Hobby Lobby update

Further to my last post, I wanted to note that Mother Jones has discovered a little more hypocrisy than I expected out of Hobby Lobby.

While the company’s petition to the court stated that they conduct their business in accordance with their religious principles–such as by not selling shot glasses, for example–their company 401(k) invests in funds that have holdings in a bunch of pharmaceutical companies that make all kinds of birth control and such. This is something that many religious people avoid, and it’s not particularly difficult to do.

(Their completely incorrect assertions about how various methods of birth control work, such that they claim that various methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, or delay ovulation, or what have you, are committing abortions, which, basically, any scientist or physician would laugh their face off if they heard them, are apparently moot! which I don’t understand. I mean if the court had a case before it where a plaintiff swore inside out and upside down that dogs lay eggs and his neighbour was stealing them every day, when clearly dogs do not lay eggs, would they be obliged to accept his sincerely held belief that dogs lay eggs? I mean I just don’t get it. The whole basis for their case turns on a factual inaccuracy.)

On top of the fact that they seem to be happy to profit from the earnings of the pharmaceutical evildoers, Hobby Lobby’s employee medical insurance used to cover drugs like Plan B until 2012. Covering various drugs and services used to be completely voluntary: some companies cover dental, for example, while others don’t; some companies decline to cover Viagra or some expensive drugs. But this God-fearing company that won’t even facilitate toasting a bride and groom with a personalized shot glass was happy to cover drugs that actually do provide abortions!

It seems to me that they decided to get all hard line so they could a) get a shit-ton of publicity; and b) possibly help overturn the dread Obamacare. Because if their principles were so very dear and hewn-to, surely they would have been hewing to them before 2012?

Employers, religion, and health insurance.

So the idea that a company can refuse to pay for birth control because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Talk about a slippery slope.

Leaving aside the fact that a company is not a human with beliefs or feelings, it is a legal entity that exists to do business of some kind; leaving aside the generally-accepted idea that a person’s religious beliefs end at the end of a person’s fingertips (i.e., you cannot force me to behave in accordance with your religious beliefs because I am an autonomous person); the thing about this Hobby Lobby case, to me, is where does it stop?

There are religions that don’t believe in drinking alcohol. Does that mean that they can refuse to provide health coverage for cirrhosis or other liver diseases that may be related to alcohol consumption?

There are religions that don’t believe in smoking tobacco. Does that mean that they can refuse to treat lung cancer or heart disease or emphysema or COPD related to smoking? what about second-hand smoke? What about a kid who’s burned in a house fire started by his parent smoking carelessly?

Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Does that mean that they can refuse to cover insulin treatments and diabetes-related medical problems, because they sincerely believe that the condition is a direct result of gluttony?

There are religions that think that dancing is a sin. Does that mean that they can refuse to treat the ankle you sprain square-dancing?

Are employees going to be required to get approval from their employers every time they want to see a doctor? will they have to fill out a form, detailing what is wrong, and how it happened, and whether any banned activities were involved, and beg to be permitted to seek medical care?

My personal belief is that it is none of my employer’s goddam business what I discuss with my doctor, or what medicines I may be prescribed, or anything else. A person’s relationship with their physician is, to me, what some people’s relationships with their religious leaders are: sacrosanct, and private.

And my employers should not be able to nose their way in, any more than legislators should.

Granny Smith Goat Cheese Crumble

And so, inspired by the Aurora Bistro dinner, I attempted the goat cheese apple crumble, because it was Valentine’s Day and my Main Distractor loved it so.

My recipe was basically cobbled together. I used about 4 Granny Smiths because I wanted that tartness and firm texture. So peeled, thinly sliced…about 1/8 inch thick. I used a square pyrex dish, cooking-sprayed or use butter.

I used two of those small logs of soft goat cheese, melted into about 3/4 of a cup of milk and a cup of cream, a little salt, a very little pepper, a tiny bit of nutmeg, and I threw a largeish sprig of thyme into the pot while it heated up and simmered to reduce, keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.

I started out the dish with a layer of cheese sauce on the bottom, then layered apples and sauce, making sure I had sauce to put on top.

Then I topped it with my crumble stuff: 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup flour, scant 1/2 cup sugar, bit of salt, mix that up then add a quarter pound of softened butter and mush it up with your fingers till you get chunky bits.

