September 29, 2005

Hot holy sweet goddamn!

Here is the text of the nearly-incoherent email I just sent to Jacob:

OMG OMG OMG BBQ LOL! They took it!
Calloo! Callay! O Frabjisday!
Thank you sooooooo much!
Eeeeeeeee! I'M DONE WITH MY SCHOOL APPLICATIONS! I can cross everything off of my school to-do list! Everything!
Maybe not everything. I might stop by the Financial Aid Office next half-day to see what, if anything, they have to say about re-entry and financial aid. But OMG OMG OMG LOL I'M DONE!
Hot shit! Sweetie, you are a super helper. I wonder if celebratory pizza and Dune (or sushi and Dune, or, I don't know, falafel and Dune, something and Dune) is called for tonight?

Love, D

The last piece of my readmission paperwork got turned in today. It involved my mother picking up my high school transcript in Los Angeles and sending it by FedEx overnight to Jacob at the lab, where he took it and ran with it to the Letters & Sciences Office of Undergraduate Advising to turn in my application packet for me. This is because he's awesome. My mother is also awesome and will be receiving thank-you baked goods soon (lurking family members, please do not spoil the surprise).

Ten thousand-ton weights have just been lifted from my proverbial shoulders. All I have to do now is sit back and wait to hear if I'm readmitted. You should all feel free to pound rhythmically on your tables and chant, "School for Dianna! School for Dianna!" to encourage the university in its decision. SCHOOL (for Dianna)!

Posted by dianna at 11:58 AM

September 28, 2005

No, really, curried grass.

This is not a vegan stuff post. Okay, it's a vegan stuff post, but it's not a useful vegan stuff post; I'm just calling your attention to this recipe, which illustrates something important. Take a look at it.

First of all, butternut squash muffins sound absolutely delicious. They'd be a lot like pumpkin bread, I imagine, which is one of the most wonderful things in the vegetable-teabread pantheon. That's why I clicked on the recipe when Gmail's random link generator offered it to me. I was almost certain it would be unvegan, but teabreads are gloriously easy to veganize. You just replace the eggs with egg replacer and none of the gooey sticky candy-sweet unhealthy wonderfulness is lost.

What I found when I clicked on the link horrified me. This recipe could only have been created by a group of very focused individuals sitting down and thinking very seriously about terrible things to do to muffins. They removed the gooey sticky candy-sweet unhealthy wonderfulness with surgical precision, and still left the motherfucking eggs in. We have spelt flour, rice oil, and reduced apple juice where we should have white flour, unbutter, and three cups of sugar. And four eggs. For twelve goddamned muffins. They're practically omelets; they've even got pepper in them.

The good thing about this is that it serves to illuminate something about vegan food. Vegan baking does not mean spelt flour and hemp oil. Vegan cooking does not mean unwashed beet greens doused with turmeric. No, it means you take out the goddamned meat and dairy and if what's left is greasy and sugary and nutritionally appalling, then so be it. The spelt flour and turmeric and beet greens come from godless communists with no souls, who can just as easily be meat-and-dairy-eaters as they can be vegans.

I am not a godless communist. I made so much cookie dough last week that I've been bringing some in my lunch every day and I still haven't finished it. It's got more sugar in it than it has flour, and a half a tub of fake butter.

Posted by dianna at 10:00 AM

September 27, 2005


My office building is being repainted this week. Actually, it's being repainted this month; if there has ever been a situation calling for the expression "too many cooks", choosing new exterior colors for an architecture office is it. The painters had to put on extra coats of primer to cover up the dozen test swatches we required to decide between Goldenrod and Sunglow.

With colors finally chosen, the painters are sanding today. They've already sanded the far end of the building, and the back side facing the main street, so now there's nowhere to go but right around our front door. The power sanders make a grinding, buzzing noise that I imagine is a lot like having your head tattooed. It's reminiscent of the dentist's office when you haven't been the all-brushing, all-flossing superstar that you should have been. It's an all-consuming noise that bypasses the brain and embeds itself in some kind of primal Buzzing Center, where it is somehow both ignored and inescapable.

What I'm trying to say is that that's why I found myself buzzing under my breath just now while working on an accounting summary. "Bzzzzzzz minus 23 hours for bidding vvzzhzhhzhzzzhzhhhh but I put those in already vvvvvvvvv 15 hours for drafting vvvjjhhjhjhjhzzzzz... oh. What?"

Posted by dianna at 04:09 PM

September 26, 2005

I'm at my desk, but I could be somewhere else if I wanted to.

I like for things to have epithets, and I mean that in the sense of descriptive titles that replace or elaborate upon names. For instance, Jacob used to call Bella the Stinky Princess; I approved of that strenuously. My own personal cat is most often denoted by the use of her partial name, Nut, and any of several status indicators: the Bed Nut, the Lap Nut, the Squeaky Nut, the Unhappy Nut. Katie and I went through a period of referring to each other almost exclusively as Darling Baby Sister and Darling Big Sister. In my head I tend to call Jacob the Jacob of Jacobs.

I said things, and not people, but in fact it is both. Household items in my presence have epithets as well. For instance, my computer was named Beige Floyd almost 6 years ago and has remained Beige Floyd to the present day. But Beige Floyd is on its way out. After two weeks of not restarting because restarting reminded it of its bad drive sectors, it passed out last night and woke up in Windows mode, remembering nothing of what it used to know in Linux.

This is not a post about the lamentable fate of my computer. This is a post about the delightful fact that I have acquired, just in time, a replacement computing entity. It's a cheap, basic Dell laptop, sturdy (one hopes) and utilitarian with no space-age stylings. What it says to the viewer is "I am a black rectangular solid", rather than "I am exciting new technology". So far, it is Ye Great Black Beast, but other descriptors are possible. The color lends itself to something along the lines of the Gothtop, but I'm also enamored of a far-fetched idea involving painting it a particular shade of mushroomy-ecru. It would then be the Laptaupe.

