon at his church, and he sent the other two of us a link to his church’s website, where MP3s of each sermon could be downloaded. I confess that I didn’t actually listen to much of his particular piece, but I did look at the titles of the various “messages” from the weeks around his. At a time when the news was full of stories about the war in Iraq and torture at Abu Ghraib at Guantanamo, Mark’s church was talking about personal repentance, sexual purity, and about a deepening personal relationship with Jesus. These religious communities, of which American Evangelicals are a notable example, are failing themselves and their society by their insularity.

I don’t mean to indict all religious activity here, but I think there is something deeply irresponsible – something willfully blind – about turning so far away from the world. It is, I believe, fundamentally immoral to elevate one’s personal spiritual concerns above an awareness of what is going on in the world. An insistent, solipsistic focus on the ritualistic repetition of unchallenged beliefs, and the masturbatory pre-occupation with the familiar and internal over the external, represents an inexcusable abdication of moral, ethical, and intellectual responsibility.

It has practical consequences. There are facts about the world that these people don’t know and aren’t learning because they are reading the Bible (for the twentieth time) instead of the newspaper. They perpetuate a cycle of intolerance and ignorance because their children are educated at home, and aren’t exposed to the inevitable diversity of opinion and experience that public or private schooling provide. They put aside books that would challenge their preconceptions in favor of books that reinforce them. And they deprive themselves of the opportunity to broaden their minds by interacting with people they disagree with.

I recognize that some of these charges could be leveled at me. I talk a good game when it comes to diversity, but how much time do I really spend exposing myself to opinions I disagree with? One of the reasons I enjoyed the carpool so much was that it kept my argument “muscles” from atrophying: there are few things more stimulating than mounting a stirring defense of the right to sexual privacy, and few things more entertaining than telling a Catholic that, really, you don’t care if he thinks you’re going to Hell.

But aside from these occasional skirmishes, how often do I face thinking that’s really different from my own? I only skim conservative political blogs, and I’m not going to waste my time reading a book arguing that evolution can’t account for “irreducibly complex” biological structures and processes, or that purports to give the “politically incorrect” truth about the evils of Islam, or that claims that I, and those who agree with me, are liars, traitors, and worse.

So what’s the difference? Why do I think Mark needs to read Ken Miller while I’m excused from reading Ann Coulter? One obvious and facile answer is that Miller is right while Coulter is an idiot. Even so, my own bookshelf isn’t above rebuke: I don’t read anywhere near enough sensible conservative writing, and I should fix that. I like to that I’m a leg up on people like Mark because I have the tools to distinguish what’s worth reading from what’s not – but he’d probably claim that he has as much right to dismiss Richard Dawkins as I do to dismiss Bill Bennett.

So, am I just as blinkered and small-minded as poor Mark, whom I’m raking over the coals here? I don’t think so; a discussion of why will have to wait for the next essay.

Fear Of The Unknown

Unlikely Words’ First Link Post!

Geek alert. I love my RSS feeds. Every blog needs a linky post and I’ve been charged with developing one for Unlikely Words. I promise the links contained in the semi-regular link posts were at one time interesting to me (and might be interesting to you) and I promise to post the link posts semi-regularly. (The previous sentence has already proven false as this post was started 3 weeks ago and I already have enough tabs for another post, let alone most of this stuff being outdated). Hopefully, most of these links will come from places other than Lifehacker, Boing Boing, and Kottke. I can’t promse that, but maybe I can take solace in the idea that I’ll read overpublishing blogs so you don’t have to.