I baked it uncovered at 350F for around 35 minutes; it was still quite liquid. It did much better the second day, when I had heated it up again in the oven. So I can say rather to keep it in for an hour, or else add less milk/simmer it until it’s more of a béchamel than a clam chowder thickness.

apple goat cheese crumble

It’s a tasty item; a little sweet, and a little savoury; very suitable for dessert if you don’t want anything too sweet. I think it would be great as dessert with a caramel sauce, maybe, too. But it also would not be out of place with meat or poultry as a main course.

Aurora Bistro

Last night, the Main Distractor and I SkyTrained out to the wilds of New Westminster to go to a restaurant reunion of a place that, sadly, was closed before he had a chance to try it out.

Aurora Bistro was one of the first BC food, BC wine, great technique, affordable prices restaurants in Vancouver, that I knew of, at least. (Bishop’s was the first local and seasonal restaurant, AFAIK, but however fantastic it is (and it is!) it’s not particularly affordable to the likes of me.) It may have been the only one that did what it did so well, and at a price point that you could go to on more than just special occasions. My dad, in particular, really loved the food, and was always happy to take me there.

Well, they did a one night only reunion last night, and we thought it was just great. Chef Jeff van Geest has always been the most good-natured, helpful guy–he has shared two recipes with me that I probably shouldn’t have had the temerity to ask for–and his food is just great. Really well prepared without being froufy and full of itself. The menu for last night is at the link above, and everything was just delicious. Some photos:

Dungeness Crab & Potato Cake green pea puree & preserved lemon aioli served with Tinhorn Creek 2013 Pinot Grigio


Seared Halibut Cheeks lentils, brown butter, grapefruit served with Tinhorn Creek 2012 Chardonnay


Fennel Crusted Pork Tenderloin apple goat cheese crumble, maple mustard jus served with Tinhorn Creek Old Fields 2010 Syrah


Yogurt Panna Cotta hazelnut sponge, beet gel, streusel served with Tinhorn Creek 2012 Gewürtztraminer

Really delicious meal, with lovely people. Front of house ably represented by the inimitable Kurtis Kolt and Katharine Manson, and Chefs Dan Tigchelaar and Hugh Carbery joined Chef Jeff in producing the excellent plates seen above.

The best part is that it may not be a one-off after all: it sold out in less than 24 hours, and everyone that was there was extremely happy to be there; there were also many who were disappointed not to be there. So I think it’s something they could do annually, or maybe even quarterly, if they cared to. I think I can say that we would be more than happy to go again :)

So the driving rage.

I don’t usually get into it here, because there’s a certain lack of respect from other drivers that you have to accept when you ride a cute scooter. I mean if you don’t accept it you’ll do bad things to your blood pressure, so it’s really not worth it.

But anyone who’s ridden in a car with me knows that I’m not the sort to keep my mouth shut when someone’s driving like an asshole. I mean there are driving conventions (that also happen to be laws) like signalling your turns and lane changes, and not cutting people off, and just generally not being a dick. That last one’s not a law, but if you follow it, chances are you won’t break any laws. And most of these things are really really easy to do.

On a scooter there are different things…people can’t tell the difference between a small and large displacement (well, larger!) engine, so they assume you’re going less than the speed limit even if you’re going the usual prevailing speed, that’s usually around 10 kph over, in the city, so they will zoom past you (usually on the right) regardless of how fast you might be going. So you end up getting passed by some oblivious cock doing 80 or 90 kph on a 50 kph road. Who then cuts you off and realizes how fast he’s going, so slams on the brakes.

There’s this prevailing need also to get in front of the scooter, so no matter how much room there is behind me in a lane, 90% of people will go out of their way to go in front of me.

That’s the usual kind of thing. I generally count any day where someone doesn’t actively try to kill me with their car as a good day.

Today I was parked at the bank, stopped in to use the machine. The bank was open, so there were actual bank customers in their parking spots, and there were the usual people who park in the bank slots to go to the rather revolting well known sandwich shop that is nearby, I guess it was lunchish time, so both parking areas were reasonably busy, although not chock-full.

I park in the last slot, next to the alley T-intersection. I’m just getting my gloves on and getting ready to go when this big pickup parks next to me, out of the slots, in the alley. There are other spots available–I mean plus I’m clearly leaving, so the slot I’m in will be available in short order–I looked at the truck, continue getting ready to go, he gets out of the truck and comes over to stand in front of me, all 5’8″ and a buck-fifty of him.  In a very reasonable tone of voice, he asks me if I’m talking to him. I wasn’t, and reply that I wasn’t. I don’t think I actually was saying anything. He asks me if I have a problem, I say no; I say but that’s not actually a parking space you’re in. He says, sure it is! I snort my derision, he gets blustery and belligerent and asks me rather less pleasantly if I’m a traffic cop and what am I going to do about it, and I say no, I’m fucking nobody and get the fuck out of there, because seriously, what kind of guy takes his wife to the Subway for lunch and then picks a fight with some random lady in the parking lot?