Jacob the Wise remarked last night that he and I have a markedly similar approach to computing. If something -- anything -- shows up on the screen unasked, we both scowl and immediately look for how to remove it. A helpful piece of Dell internet-search-assistance software was sidetracking me last night as I tried to go to a site that wasn't functioning, and I was threatening it under my breath with dire consequences if it tried to direct me to the site one more bloody time. It doesn't matter if it's trying to help. It doesn't even matter if it does help. You let the computers do the thinking and the next thing you know it's Terminator all over again. I won't tolerate that kind of behavior from my machines. Around here the meat engines do the thinking, thank you very much.

Posted by dianna at 11:30 AM

September 23, 2005

Book review: Digging Up the Past

I've recently realized something about myself, and that is that I bought a lot of anthropology books at Powell's in July.

The one that I just finished reading is Digging Up the Past by Leonard Woolley, an early-twentieth-century English archaeologist. It's a very short book based on a series of radio talks that he gave for the BBC; it's a book about archaeology rather than a book of archaeology. If I had a couple of dozen copies of it I'd hand one out every time someone asks me, "why archaeology?", but since it was published in 1930 and Powell's only had a single fragile copy on its shelves, you suckers are out of luck.

If you compressed the textbook for my Introduction to Archaeology class into 115 small pages with large type, you'd have something like this book. Woolley explains with amazing conciseness why you'd want to dig through old things, how things get buried so you have to dig to find them in the first place, what it is that you can determine from them when you do find them, why the hell you should care, how you know where to dig, how you know where to start digging, why you can't just go pull the whole thing up willy-nilly and then deal with what's left, what it is exactly that you have to do to prevent willy-nilly-ness from creeping in, who does all this digging anyway, what's there to find, why and how you have to find the things that aren't there anymore, and a few tales of great archaeological triumphs and embarrassments just for good measure. Hot damn. What's left?

I'm incapable of reviewing a nonfiction book without adding an embarrassed note about the biases of the author, so here it is. Woolley was a much better archaeologist than he was an anthropologist. Actually, to judge by his remarks about anthropology, he didn't consider himself any kind of anthropologist at all. That's probably why he felt himself at liberty to, for instance, discuss the Ethiopian pharaohs of Egypt in terms of the shortcomings of "the Negro race". It's a hazard of reading old books: you'll find that ideas like race is not an all-determining biological fact and "primitive" is not a good catch-all term for pre-modern and non-Western cultures are much newer than you thought. But even as a post-structuralist, apologist, cultural-relativist, Hippie Dippie Anthropologist appalled at Woolley's nonchalant chauvinism you (rather, I) can still find this to be an excellent piece of accessible explanatory writing about archaeology.

Available for loan to all interested parties as long as they promise to be careful with it. I concede that demand in this case is likely to be limited, but feel free to make me happy and express interest.

Posted by dianna at 10:53 AM

September 22, 2005

Emotional what?

I have to take a moment to comment on this Modblog entry. The link is directly to the entry, which contains two pictures of chest tattoos, one on a shirtless man and the other on a woman wearing a strapless top. I'd say it's pretty work-safe, but it depends on your workplace.

The subject of the entry is the tattoo pictured, which the second person (or his tattoo artist) copied pretty closely from the first person (or her tattoo artist). Quoth the author of the post, "If this was 1989, your shop would be burned to the ground. Lucky for you, it's 2005, and all you've lost is the respect of your peers. Seriously, taking someone's custom tattoo and copying it isn't a compliment. It's theft and abuse of something really personal, a kind of emotional rape that's utterly unacceptable."

I'm all for not copying people's tattoos without permission. Copying other people's things and claiming them as your own is unethical. Duh. But let's take a look at the tattoo in question.

Piratey skull
Crossed piratey sword/knife things
Banners reading "Dead Men Tell No Tales"

It looks, in fact, not unlike this, which I think is the same skull that says "Dead men tell no tales" in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So while it's doubtless a skillful custom composition, it's a reference and not an original invention. Even if I'm wrong about it being based on the Pirates of the Caribbean skull, pirate skulls and the words "dead men tell no tales" have gone together like wenches and rum for longer than either of the tattoo owners have been alive.

Me, I take issue specifically with the assertion that copying someone else's design which is itself a copy of something already extant amounts to "emotional rape". It's a bit like saying that if I draw an elephant and hang the drawing on my wall, and someone else draws my drawing of the elephant and hangs it on their wall, they've not only stolen my elephant, they've stolen my soul. Please discuss.

Posted by dianna at 01:52 PM

September 21, 2005

The The Hell With The Sci-Fi Canon Project Project

This is wildly out of proper chronological order, but I've just been reminded of a movie I need to review. It's a sci-fi movie which is so far from being a part of the abovementioned Canon that I had to invent a new project to justify writing a review of it.

The movie is called Primer (release year: 2003). I watched it a couple of months ago on Jacob's suggestion, knowing nothing about it except that it was a low-budget, independently-produced sci-fi movie. That usually adds up to disaster; just watch a few episodes of MST3K and you'll see what kind of awful things have been done to audiences in the name of independent sci-fi. But an essential point has to be made: science fiction is not made of pretty visuals and impressive special effects. Science fiction is made of novel ideas and skillful storytelling. You can do that as well, or as badly, for $7,000 as for $30,000,000.