  • I know Unlikely Words uses Word Press. But I started AABA on Blogger and Blog This makes creating linky posts very easy. Does Word Press have this?
  • I hate 90% of the posts from Xeni on Boing Boing. She’s recently become a vegan and is fighting (I’d volunteer successfully) her desire to preach. This article is from Rolling Stone and talks about how nasty pig farms are. The excerpts were riveting. (Boing Boing)
  • Rich people can do what they want with their money, but they should be helping out more. Even if Oprah’s school is over the top, at least she’s trying to make a difference. The counter to this argument is that she could have a bigger impact spending her money more wisely. (AMERICAblog)
  • The Gates Foundations invests in companies that cause problems for some of the people they are trying to help. When the CEOs of Halliburton, Exxon, and Chevron give away giant percentages of their wealth to foundations that strive to make change in the world and those foundations don’t hold questionable financial positions, this story will OUTRAGE me a lot more. (I can’t remember.)
  • I normally wouldn’t post a link about a guy asking for donations for a frivolous cause. But this guy got a bum X-Box and then had a hard time with the Customer Service. His goal now is to buy the biggest box he can afford to send his X-Box back for repair. This type of consumer ingenuity fills me with glee. (Consumerist)
  • I don’t really go see live music anymore, but maybe I’ll start again. iConcertCal just might be the coolest iTunes add-on since… well, forever. Once a week, iConcertCal searchs your library and finds concerts in your area. (Lifehacker)
  • Companies can’t keep paying skyrocketing health costs for long. Eventually, they’ll just get their own docters. Brilliant. (Marginal Revolution)
  • If you’re afraid of giant rabbits, think you might be, or don’t want to read about how they might get used to end North Korea’s hunger problems, don’t click on this link. (Boing Boing)
  • I aspire to be a better photographer. If I read this link, I might have a chance. (I can’t remember.)
  • I asked Matthew to change Unlikely Words a bit so that I could better document my life. I have deep desires to document my life more fully. Feltron’s Annual Report is an inspiration to me. (Kottke.)
  • These food rule models might be good for you if you want to become a more efficient food orderer. (Marginal Revolution)
  • Ahhh, Rhode Island. (Boing Boing)
  • This site allows me to create a map of all the states I’ve visited. Be careful, because I just might. You can also do countries as well, but that was less interesting for me. (Marginal Revolution)
  • I wanted to read this article on the media documentation of a few New Yorkers, but I’m not as interested anymore. I might get back to it some day. (Kottke.)
  • If we start needing to make energy out of corn will there be less corn in everyday food? Will that make us skinnier? (Freakonomics)
  • The TSA has guidelines to help its staff ensure that helper monkeys are not carrying bombs. They let helper monkeys fly on planes? (Boing Boing)
  • I don’t have enough pictures in Flikr for this to work well for me, but Matthew probably does. It was very slow, but very easy. (Lifehacker)
  • Help charities without donating money. You know you want to. (Lifehacker)
  • If you heard about this on NPR’s This American Life a couple weeks ago, now you can watch it on Youtube. A guy shoots the same movie 3 times with 3 different actors in the early 80’s. Incidentally, each of the 3 became stars. (Boing Boing)
  • This article seems interesting, but I haven’t read it yet. Vanity Fair always seems to have long articles I want to read, but for which I don’t make the time. That says something about either me or Vanity Fair.
Unlikely Words’ First Link Post!

Roasted and Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Rachel and I just got back from a week in a Caribbean paradise, so getting off the plane in 5-degree weather (in short-sleeves, no less) was a bit of a shock. It was probably that, coupled with a desire to eat in a somewhat more healthy manner, that led us to dub this week the Week of Soups.

We spent Sunday morning searching the magical Internet for soup recipes, and found three that sounded pretty good. The first one was this butternut squash soup recipe from All Recipes.

I shan’t reproduce the recipe here, since you can click that link and see it for yourself, but it basically involves roasting a squash, a head of garlic, and some onions, pureeing them, and then simmering them with spices in vegetable broth. Really can’t be simpler.

Squash, Onions, and Garlic IMG_8391.JPG IMG_8389.JPG

Rachel liked it, but I thought it was only OK. It had the sweetness that you expect from a butternut squash soup, but it interacted kind of oddly, for me, with the curry flavor. (It’s entirely possible that lame curry powder and broth are to blame.) If I were doing this again, I might have sauteed the squash with the curry powder to bring out more flavor. I also think it needed some heat — when we get the leftovers out of the freezer in a few weeks, I’ll probably add a dash of cayenne.

Soup and bread Soup

Roasted and Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Abstraction and Empathy

A prominent libertarian blogger, who goes by the nom de plume “Jane Galt,” wrote recently about the notion of “redistribution of wealth:”

While I am much more sanguine than most libertarians about redistributing material wealth from the richer to the poorer … I cannot believe in this sort of redistribution—“cutting down the tall poppies,” as I believe the Australians call it. Perhaps a little thought experiment will explain why.