I pity you, you sad, sad, little man.

Still alive.

How many posts have had that title? according to my URL, I guess it’s three :p

Got through Christmas , got the excellent present from the Main Distractor’s parental units of VIP tickets to the Moogfest in Asheville in April (hence the countdown whatsit on the right there). We’re going to see Kraftwerk (3 shows!) and Giorgio Moroder, and Nile fucking Rodgers, and apparently MIA and Pet Shop Boys and Laurie damn Anderson, speaking and performing, and I mean if you weren’t in NYC in the 80s, how would you ever expect to have an opportunity to see Laurie Anderson perform? I’m so completely psyched for that.

There are apparently a few more acts to come; I really hope that Gary Numan is among them, since it would fit with his tour schedule and surely he’s worked with a Moog or two over the years? and I haven’t seen him live. And also fingers crossed for maybe a Daft Punk special appearance with Nile Rodgers and Chic or all by themselves :D and I can imagine all kinds of awesome special guests for him, really, he’s worked on SO MUCH AWESOME stuff.

Anyway, that’s my current look-forward.

And a little more.

A little more, à propos or at least because of the poverty post.

While I think my mother has actually been there, I have never been in a position where I didn’t have someone I could ask for help with money, if I really needed it. So no, I haven’t been that poor that I had to juggle bills in a big way, really; I have had to explain to a creditor that I needed to buy a bus pass to go to work so I could earn the money to pay them (and rent, and food), though, and that giving them my bus pass money wasn’t really a good idea.

I also used to smoke, and I used to buy cigarettes before food, of course. If you have smokes, you don’t need as much food. And if you could go into the weekend with a full deck of smokes and $20, life was good. Mind you, in the mid-1980s, $20 went a lot further than it does now.  In any case, I have sympathy for people who smoke.  Actually I have a lot more sympathy for people who smoke than I do for the holier-than-thou people who tend to be the ones criticizing smokers. (Just please don’t smoke where it’s going to come into my open windows, because that pisses me off.)

I also spent the first 20-something–actually, no: my baby teeth were perfectly normal–spent some 15-20 years of my life with crooked teeth, and with discoloration on the front two because I’d had tetracycline as an infant. The tetracycline was a last resort: they knew it could have bad effects on future teeth, but I guess I was right on the brink. So I survived, and then had these striped two front teeth, and then surrounding ones were crooked. (Four molars have also been problematic: two developed abcesses and are gone, one is filled within an inch of its life, and one is crowned.) Some time in my early teens, I had a veneer put on the two front teeth, as a cheaper alternative to caps. (I also had a stomach-churning fear of dentists, so I always wanted to spend as little time in the chair as possible; my parents I think could not have afforded braces, but I also didn’t want years of braces, so that made it easy not to get them.)

While the veneers were great, they were not without pitfalls. I remember missing someone’s birthday party once because the veneer fell off, and I was far too self-conscious to go out with the raw surface behind showing.

From time to time, a veneer would fall off, break off, whatever. A Montréal dentist replaced one with one that didn’t match the one next to it: a little thinner, a little less long. I developed a fear of biting apples, corn on the cob, ribs, crispy baguettes…you might laugh, but I lost one with a baguette. Even weirder, I lost one with a goddam doughnut.

Eventually, I was earning enough money to spend $15,000 to get actual crowns put in (six across and one in the back). I managed to not get root canals for the six front teeth; my dentist (head of the cosmetic dentistry branch of the ADA or something similarly impressive) managed to give me nearly normal teeth by building some up in the front and reducing others, and making all the colours match (this was huge for me: veneers are a little hit and miss, and when replaced separately…). The only thing he didn’t manage was to make the two front teeth actually match each other: that nameless Montréal dentist’s decision to make a smaller replacement has been semi-permanently in place ever since.

That all happened about 20 years ago. It was HUGE for me. When I was in high school and college, I wanted to be in the movies (I was in a performing arts school, so it’s not quite as stupid wishful thinking as it sounds: I acted and I sang). But I had these teeth, and massive self-confidence issues. I think if I’d managed the fancy teeth when I was still in high school, things could have turned out pretty differently.