On to the plot. There's a synopsis here, but you should probably know that I'm still struggling with the question of whether that synopsis constitutes a spoiler. In case you don't want to risk it, I'll give you the most vague plot summary possible. Two guys, tech-geek-inventor types, invent something in their garage that they didn't mean to make and don't quite understand. It takes them, and us, half the movie to be sure of what it is they've made, but the possibilities for using it are extremely compelling. They try, and wind up over their heads, and try to fix it, and wind up over over over their heads. It's not a movie about our creations turning into monsters that destroy us. It's not a movie about monsters, period. It's a movie about science, which is a thing that gets really hard to understand really fast. That's it.

Let's cut a few words out of that sentence. It's a movie about science, that gets really hard to understand really fast. The GreenCine reviews, and my own opinion, are pretty much unanimous on this point: it's confusing. It doesn't help that for $7,000 you don't get crystal-clear closeups of people's faces during key lines that are delivered with all the perfect intelligibility of the fiftieth take, but that's just icing on the cake. It's a complicated, twisty plot filled with technical details (which I suspect of having not been intended to be understandable) crammed into quite a short movie with confusion as a main theme. Don't go watching it when you're in the mood for fun, mindless entertainment. Watch it when you don't have the Rosetta Stone handy to decode but you could just about be in the mood to do so.

You may love it; you may need to go back and re-watch it (the special features, which I neglected to watch before returning the movie, are said to clear things up wonderfully); you may get annoyed and decide to wait until it comes out in print. These are all fair. But to paraphrase that omnipresent bumper sticker, if you're not impressed, you're not paying attention.

One last comment: I considered comparing Primer's style to that of Nine Queens, the unusually slow and satisfying heist movie for which I am inexplicably the number one Google result. I decided against it, then read through a GreenCine member list called "puzzle movies" and found them both on it. Ha! Go watch 'em both. You'll be glad.

Posted by dianna at 02:35 PM

September 20, 2005

September 20th, 2005: Everything becomes impossible.

Apparently those mood-enhancing light bulbs of which I've heard are quackery. It's a shame, because it's only September and I'm already becoming Winter Dianna. Today was cloudy, cold, and intermittently rainyish. Tonight my house is dark, empty, and scary, and everything in it is unuseable. I can't eat the vegetables sitting in the kitchen because going to the trouble of cooking for just one person (Jacob being at the beamline tonight) is ridiculous, but I'm singularly unmoved by leftovers. The cats are restless, skittish, and needing to be escorted inside or outside every five seconds. My laptop, which arrived yesterday, has crashed twice in the last hour. I should try restarting it again, but before I do that I should have some dinner, probably using those vegetables, and maybe do the dishes because they're piling up, and clean the cat box, and take a look at the substitution paperwork for getting credit for my Near Eastern Archaeology class, but I need to write a short essay for that one and I can't do that until I've had some dinner, using dishes which aren't clean so I'd better clean them, but I can't tackle that sink full of dishes until I've managed to feed myself. You see how the whole list comes crashing down.

Oh, and the blue toilet tank insert in my toilet has suddenly turned the water pink, by which I'm so unnerved that I've shut the bathroom doors and I'm not opening them again until Jacob gets home. I think I read something about Sumerian toilet tank demons in that class, but if I'm going to dig out my notes I may as well work on that substitution form, and there's no way I'm sitting hunched over a piece of paper while pink-water-toilet-tank demons lurk behind me. In the movies the girl who sits at her desk obliviously writing always winds up as demon fodder. Always.

Posted by dianna at 09:32 PM

On a lighter note...

My office still lacks a permanent reception desk. My temporary one is a large desktop balanced on top of an arrangement of bookcases. It's quite sufficient and gives the impression of being far more sturdy than it actually is. People tend to lean on it, which makes it slide backward and pin me to the wall.

There is now a small sign tacked to the leading edge of the desk. It says:

E pur si muove.

Be careful when leaning on this desk.

Posted by dianna at 02:41 PM

Goose steppin'.

I'm spending today in a state of panic interspersed with exasperation and occasional despondency.

As I think I mentioned, the one thing I'm lacking for my school readmission is my high school transcripts, for proof of California residence. I need this for the readmission application itself (as opposed to the change of college and declaration of major), which has a firm deadline of November 1 and a strongly-worded suggestion to begin submitting paperwork at least six weeks before the deadline. We are now at five and a half weeks before the deadline, so depending how you look at it I'm either early, on time, or late. I have, of course, had two years to get this transcript, but I didn't even see that it was required until Sunday night.

Sunday night I called my parents to see if they had a copy (negative). Monday I called my high school to ask about getting it, and was told on the second call that student records for my year are at the district records office. The district records office has wholly inappropriate open hours, so I called them before work this morning and figured out my options.

Option 1: Request by mail, 4-6 weeks for delivery. Nominal fee.
Option 2: Request in person, same-day pickup. Increased, but still nominal, fee.

There's just one problem, and that is that the district in question is Los Angeles. I can't get there, and there is no rush option that does not involve getting there. I can probably -- probably -- deputize my mom to pick it up and have the district still honor the request as long as she's got the proper form signed by me and faxed to her. If she can do it tomorrow before 12 pm, I can get my transcript in time to turn my paperwork in this Friday. She can't, as it turns out, and the district office is closed for moving for the rest of the week, but she can probably make it in next Wednesday. That's about four beauracratic setbacks so far.

By the way, as she pointed out to me, the district office's website says that records for 1995 and after (I'm 1999) are still held at the schools.

My school says that the records are held at the district office.