Beauty, like wealth, is relative—it benefits its possessor only insofar as they are lovelier than the women, or handsomer than the men, around them. Presumably, if we disfigured all the good-looking actors in Hollywood, and the models in New York, and … well, heck, let’s slash the faces of everyone who’s better looking than I am. I am younger and slimmer than the average American, and have good teeth, long thick hair, and all the other accoutrements of an upper–middle–class upbringing. So we know that this would bring happiness to far more Americans than it would distress. We don’t have to turn them into Quasimodo—just make them no more good looking than I am. Just think how happy America could be made if Cindy Crawford had saddlebags and a squint.

But wait! Americans could be made even happier if Cindy Crawford and her ilk had acid poured on their faces to turn them into a twisted mass of scars, and were inflated a hundred pounds or so apiece through gavage. Physical pain could be alleviated by judicious application of modern painkilling technology, providing a huge psychic boost to everyone else at only a mild psychic cost … to the pulchritudinous elites.

Can you imagine a more blindly privileged position than that the value of wealth is solely relative, that the wealthy are happy only because there are those with less and that the poor are unhappy only because there are those with more? Leaving aside the risible opinion that for the wealthy to lose some of their money would be akin to a woman being violently disfigured, one is left to wonder that it has never occurred to Ms. “Galt” that maybe the poor are unhappy not only because they see that there are those that have more money than they do. Maybe the fact that they can’t afford food and a decent place to live has something to do with it. Maybe the inability to provide one’s children with all they need or want would weigh more heavily than the sight of a Lexus driving down the street. Maybe, just maybe, there are objective downsides to poverty.

This particular bit of nonsense is just one example of a phenomenon I’ve seen quite a bit of: a noted lack of empathy from conservative and libertarian thinkers. This isn’t a particularly novel insight—after all, the stereotype is that the hearts of us liberal types simply bleed empathy—but I’ve noticed one particular strain of empathy failure has to do with what I consider to be an error in levels of abstraction.

Abstraction is important. It is by generalizing that we turn experience into prediction, examples into rules. The ability to see beyond one’s own circumstances is, itself, a kind of abstraction, and one that can lead to more, not less, empathy. And of course dealing only with specifics bogs debate down with anecdotes, and fails to address principles.

But discourse that occurs only at the level of abstraction runs the risk of ignoring that which was abstracted. When talking about unemployment numbers or casualty rates it’s important to remember that there are real people behind these numbers. Taxation, for example, is fairly universally unpopular, but it’s also widely acknowledged to be essential for funding the services on which citizens rely. In a discussion about a criminally under-funded social program, is it not a failure of empathy to gloss over pleas on the behalf of those who are not served to argue instead about the justness of taxation at all? Is staking out an abstract principle nothing more than avoiding the unpleasant reality?

When considering the merits of a proposition like universal health care, what do you consider? Do you believe that millions of children and adults without the ability to pay for doctor’s visits and medicine is a tragedy that we, as a society have a duty to confront? Or is your primary concern “moral hazard” – the idea that if a person has access to health care they might use it “wastefully,” getting tests and treatments that they don’t need. (Even if such a proposition isn’t ludicrous to you on its face, that is, even if you accept that it reflects a likely or even possible outcome of universal insurance coverage, do you consider this to be a worse outcome than the status quo?)

When a group of women tells you about their experiences in a decidedly male-dominated society, and about how their experiences have affected their relationships with family, lovers, and even their own bodies, and when they insist that there is a pernicious sexism even in today’s enlightened society, and that even well-intentioned comments can sometimes cause hurt, what do you say? Do you apologize for giving offense, if you have done so? Do you keep silent if you have nothing constructive to say? Or do you muse aloud that it’s an interesting proposition and wonder how such a hypothesis might be tested, as if we were talking about a thought experiment and not real people and their lives?

Political philosophy and economic theory are important tools. Debates about abstract concepts are often helpful and nearly always enjoyable, but a refusal to engage with those who are concerned about the concrete realities that underlie the abstractions is, to at least some extent, and abrogation of one’s moral duties. When debating the issues of our time we must not, in our zeal to see the forest, overlook the trees.

Abstraction and Empathy

Tuna “Sashimi”

Pasta. Chili. Stews. More pasta. Leftover chili.

Oy. I’m full just remembering. It was time for a change. Something lighter. Something healthier. Something impressive and yet easy. And then it came to me: ceviche. Tuna ceviche, to be precise, since we hadn’t had tuna in a long while. The ceviche ingredients (avocado, cucumber, tomato, red onion, limes) had already been purchased, and I planned to swing by the store on the way home from work for the freshest possible tuna.