Regardless, it’s a huge change; you feel completely different when you’re able to smile without measuring how much you open your lips, or forget and then close it right away, or not constantly gauge how people are reacting to it. And they do, they really do. Crooked teeth are such an incredible class marker in the US. I went to a private school, and you could tell the scholarship kids basically by their lack of orthodontia. I don’t know that I was aware of it in those terms at the time, but later, yes.

I think Dr Safavi gave me a life of 7-10 years on the crowns. I’ve been on borrowed time ever since. Even though I have some dental coverage through work, I still would be on the hook for a fair amount of $$ if I have to replace them. And more than likely would have to get a few root canals. You’d think I’d floss more often!

Anyway, I guess I have three major nightmare themes: one is the house catching fire; another is the random crime-getting shot-running away-flying one; and the last one is the falling in the street and breaking my teeth on the curb or something one. Or sometimes it’s the one where all the caps spontaneously fall off and I’m left with the little pointy stubs like those tribes who file their teeth down. Which are basically all that I have left of those six across.

So KillerMartinis’ missing teeth situation, in the parlance of the day, “resonated” with me. And tweeting this morning with Erin Kissane about it, she said the teeth aspect dispelled her “default skepticism” and it likewise did with me. When I click to chip in to one of these things from some stranger on the internet, I try to stop for a minute and ask myself whether it’s bona fide, and then whether, if it’s shown to be a fake, I will begrudge my few bucks. And I decided that no, I don’t mind helping this woman fix her teeth and get herself back on track. If it’s a total scam then I’ve just popped a few dollars in the tip jar for a pretty good performance, and that’s OK, too, I guess.

But what is UP with the people who think that people without money shouldn’t be able to string a series of words together coherently? “You can’t be poor, you write too well.” What? Wealth is no sign of intelligence or ability to string words together coherently; poverty is no sign of stupidity or ignorance. Wealth gives massively greater opportunities to gain knowledge, I guess that’s the main difference. But the library is usually free, if you live near one. Now there’s a whole wide internet out there, with countless libraries of information waiting to be found. Yet people with no intellectual curiosity get mad because someone they consider below them properly uses a lot of fancy words? Words are free, motherfuckers. I can learn as many of them as I want to. So can anyone.

Anyway.

So listen to this.

This woman, KillerMartinis, has recently gone viral. I came across her on twitter, and chipped in a few bucks, because hey, I haven’t been in her exact shoes, but I’ve been able to see where they were, once or twice, and anyone who plays the lottery like I do loves to be able to chip into a pile of money that is floating in the air, toward someone who can really use a goddam break.

I gather she’s been featured and linked all over, including HuffPo (I never would have seen her there: I avoid the place like the plague). I don’t think it could happen to anyone who would be more able to bring an amazingly articulate voice to describe what living in poverty is like. That kind of grinding poverty that just keeps grinding you down, and that so many people are really only one or two cascading misfortunes away from.

What’s cool about this, is that she is going to write a book, and lend a voice to a lot of people who could use one, people who are too easily ignored. I love her voice, and I’m pretty clearly not alone in that: I think she’ll do well. I think she has a really good chance of being able to keep her family out of poverty for the foreseeable future, and that is also pretty great.

Anyway. She has a new fancy blog and you should probably read it, she’s got interesting things to say.

And more of the same.

Where are the rest of the millions of people who used to read Tom Clancy books? where are they? or Ian Fleming books? or John Le Carré books? or Len Deighton books? and all the rest of the Cold War spy genre?

Did they think that everything in those books was fiction, that countries don’t spy on each other; nay, even their allies?

The nature of a modern first-world government is kind of like that of a modern corporation: it exists for one reason only: profit. Governments may have different ways of interpreting “profit” than corporations do (less direct ways, at least), but it’s always about a bottom line. Governments are a little different in that it’s even harder to prosecute them for wrongdoing than corporations, so there is even less incentive for them to behave. “Too big to fail,” as it were.

So when we hear the latest dribble of “NSA Bad!!!” information, that they listen in on the cell phones of heads of friendly states, people go around saying, “I’m shocked, SHOCKED!!! that’s awful!!!!!” while I say, “…and?” because if they have the ability, they will use it. And today’s Angela Merkel is tomorrow’s Ahmadinejad, so to speak.

And all those people who said that cell phones were not secure means of communication are not paranoid, they were prescient (OK, not even that: they were simply well-informed).