Neither place is open during the one working hour per day that I'm not answering telephones, so calling to find out what's going on will have to wait until Friday afternoon. That's assuming I've got time left on Friday afternoon after waiting around at the anthro department office. The admissions office, which could tell me if there's any way I can submit my paperwork without the transcript in the event of a wild goose chase, is available to me only by email until, you guessed it, Friday. My email to the admissions office has been mis-interpreted and accordingly mis-answered, and subsequently forwarded to another office.

If they don't get back to me to tell me that they were just kidding about needing the transcript, I'm going to scream.

Posted by dianna at 01:22 PM

September 19, 2005

So you just go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time.

Writing my name and social security number on six pieces of paper turned out to be a much more involved process than I expected. I finally went to bed at midnight with one critical piece of paperwork still missing, but then, who would have thought that I'd need a copy of my high school transcript again? Or to know what date my driver's license was first issued, or when my checking account was opened, or when I last registered to vote? The admissions office seems to be much more interested in whether they can charge me nonresident tuition than in whether I'm going to be a good student this time around. Joke's on them, though. I really do live here.

In my pitiful six hours of sleep between signing the last form and waking up to go to work this morning, I dreamt that there were still more forms to complete. Lots of forms, three, four, maybe a half-dozen, that I hadn't even managed to find and print yet. It isn't true. I mustn't believe it. I have three applications and four petitions, or maybe two statements and one petition and three applications; I forget. A whole forest has already been laid waste for me to go back to school, and just as no tree has been left standing no form is left unfilled either. I'm going to check again as soon as I get home anyway. Bloody subconscious.

Friday is D-Day; I'm leaving work at noon and going to sit in the Anthropology department office and squirm. No, really. Squirming is part of the process. I have to walk my application in, in person, and wait while a department staff member looks me up and down and decides whether to accept it. I'm picturing something like Red's parole hearing in The Shawshank Redemption, but I'm not sure whether to be young, eager, sycophantic Red or old, tired, condescending Red. Suggestions?

Posted by dianna at 10:12 AM

September 17, 2005

Call for submissions.

I'm chipping away at the difficult parts of my back-to-school paperwork: I've got the essay written, edited, and re-written, I've figured out my hypothetical schedule of classes to prove that I can finish my degree in two semesters, and I've answered most of the questions on the department application. I'm leaving writing my name and social security number on six pieces of paper until last, because (call me cocky if you like) I don't believe it'll be too difficult. But I'm finding myself slightly stuck on one of these damn department questions.

The first four are easy: why have you decided to major in anthropology, what areas of anthropology are of interest to you, what are your future career and educational goals, what's your background? I already came up with answers to those in my essay, so I just need to re-write them. But number five is, unfortunately, "Tell me an interesting/odd/funny/sad/cute/bizarre/... (fill in the blank) anecdote about yourself that will forever imprint the essence of your personality on my memory."

Now, I've got such an anecdote handy and it sums up the essence of my personality pretty much exactly. See, when I was a freshman I thought it would be a good idea to have my car up here in Berkeley, but parking at the dorms was insanely expensive. My sister lived in a couple of apartments with street parking that year, so I mostly left the car at her place. At some point, and I don't remember what prompted this, I had to move the car to my dorm and park it there. I drove it back from Katie's Oakland apartment one night, which happened to be a particularly rainy variety of night, and found a parking space on Hearst Avenue right outside my dorm. It was a rather steep space in which to parallel-park, but I could do it. I eased in forward, braked, and prepared to reverse so I could straighten out. "Now, Dianna," I said to myself, "you need to be careful so that you don't roll forward into the car in front of you when you take your foot off the brake. You know your car rolls a bit when it's on a hill, especially a wet and slippery hill." So I took a deep breath, concentrated, and moved my foot smoothly and quickly from the brake to the gas. I didn't roll forward into the car in front of me. No, since I had forgotten to put my car in reverse, I accelerated into the car in front of me.

My problem is that this is not necessarily the kind of personality I want to admit to having while I'm trying to impress the anthropology department into accepting me. It's memorable, yes, and it's a perfect answer to the question of What Is Dianna Like? But I think I might need something a little more, well, competent. Suggestions? Anyone?

Posted by dianna at 04:38 PM

September 16, 2005


At the corner of Bosworth and Diamond just now, I saw a youngish, professionally-dressed woman in an impolitely-located car cussed out thoroughly by a small, cranky older man who had to walk around her to cross the street. "Chinga madre cabrona pendeja," he started, giving her rear window a thump with his fist for emphasis, and continued in the same breath, "stop you son of a bitch!" He was still talking as he cleared the other side of the car and continued across the crosswalk, but I could no longer hear what he was saying. I wish I had. Maybe he would have continued in German at that point, or Thai. I could have learned something. I already did learn something; I didn't know you could feminize "cabron" and "pendejo".

Cabron, according to, literally means "billy goat". The next time I'm angry with someone, I'm going to call them a gender-ambiguous barnyard animal to see if it packs the same punch in English.

Posted by dianna at 02:46 PM

Brown rice and curried grass in restaurants.

Wondering where to take a vegan friend for dinner in the extended Bay Area? Here are some suggestions in fairly haphazard order.

Cha-Ya, Shattuck Ave. just north of Virginia St. in Berkeley.
Completely vegan Japanese restaurant - sushi, noodle and rice dishes, soups, dessert, the whole delicious works.

Great Wall, College Ave. just south of Alcatraz Ave. in Berkeley.
Chinese Buddhist restaurant that serves conventional Chinese-restaurant dishes made with seitan and other fake meats. Watch out for the fish, which is real.

Golden Era, O'Farrell east of Leavenworth in San Francisco.
Golden Lotus, Franklin between 13th and International in Oakland.
Two Chinese/Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants under the same ownership, with an absolutely enormous selection of fake-meat dishes. Do not watch out for the fish, because it isn't real.