And then I saw it. Sitting there in the fish case, calling to me — taunting me, almost — coyly, seductively, irresistably: Ultrafrozen sushi grade tuna.

Ultra. Frozen. Sushi. Grade. Tuna.

Yes, yes, it was $20/pound. But dammit, I’m worth it. And we only needed about half a pound. So, into the cart it went, and out the window went the plans for ceviche. It would have been a crime to cook or even marinate this tuna. No, it had to be enjoyed as it was, and since I didn’t feel like buying nori and don’t trust my ability to make rice, that meant no sushi, but rather “sashimi.”

(I’m putting sashimi in quotes because I don’t think I can presume to say that what I actually ended up making was really sashimi, and I have this fear of an authentic Japanese chef seeing this and shaking their head in dismay. Or, like, of Iron Chef Morimoto jumping into his monitor, out of mine, and pummeling me to death. He could do it, too.)

By the way, guess what happens when your cats get a whiff of the Ultrafrozen sushi grade tuna you brought home?


Once the cats were shooed, I still had to do some fancy thinkin’. The greens upon which the ceviche was to sit became a simple salad with a Japanese-inflected sesame vinaigrette: sesame oil, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, wasabi powder. The other ingredients got chopped and made into a ceviche-without-the-fish salad: diced avocado, roma tomato, red onion, cilantro, lime juice. (Sadly, I made this last week and can’t remember exactly the proprotions.)

I had a spare avocado, and I had this idea originally that I could make some kind of a dressing using the avocado instead of oil, but it ended up being way too thick. So, change of plans: an avocado, plenty of lime juice, some rice vinegar, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a dash of wasabi powder went into the blender, and came out as a smooth and tasty paste. I spread a teaspoon or so of it on the plate, and laid the slices of tuna on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions for garnish, and we had something that, even it if isn’t authentic, was delicious.

Tuna Sashimi

Tuna “Sashimi”

Sex? Or cancer?

Perhaps you’ve read about the new vaccine against cervical cancer? Apparently, it’s “virtually 100% effective” against the most common strains of human papilloma virus that cause the disease. Would you not expect the arrival of a vaccine against a deadly cancer to be heralded with joy and triumph from everyone?

Ah, surely you’ve underestimated the Christian right. You see, some people are apparently afraid that immunizing prepubescent girls against cervical cancer might send “a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage.”

Alas for the rougly 10,000 women a year who may develop the disease, HPV is sexually-transmitted, which means the guardians of moral purity in America have decided that its prevention is dangerous.

“Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teenagers that, ‘We expect you to be sexually active,'” said Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for Focus on the Family before being appointed to the ACIP in 2003, in a telephone interview.

“There are people who sense that it could cause people to feel like sexual behaviors are safer if they are vaccinated and may lead to more sexual behavior because they feel safe,” said Finger, emphasizing that he does not endorse that position and is withholding judgment until the issue comes before the vaccine policy panel for a formal recommendation.

Let’s, for the moment, leave aside how realistic it is that vaccinating a 12 year old girl against cervical cancer really would encourage her to run out and have sex (since I’m pretty sure cervical cancer is near the bottom of the list of fears young people have about sex, somewhere below pregnancy, AIDS, herpes, and “am I doing it right?”).

Let’s also set aside the ridiculous idea that vaccination and abstinence are somehow mutually exclusive, as if vaccination somehow causes pre-marital sex:

“I’ve talked to some who have said, ‘This is going to sabotage our abstinence message,’ ” said Gene Rudd, associate executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations…. “Parents should have the choice. There are those who would say, ‘We can provide a better, healthier alternative than the vaccine, and that is to teach abstinence,’ ” Rudd said.

For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that the tendentious proposition put forth by Dr. Finger (his actual name!) is true, and that providing a vaccination to young women somehow increases the likelihood that they’ll run out of the doctor’s office into the back seat of some guy’s car. To decide whether or not you favor vaccination, then, you must make a moral calculation about the risks involved in either providing or withholding the vaccine. On the one hand, there’s the possibility that a young woman might get vaccinated, have sex, and not get cancer. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that a young woman might not get vaccinated, still have sex (since no one’s claiming that withholding the vaccine guarantees abstinence), and, possibly, get cancer and die.

It seems to me that opposing mandatory vaccination is reducible to claiming that is worse for a woman to have sex and not get cancer than it is for that woman to have sex and get cancer.