This is becoming a theme.

“Afraid of Difference”?

Katie Ryder has a piece in Salon right now bemoaning how the largely white audiences of the recent Postal Service mini-tour reacted to the opening act, a New Orleans “sissy bounce” act called Big Freedia.

For some reason, audience members reacted as if they had no advance knowledge of who would be playing, and attendees in Vancouver, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and especially Seattle thought perhaps they’d been “pranked” by the unlikely pairing of hypersexual New Orleans dance-rap with the light-synthy lily-white lullabies of the Postal Service.  The presence of Big Freedia and her dancers was said to be “inexplicable,” “awkward” and the result of a decision made by someone “on crack.”

I don’t really know what “sissy bounce” is, but I will state off the bat that I had no advance knowledge of the opening act (I often don’t, and while I sometimes will look up youtubes of openers I’m not familiar with, I was impossibly busy leading up to this show, which we saw in Portland, to do that in this case). So I guess I deserve a smack for not knowing every band in the USA, and what genre and style their music is? or for also suspecting Ben Gibbard was having a sly poke at his audience? I’ve been at lots of shows with seemingly mis-matched openers; it’s not that unusual. Mostly you feel sympathetic and sometimes sad for them, because it’s not rare for a boisterous crowd to encourage an opener to fuck right off the stage so they can see the headliner. You should have seen how the Violent Femmes were received at the Dead Kennedys show in 1984! I didn’t see or hear anyone challenging Big Freedia; applause was …polite? there were few WOOs and similar, but there were a few, and some people at the front seemed to be more into it than I was. Most seemed, basically, puzzled.

I was a little surprised to see these guys: a DJ with a laptop, an MC, and three dancers in hotpants or whatever they call short shorts these days. One girl had blue hair, one bleached blonde (much like mine) and one, this gorgeous tomato-red (and LONG!) that I really liked. But it was the twerking that was the real surprise.

The music was unobjectionable, to me; I am pretty broad in my music tastes. It was music that I would have been bouncing along to pretty contentedly, if not for the stage show.

I get stuck in conundra with this kind of thing. I didn’t enjoy when, for example, Jane’s Addiction had strippers on poles at their shows. I mean, if you want to make your living pole-dancing, and you can? more power to you. I just don’t particularly enjoy watching it, and I particularly don’t enjoy it at a rock show that is largely filled with men who enjoy heavy guitar music. Maybe it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but it does me, especially when I’m at a show like Jane’s  alone. So I mean it’s not like I haven’t seen female dancers at shows before, but it’s not why I go to shows. And I wasn’t alone at the Postal Service show, I was with my Main Distractor. And it wasn’t just the women twerking, the whole band got into it, so it wasn’t simply sexist. But the fact remains, that I ended up reading Questlove’s autobiography for most of the show on my phone, because while I didn’t mind the music, I just really did not want to watch the dancing. It feels exploitative to me, young women dancing that way. Maybe it’s not and it’s a job and they’re clearly skilled dancers, and it’s all good. I don’t know. That’s my conundrum. But regardless, I don’t want to watch it. (For the record, I do appreciate that the male MC and DJ were doing it too, but I don’t want to watch them do it either.)

Does this mean I’m racist? I don’t really see it does. I would have been equally unimpressed if it were white people on that stage, dancing like that. Katie Ryder states that Miley Cyrus twerks now, in a watered-down white girl way, apparently. I don’t think I’ve heard any Miley Cyrus music, but I expect I would dislike her twerking equally, and most likely, like her music rather less.

According to Katie Ryder there are some gay aspects to this band that honestly flew over my head, I didn’t get any impression one way or another, but we were back by the soundboard. The MC was wearing pink pants, but what does that mean? I don’t know. It certainly didn’t colour my reaction in any way. I can’t help what the dudebros out there may have thought.

I also can’t speak for anyone else at the Portland show, but Katie, I didn’t take it as a “confrontation,” either, just something unexpected. I watched for a couple of songs and then opted to just listen instead. We were at the back of the floor and so I doubt had any negative impact on anyone else’s experience. I tweeted, that night:

I’m not “afraid of difference” by any means. I’m not afraid of twerking, either, and if you want to watch it, please be my guest. So, please don’t insinuate that disliking a style of dance makes one racist or “scared of the other.”

Edited to add that Katie refers to Big Freedia as “she” and I refer to the MC as “he” and this is because when he was twerking, it was very plain to see some non-female genitalia bouncing away. So that’s why.