Cafe Colucci, Telegraph just north of Alcatraz in Berkeley.
Ethiopian restaurant serving both meat and vegetarian dishes; nearly all of the vegetarian dishes are fully vegan.

Addis, Telegraph between 61st and 62nd in Oakland.
Also an Ethiopian restaurant with meat and vegan dishes. Slightly less popular, and therefore quieter, than Cafe Colucci.

Ital Calabash, Adeline south of Ashby in Berkeley.
Ital Calabash, Franklin at 14th in Oakland.
All-vegan Jamaican restaurant which is frankly fucking amazing. Expect earsplitting reggae music, cheerful service from a chatty Rasta dude, and really damned delicious sweet fried plantains.

Herbivore, Divisadero north of Fell in San Francisco.
Herbivore, Valencia north of 21st in San Francisco.
Herbivore, Shattuck around Haste in Berkeley.
All-vegan restaurant with a variety of American-y, Italian-y, and generally Asian-y dishes. Slightly spendy but quite delicious.

Millennium, Geary east of Jones in San Francisco.
Stoa, Emerson east of Hamilton in Palo Alto.
Really, don't ask me about either of these. I've never been to them, and all I know is that they're both fancy, expensive, vegetarian, and reported to be delicious.

Smart Alec's, Telegraph at Durant in Berkeley.
"Healthy fast food" place in Berkeley which has recently expanded into regular meat items but does some excellent vegan burgers, sandwiches, and soups.

Spud's Pizza, Adeline at Alcatraz in Berkeley.
Pizza and calzone restaurant which will make absolutely anything, including cheesy breadsticks, with soy cheese upon request. I can't guarantee that their brand of soy cheese is vegan, because I haven't been able to bring myself to ask.

Papalote, 24th west of Valencia in San Francisco.
Mexican restaurant serving both meat and vegan versions of standard Mexican-restaurant fare, including heavenly tofu mole burritos.

Saturn Cafe, Laurel west of Front in Santa Cruz.
Vegetarian diner that used to serve vegan equivalents of almost everything on their menu, but has recently cut a lot of them. Still does a mean vegan riblet sandwich and soy cream sundaes.

Udupi Palace, University east of Martin Luther King Jr in Berkeley.
South Indian vegetarian restaurant with mostly stuffed-flatbread based dishes and plenty of vegan options.

New World Vegetarian, 8th west of Broadway in Oakland.
All-vegan smorgasbord of incredibly tasty Asian, European and American dishes.

Fellini, University at Acton in Berkeley.
Italian restaurant serving vegetarian, vegan and omnivore options (frequently all three for the same dishes). Actually no longer the best vegan brunch in the East Bay, because of Herbivore.

Jamaican Soul, San Pablo south of University in Berkeley.
Serves vegan and meat dishes in tasty and enormous buffet plates. The folks serving will usually tell you which dishes are vegan without you needing to ask.

Included with reluctance:

Raphael, Center east of Shattuck in Berkeley.
Upscale vegetarian Italian restaurant with vegan options. Honestly somewhat limited for vegans, although not nearly as much as most Italian restaurants. Don't go there with a lacto-ovo-vegetarian because you'll be sad all night about what they were eating that you couldn't have.

Cafe Gratitude, Shattuck north of Francisco in Berkeley.
Fine. Fine. The food is delicious. The dessert is beyond delicious. I still hate the attitude.

How about in Portland?

If you need my help to find vegan food in Portland, you are just not trying. Still, I am nothing if not accommodating. Consider this section under construction until I get my shit together to write descriptions and get exact addresses.

Veganopolis (SW Stark and 4th)
Nutshell (N Williams and Beech)
Vita (NE Alberta and 31st)
Bye and Bye (NE Alberta and 10th, and I'm cheating because this one is a bar)
Laughing Planet (N Mississippi and Failing, SE Belmont and 32nd, NW Kearney and 21st, and way the fuck down on SE Woodstock and 41st.)
Paradox (SE Belmont and 34th)
Food Fight (SE Division and 42nd Stark and 12th!, and not actually a restaurant either)
Blossoming Lotus (NW Davis and 9th)
Pirate's Tavern (NW Industrial and St. Helen's)
FlavourSpot (N Lombard and Denver)
BackSpace (NW Couch and 5th)
Voodoo Donut (SW Ankeny and 3rd)
Garbonzo's (NW Kearney and 21st as of a couple of years ago. I don't know if it's still there)

Other cities?

Araya's, NE University and 47th in Seattle (vegan Thai).
Follow Your Heart, Sherman Way at Jordan in Canoga Park (vegetarian homestyle restaurant and health-food market).

The following are general rules that I've discovered after four years of trying to eat vegan in restaurants.

  1. Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurants will almost always have something vegan. It may be an appetizer plate, but it will be tasty and safe to eat.
  2. The exception to that rule is full-meal Moroccan restaurants, where you can order a vegan main dish but the bastela will still have egg and the soup will still have chicken broth.
  3. Bar and grill places? Forget it.
  4. In Italian restaurants you will, 9 times out of 10, wind up with a plate of spaghetti with marinara or oil-and-herb sauce.
  5. Sushi restaurants usually have tasty vegan options, but the miso soup and noodle bowls have fish stock in them unless otherwise specified.
  6. Mexican restaurants are really iffy, because there's often lard in the refried beans and tortillas even if you order a vegetable dish.
  7. In Thai restaurants, you'll want to ask about fish in the sauces (Pad Thai sauce, for example) and fried egg in the dishes.
  8. Indian restaurants generally have good vegan options, but the danger is that you won't be able to have any of the cool soothing yogurt sauces and your mouth will be a fiery ball of pain.