What kind of twisted, punitive, misogynistic logic would lead someone to insist that cancer (cancer!) be a consequence of behavior they find objectionable? (Here’s a hint: it’s the same logic that insists that pregnancy be a consequence of such behavior.) Abortion, contraception, and now cervical cancer: what a world.

Update: Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my dismay. Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias weigh in.

Sex? Or cancer?

Braised Lamb Shanks

As the leaves begin to turn, and the temperatures start to fall, a young man’s thoughts turn to stew. Is there anything more comforting and warming than a good hearty stew? Quite possibly the best meal my mom made for us as kids (or at least the one I looked forward to most) was her beef stew; mine has never quite come close. On the other hand, I make a pretty mean lamb stew.

Somewhere between home and the store to buy the lamb stew ingredients, however, I got an idea. It’s weird, but sometimes I get a craving not for a particular ingredient, but for a cooking method. Ever since the Harvest Postluck and Ken’s braised beef I wanted to fire up my own dutch oven, so I figured I could make some kind of a hybrid: braised lamb shanks with stewed vegetables. Or something.

Check out the ingredients, in proud array:

The ingredients

I ended up using 2 medium onions, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, 2 medium sweet potatoes, a handful (maybe 6-8?) new potatoes, 2 carrots, a red and a green bell pepper (plus some other little random bell peppers from our CSA), 3 green onions, and a bunch of flat leaf parslet.

For seasoning, a tablespoon of curry powder, a tablespoon of dried oregano, and a half-teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

The ingredients

Once diced and chopped, it looked like this:

The ingredients

Oh, yeah. Lamb. Gonna need some lamb. I got 4 lamb shanks …

Lamb shanks

… and seared them (in two batches) in my big ol’ dutch oven with just a tablespoon or so of oil.

Lamb shanks, seared

While the lamb enjoyed a well-deserved rest, I heated another couple tablespoons of olive oil in the dutch oven, and added the curry powder and oregano. The spices get a chance to bloom a bit in the hot oil, and it makes the kitchen smell darned good. Once the spices opened up, I added the onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, and stirred things around until everything was heated through and the onions started to take on a little color.


Then it was time for the braise. Two 20-oz cans of diced tomatoes went into the pot, and as it heated up, I nestled the lamb snugly in the liquid.

Lamb in tomatoes

I turned the heat up to a fairly aggressive simmer and let the longer-cooking ingredients get a 5 or 10 minute head start. Then I stirred in the peppers, turned the heat down to a low simmer, covered the pot, and let it ride for at least an hour.

Adding the peppers

Things smelled good. They smelled very good. When it was finally time to eat, I evacuated all (ok, most) of the solids: the lamb to one bowl and the veggies to another.

Everybody out of the pool

I added the sliced scallions to the remaining liquid, and cranked up the heat to thicken and reduce the sauce. This liquid, folks, let me tell you, is pure concentrated delicious-ness.

Anyway, I served it with some simply prepared couscous. Just a lamb shank on each plate with a generous spoonful of the vegetables, and then a healthy dose of the reduced sauce over top of it.

Saucing and plating

I thought this was a pretty delicious meal. It was pretty damn hearty, if you know what I mean. I probably wouldn’t want to eat it on a nice summer day, but when it’s raining and cold, it’ll hit the spot.

Finished product

(Oh, and here’s the best part: after we ate, I pulled the meat off of the other two bones, chopped it up a bit, and tossed the meat and all of the veggies back into the pot: voila! Lamb stew leftovers.)

Braised Lamb Shanks

Shrimp Fajitas

Shrimp FajitasShrimp fajitas? Yes. Shrimp fajitas.

I know. Fajitas are made with skirt steak, but we were feeling like eating healthy, and shrimp seemed like the thing to do. Also, we really like shrimp. Now, usually I do my indoor fajitas in a cast iron skillet, but I thought shrimp would probably be too delicate for such an application. A 12″ sautee pan did the trick.

Naturally the shrimp had to be marinated, and the marinade was where all the flavor came from: the juice of two limes, about a tablespoon of adobo sauce (and one chile) from a can of chipotles, two cloves of garlic, about half an onion, and some salt and pepper, blended smooth. I only marinated it for about 30 minutes — I wasn’t trying to make ceviche here.

The other exciting part of the fajitas was the chance to use some incredible vegetables. The most delicious tomato I’ve had in some time and an onion came from Ledgewood Farms, an incredible farmstand in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. The bell peppers, chile peppers, and garlic came from our local CSA, and the parsley came from our backyard. Fun!