That's all I've got for right now. Katie? Jacob? Anybody who can think of something I've missed, add it in the comments section and I will incorporate it into the list. This, along with my recipe posts and assorted other stuff that I'm planning to post in the future, is going into a fourth category of worthwhile Snoqualmie posts: useful information for being vegan and vegetarian. You'll be able to click it from my "links" section under the wholly unexpected title of Brown Rice And Curried Grass.

Posted by dianna at 11:00 AM

September 15, 2005

Brown rice and curried grass for dessert.

The following recipes are posted at the request of Mr. Sharpe. The lesson to learn here is that if you give me half an excuse I'll drown you in food and/or recipes.... so, give me half a chance. These are both from Sinfully Vegan with only minor adjustments.


8 oz. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
4 c. powdered sugar
2 c. chocolate chips (or other solid dark chocolate)
1 tsp. vanilla

Place cream cheese in food processor and blend until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix in. Melt chocolate in double-boiler or microwave, and pour into food processor. Blend well. Pour mixture into 8-inch square pan lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, then cut into bite-size squares. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Death By Chocolate Brownies

1 1/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. applesauce
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Stir together sugar, applesauce, and 2 tbsp. water in medium bowl. In separate cup, mix 1/2 c. water with egg replacer, then add to applesauce mixture. Add vanilla.

In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add applesauce mixture to this and stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into 8-inch square baking dish (greased) and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes depending on chewiness desired (less time for more chewy, more time for more cakelike).

Chocolate Topping

1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/6 c. cocoa (use 1/3 c. measure and only fill half full)
3 1/2 tbsp. arrowroot
1/2 c. water

While brownies are baking, place powdered sugar, canola oil, vanilla, cocoa, and arrowroot in small saucepan or top of double boiler. Stir to combine using a wire whisk or pastry blender. Stir in water. Heat over low to medium heat and stir until mixture starts to thicken, but do not allow to boil.

Pour topping over brownies while they are both still hot, and allow to cool before serving.

Note: if you don't have a double boiler, make one. It will make your life much easier, at least if said life contains chocolate (if your life doesn't contain chocolate, what are you waiting for?). Put your cooking ingredients into a small saucepan, put an inch or so of water into a medium saucepan, and gently rest the small saucepan inside the medium one. If the small one has one or more handles, all the better; they'll keep it resting nicely above the bottom of the medium pot. Now do your cooking over medium heat and the contents of the small pot won't scorch.

Posted by dianna at 09:38 PM

Book review: Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf.

Words cannot express my relief at being out of the dark and threatening woods of Symbolic Literature and breathing freely again in the sunny meadow of Clever, Bleeding-Heart Investigative Journalism. This book is a thing of beauty and a joy to read forever.

The essential point of the book is to find out where, exactly, beef comes from. Driving past the big feedlot in Coalinga on I-5, which is how urban dwellers like me see cattle, doesn't explain how animals turn into hamburgers. Where are they born, how, who owns them, why, how are they traded and for how much, how fast do they grow, how are they treated, what are they like, what do they eat, how long do they live, who decides when they're going to be slaughtered, when is that anyway, where do they go then, under whose control, how, and what then? So the author, Peter Lovenheim, bought two calves and followed them "from conception to consumption".

Really. Conception. Slightly further back than that, even: he went to the artificial-insemination company that provided the semen that was used to impregnate the cow that gave birth to the calves, and he watched them collect it from the bull. This is a new, and impressive, definition of thorough. He just went right ahead and bought a pair of barn boots and spent two years driving back and forth between his urban home and the farms where his cattle were kept. If the farmers, milkers, cattle haulers, vets, auctioneers, buyers, inspectors, or absolutely anyone else did absolutely anything, he wrangled a way to see it and ask about it.

Despite that fact, it isn't an exposé. It's just a description. There aren't any tales of sneaking into barns and hiding in the hay to watch cackling farmers feeding rusty nails and chicken droppings to the cattle (moldy bagels, yes, but last I heard it was still legal to give expired bread products to cows). Breaking news: some people are nice to cows, and some people aren't so nice to cows. People with jobs involving manure and getting kicked in the knee by irritable animals three times their own size are essentially the same as people with jobs not involving manure and getting kicked in the knee by irritable animals three times their own size. The indignant meat-eschewer can still find things to be self-righteous about: domestication is by definition an unnatural state for cows, and I wouldn't really want to be fattened up and kept standing in my own shit either. Not an exposé, though; for that you'd want Fast Food Nation.

I read most of the book a few months ago, got distracted, and only recently picked it up again to finish it. Once I did, I remembered that it's a hard book to stop reading, and I went back to the beginning and read the whole damn thing over again. It's that good. I should probably buy my own copy so I can give the one I've got back to my sister, because I'm likely to want to pick it up and read it again. Consider it vehemently recommended.

Posted by dianna at 10:05 AM

September 14, 2005

Dude, I got a..aaaaugh!

When I lived in my co-op apartment, my bedroom window faced the central courtyard of the apartment complex. When people were outside in the courtyard doing anything -- having sex in the hot tub, smoking until 3 a.m., misquoting Darwin, etc -- I could hear them from my room. Most apartments in the complex had rooms with courtyard windows, actually, so I heard some of what was going on in the other apartments as well.

Directly across the courtyard from me was an apartment whose tenants I never met. I certainly felt like I knew one of them, though. I heard his voice drifting in through my window every few weeks or so.

"Fuck! No! Don't do this to me!" Slam bang crash bang crash slam slam slam! "Aauuuugh! Shit! MY PAPER!"

This is why I bought a new computer last night, with a speedy and capacious DVD burner that I can use to back up every single byte of data I own every single week for the next two semesters. When I do schoolwork, it will stay done.

Posted by dianna at 09:22 AM

September 13, 2005

Book review: Ways of Dying

"There are many ways of reading!" the Reviewer shouts at us.

There are two things you can pay attention to when reading a novel: What Happens, and What It Means. This, Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda, was the first novel I've read in quite some time where reading What It Means was really important. Then again, since this was the first book I've read in a long time with other people's analytical notes scribbled in the margins, maybe it's only that I noticed What It Meant more than I usually do. Honestly? I'm not that good with What It Means. 9 times out of 10 when I'm reading a book for fun it just doesn't occur to me to stop and think about epithets and narrative voices.

Ways of Dying was a grand panoply of epithets and narrative voices. My sister's notes helpfully brought them to my attention, and they turned out to be delightful. There were characters with strangely ironic titles, like that stuck-up bitch which never meant what I thought it did. Most of the story was told by We, The Community, a bossy, all-knowing looker over shoulders that sniffily insisted that we didn't believe what so-and-so said, or we all thought such-and-such was scandalous. People and events were described so slyly that halfway through the book I was still just barely getting a sense of characters who had been appearing since page three.

Halfway through the book is where my problem started. My sister's notes dwindled to a few scribbles and underlines, my attention wandered, and I went back to reading What Happened instead. What Happened in the second half of the book, stripped of its analysis and faded from the novelty of the first hundred pages, wasn't arresting. Most of the questions that I'd been asking for the first half of the book -- how did this boy die, how was he born, what happened to this man's father? -- ended up being answered with either mystical surreality or smirky ambiguity, which fell far short of what I'd been hoping for.

This is probably the most thoroughly mixed book review I've given lately. When I was excited about what I was reading into what I was reading, I was supremely excited about it. When I found myself disappointed with the story I was being told, I was profoundly disappointed. First I raved, and now I'm bitching. I have no real idea whether I'd have loved the second half of the book if I'd been analysing it, nor whether I'd have hated the first half if I hadn't been doing so. I can't even figure out whether to recommend it or not. Caveat emptor and try it if you want?

Posted by dianna at 02:35 PM

September 12, 2005

He'll find her. That's what he does! That's all he does!

The Sci-Fi Canon Project continues with Terminators 1 and 2, which I watched out of order. Interestingly, I don't think that diminished their continuity.

Terminator 1, which is mostly a standard pre-Asimov bad-machines story, works much better in my opinion as a prequel to Terminator 2 than as a movie in its own right. It may have still been hot in 1984 to watch a movie about an unstoppable killing machine with no empathy, but 20 years later it's pretty damned played out. Even in 1990 it was clearly more interesting to watch a movie about the potential of a machine to have human virtues it wasn't programmed for, instead of the usual human vices. Terminator 2 is the philosophical brand of sci-fi; a machine is a hero, a machine is a villain, and the fact that they can go either way just as we can begs the question of what difference remains between them and us. It's startling to watch that and then go back in time to see the movie makers and the characters starting out with this "machines" idea and fumblingly finding the same first idea that people have been finding for centuries: machines are monsters. They are our Oedipal children and they will grow up to kill us.

It's funny, now that I think about it, that this two-movie review is just the opposite of what I said about the Alien movies. This time the big, spectacular, melodramatic sequel has more to offer than the smaller original. Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that Terminator 1 is as bad as Aliens. It's a good setup, or a satisfying after-the-fact back-story, to its own sequel and it ties into it nicely. In whichever order you watch them it's fun to hear Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese use the same lines to the same frustrating effect. The second time you see someone yank a cop out of his car, get in, and drive off, it's hard not to grin.

Of course, both movies also get full points for beating the crap out of LA. To paraphrase the Princess Bride (please place emphasis as used by Fred Savage), thrown out the window of the Galleria is good. Buildings blown up with spectacular fireworks and gunned to bits is also good. It's hard to argue that that's not a sign of Just Another Action Movie, which I lambasted Aliens for being, but here's my official position: if you have something interesting to say about the nature of your heroes, villains, humans, and monsters, you can be Another Action Movie and still be good sci-fi. Thumbs up.

Posted by dianna at 11:32 AM

September 11, 2005


I just got around to fixing my list of links so that they're now all functional links to functional pages. I took out all the Cementhorizon blogs because half of them are defunct and the other half can be read by clicking the Cementhorizon link anyway. So there.

I've figured out incredibly clumsy ways to link to all of my book reviews and Sci-Fi Canon Project movie reviews at once. They work, so who's complaining? There's also an even more clumsy thing that's just a vanity category for entries that I actually consider worth reading. Eventually I'll look at those three categories and wonder why I bother keeping any of my other entries around, and possibly delete the rest. Later.

Then you can go on to read exciting blogs by various people whom I do and do not know, and when you're bored with that you can read some webcomics that I like. Don't click on Modblog at work, okay? Now I've told you twice. Everything else is full of profanity and uncalled-for rage, and Hanzi Smatter may contain the occasional poorly-tattooed back, but if that stuff's not safe for your work then you're probably working for the Catholic Church. Snoqualmie takes no responsibility for the activities of off-duty priests, on-duty priests surfing the net on laptops in the confession booth, or the Pope being bored at 2 a.m. on a Friday night at home.

A new list of links wouldn't warrant a whole entry (which should have been any of several reviews instead) if it weren't so damned difficult to rouse me from my sloth in order to change a few lines of HTML. Appreciate my six minutes of work, damn you!

Posted by dianna at 05:58 PM

September 09, 2005

Death or glory, just another story.