So: shrimp gets pan-seared in a little canola oil. Julienned vegetables get cooked in the same pan until the onions take on some color. Then, just pile ’em up on tortillas with a few slices of fresh avocado and a spoonful of pico de gallo: tomato, onion, jalepeno, lime juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. (I know, traditionally, it’s cilantro, but we have parsley in the backyard and that’s what I used.)

Anyway, it was delicious. I’d make it again.

Shrimp Fajitas

(Photos by Rachel.)

Shrimp Fajitas

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 1

JR is in NY this weekend, which means I’m on Girlfriend Vacation. Every time she goes away I have high hopes of really getting some stuff done. Why can’t I get this “stuff” done when she’s here? I don’t know. Why can’t I ever get this stuff done when she goes away? I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with heaping too much onto my plate. But without fail, it always ends up Sunday night and I wonder what I actually DID DO over the weekend because I haven’t realized a quarter of the goals I set out to achieve. This weekend, will be different, though, not because I’ll achieve any higher percentage of my goals, but because I’ll at least have a record of my actions. To do this, I’m going to keep a running journal of my weekend.
But first a listing of goals in no real order of priority:
Use up gift certificates to Smalldog, Amazon, Borders.
Purchase iPod case and external harddrive (perhaps with gift certificates).
Shop for groceries.
Watch movies and basketball.
Finish a few blogs I’ve been working on (not the GF Vacation Journal).
Clean around the house.
Extra goals will be added as they are realized.
Sleep a lot.

Without further adieu:
4:40 PM Got home from dropping JR off at the bus station. I forgot I would be driving when we left and I didn’t bring my wallet. Luckily, I didn’t need it.
4:50 PM Read Salon.com’s political blog, War Room. It was dominated by different stories about the Republicans unsuccessful efforts to politicize Terri Schaivo. More than likely, her name will be all but forgotten in a month. I don’t feel positively or negatively about that, I just think the news cycle is so fast that stories don’t stay around for very long. Remember the tsunami? Remember the elections in Iraq and Palestine? Remember steroids?
5:25 PM Worked on complicated (for me) Excel spreadsheet for work.
7:00 PM Shooed bad cats off of kitchen table and continued working on spreadsheet.
7:09 PM Shooed bad cats off of kitchen table again and decided to start watching Another State of Mind, a movie about a tour across the country in 1984 with Youth Brigade and Social Distortion. It’s supposed to be one of the first and best punk documentaries. Still working on spreadsheet.
8:30 PM Another State of Mind is over. I wish it had been better, but it was interesting seeing Mike Ness so young and seemingly healthy. Although, Youth Brigade put together the tour and seemed to headline, it seemed like Social Distortion was more popular. At least it seemed like they had more money than Youth Brigade. SD all ended up flying home from DC when the bus broke down for the umpteenth time, while Youth Brigade and the road crew drove home in the back of a UHaul truck.
8:31 PM Fed cats evening snack. They’re on a schedule now where they get a small meal in the early evening and then a big meal in the late meal. This should keep them from crying for food in the morning and waking us up. Unfortunately, they wake us up anyway, but not because they’re hungry. I think it’s because they’re bad cats.
8:32 PM Back to work on the spreadsheet.
9:45 PM Quit working on spreadsheet. Major problem was coming up with a solid formula to calculate the percentage of change (both positive and negative). I was able to get it to calculate positive growth and also to calculate negative change, but not at the same time.
10:00 PM Ate my new favorite ‘easiest meal ever’. Poached egg and cheese wrap. It takes about 3 minutes to make.
10:14 PM Scooped poop from kitty litter box. One of the bad cats hasn’t learned to cover his poop and therefore fills the entire house with a terrible smell twice a day.
10:21 PM Started watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. UNC-Villanova is on the muted TV, though my bracket is in absolute shambles.
10:58 PM JR calls to check in and say good night. She had really good Indian food, I’m going to have some ice cream.
12:06 AM Finished Sky Captain. It was OK. I liked how it seemed like I was watching a comic book the entire time. It seemed to black and white with a little blush on the cheeks every now and then. Silly plot. You just don’t expect movies to have only one major problem for the heroes to solve. This one did.
1:00 AM Fed the cats and went to bed.

Girlfriend Vacation Running Journal 1