I'm behind on my reviews; I have to write about Ways of Dying and I have to do Sci-Fi Canon Project reviews for Aliens, Terminator, and Terminator 2. I think I'm also going to do reviews for Nickel and Dimed and Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf, both of which I read nearly to the end a few months ago and have been finishing up and re-reading this week.

For today I'll stick to Aliens, because what I have to say about it is simple: bigger is not better. This very large movie comes off much less impressively than its small predecessor.

What do I mean by large and small? Alien had nine characters, and that's counting the cat and the alien. At no point was anyone else onscreen or involved in what was going on. That was what made it something other, and better, than space opera. It was personal.

Aliens isn't personal. Watching big guns spit lead at an onrushing wall of tentacle monsters doesn't hit home like watching one unarmed man edge through a cavernous engine room full of dripping water and clinking chains while a single monster waits quietly in the corner. Have you ever been a Marine armed to the teeth and facing death as your comrades die around you? For most people reading this, most likely not. But I've been one ordinary person wondering if something is about to detach itself from a shadow and come after me. Probably you have too, even if it was when you were six and scared of monsters under the bed.

It's a problem of subtlety and originality. They had to add juuuuust a little more monster, then juuuust a little more hero, and that's like leveling table legs: you can't stop until you've gone way too far. So now we have Heroic Defense Against Overwhelming Odds. It's one of the oldest movie formulas there is. It's Just Another Action Movie Where People Fall Like Flies. Yawn.

I'm barely inclined to allow this into the category of sci-fi, actually, since the aliens could just as easily have been replaced by anything else. Try it. Sharks? Berzerkers? The Utah Jazz? Since there's no attention paid to the whats and whys and hows of the aliens this time around, they could be savage purple monkeys (or the flying spaghetti monster) for all the difference it would make to the story. Minus one for the Canon.

Posted by dianna at 10:41 AM

September 08, 2005

In the spirit of scientific inquiry...

As you may remember, when ideas occur to me I become very bad at not trying them. Last night my upstairs neighbors, upon hearing that I'm sick, pressed me to take a few packets of Emergen-C, their cold remedy of choice.

I am here today to tell you that a fizzy mineral supplement drink in generic Tropical Flavor is every bit as unpleasant as one would expect, if indeed not more so.

Posted by dianna at 09:32 AM

September 07, 2005

Well, fsck.

The good news is, I'm running a Linux program from a command line and despite the incredible danger it hasn't killed me yet. The bad news is, it's a filesystem repair program and I'm running it for the second time in three days. In short, my computer is fscked.

I was going to complain about this until I realized that buying a new computer, which I'm almost certainly about to do, will mean spending more than $100 on computer equipment for the first time since 1999. Perhaps I'll just count myself extremely lucky. I suppose I could complain instead about the cold I acquired yesterday, but then, staying home from work to sleep all day and only get up to eat leftover soup is more or less what I've always wanted.

New blog entry title: Today's Pretty Good.

Posted by dianna at 04:50 PM

September 06, 2005

You waste my precious seven hours with this?

I have weird dreams as a matter of course, but last night's dream really snatched the proverbial pastry. I was having an affair which took place entirely over the course of several inappropriately long breaks from work. I was sure I was going to get fired for fooling around when I was supposed to be working, but it really wasn't all my fault. It started because I was on the train in the morning trying to fix the laptop I'm considering buying, and I was so distracted by the effort that I missed my stop and got off in an unfamiliar neighborhood, winding up in a house where I had absolutely no business being, and the resulting social encounter made me several hours late for work. For the rest of the inappropriate breaks I didn't even have that flimsy excuse, but somehow no one seemed to quite catch on that I was leaving my desk to go make photocopies and coming back two hours later looking sweaty and disheveled. Nor did anyone notice my look of panicked guilt each time I came back to work, brought on by the fact that I knew quite well I shouldn't have snuck off but I still couldn't seem to not do it.

Perhaps I'm feeling guilty about writing marathon blog entries while at work. Then again, perhaps I'm merely going insane.

Posted by dianna at 03:57 PM

September 02, 2005

Bobbly bobbly bob.

I freely admit that I am a gluttonous foodie. Gluttonous foodyism is the main reason that I go through life with a cookie in my hand at all times and start planning dinner as soon as lunch is over. But you may be surprised to hear that it isn't the only reason that I do so.

I had today off of work and resolved to spend it preparing for tomorrow's riverine madness. I had a leisurely breakfast around 10:00, puttered around the house for a bit, and then left a little after 2 to find floaty water accessories and picnic lunch ingredients. I toyed with the idea of having a snack before I left (four whole hours since breakfast, after all!), but dismissed it. Off I went to Walgreens and Berkeley Bowl, both a mile from my house. An hour or so later I was triumphantly heading home, laden with the fruits of my successful mission: three inflatable swim rings and twenty pounds of juice and soymilk and produce.

I should mention at this point that exercise is good for you. It works well with gluttonous foodyism: you eat delicious food, then you use it all up walking to the grocery store, so then you get to eat more delicious food. So I, and my loot, were on foot and using up my breakfast like crazy.

That is why, when I got home at a quarter to four, I put down my grocery bags, took off my backpack, and stood in the middle of the study with my ears ringing and the floor swaying gently underneath me. It's also why when I picked up a bottle of water to drink from it, my hands were shaking so hard that I could hear the bottle rattling against my teeth. My ears are still ringing ever so faintly, and I've been sitting down eating couscous for the last half hour. Mars needs women, and Dianna needs blood sugar.

Oh, but if you saw me dragging my bags into the bathroom a few minutes ago? That wasn't dementia brought on by lack of sugar. That was me weighing my groceries so I could tell you all exactly how much I was carrying. That's raw journalistic honesty right there.

Posted by dianna at 04:33 PM