clarity is cold comfort

10 April 2010

It’s just incredible to me that the temperature has fallen to near freezing tonight, and possibly will drop below that. Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m from the mildness of coastal California (the Bay Area, mainly), I’ve spent the last three winters on the east coast (not the Canadian one). Those winters, at their coldest, were much colder than just about any time I’ve been here except a brief clear cold period in early December – a clear cold that I welcomed, in fact. Though I must admit I was happy to drive through it and out of it and on down to California for the winter break.

No, what’s incredible to me is that I’m leaving for the summer, and when I do, the weather will have been more or less the same, on aggregate, from mid-October to late April. And by the same, I mean cold and overcast, cold and drizzly, cold and rainy, cold-but-not-as-cold and rainy, or even colder and clear. And this is the warm part of this country.

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home economy

10 March 2009

There was an empty space on the supermarket shelf in the prepackaged foods section. Kraft macaroni and cheese, classic version, was selling at 10 for $10 or $1 per box. The rest of the individually selling Kraft styles – the movie tie-ins, the three cheeses, the white cheddar, the spirals – were selling at regular price; their rows of boxes went right to the edge. I bought the last box of classic and then a box of regularly priced spirals.

Oddly, you could buy the Kraft classic in groups of 5 for less than $1 per box, but that section on the shelf was nearly full. Maybe the offer came only after the individual boxes nearly sold out, or maybe no one bothered to do the math. If I weren’t moving in a few weeks I’d have bought the box set, but I don’t want to carry the unused boxes when I move.

(Previously.)


lactose prejudice

18 February 2009

I used to have dairy products all the time as a kid: milk with cereal, milk with cream of wheat, ice cream, milk with cookies, and less often, milk on its own. Then I noticed that drinking milk by itself was making me sick, but it was still ok with cereal. Then even milk with cereal made me sick. Then I started avoiding dairy. I’ve since found lactose-free milk and lactase pills and various other things that let me have dairy products without too much trouble.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m less lactose-intolerant than I think. When I’ve had gelato in Europe, it hasn’t been a problem even without lactase supllements, but I always take a supplement in the US with ice cream. But this might be the result of different processing methods; I can handle some yogurts – active culture – but not others. Same with cheeses. But when I’ve decided not to take any precautions with dairy I’ve usualy ended up paying a price for it. (It’s not really that bad; certainly not worse than stomach flus I’ve had.)

So I’m a bit surprised to see Ezra Klein quote the following about Nestle in China:

In Asia, ice cream is proving surprisingly popular among a people that aren’t supposed to tolerate dairy products; in fact, Nestle’s researchers now contend that Asians aren’t any more lactose intolerant than any other ethnic group. The problem, Brimlow [director of Nestle’s Chinese research center] told me, is that cow’s milk, has historically been so scarce and expensive in China, that most Chinese never developed the enzyme needed to digest dairy foods. If Chinese children are introduced to milk early on, says Brimlow, they have no trouble tolerating lactose — a finding that has spurred Nestle’s China operation to launch a wide range if dairy products aimed at the youth market. “Even as adults, it takes only three months to develop the enzyme,” Brimlow says. “They may feel a little sick for a while, but they get used to it. Yogurt is a great way to reintroduce dairy.”

I’d love to be reintroduced to dairy (without supplements), but I don’t see that happening based on my experience growing up. It’s not like I never had the enzyme. However, when I went to Taiwan, I noticed people having a fair amount of milk products and my relatives didn’t seem to have heard of lactose intolerance – we had to explain that it’s not an allergy. (A commenter over at Ezra’s place notes the same thing about Taiwan.) Among the American side of the family, I’m about the only one with a problem, though my sister has a milder reaction. So who knows what’s going on with me.

Maybe I’ve already had and lost my chance by having milk as a kid. Or maybe I’m just one of those people caught between worlds, not European enough to handle dairy – but my paternal grandmother is Swiss! – not Chinese enough to adjust as if it were new. If I ever have a MooLatte, the results no doubt will be tragic.


сколько лет, сколько зим

1 February 2009

I’m a huge fan of re-photography – the practice of re-staging old photographs as precisely as possible and then comparing the earlier and later. Third View, focusing on the American west, is a good example. But these shots of St. Petersburg today/Leningrad during the seige take the concept to a whole new level. It’s like you can see through time (with English text here, which might actually be the original posting location – I’m not sure).

(via)


how amusing

1 February 2009

The new administration and new Congress are bringing change to the federal government and that change has to be covered. But how deeply? Institutions are important, but except to those who love this sort of stuff, reading writing about institutions can be numbingly dull. So you get Ezra Klein writing things like

Clinton partially repealed 12291 with Executive Order 12866. I’m not going to explain it because, frankly, you all will stop visiting this blog if I do, but suffice to say it pulled many of Reagan’s changes back.

or Elana Schor cutting off an excerpt from a budget resolution, saying

Okay, I had to stop it there at the risk of driving people away with Congress-speak.

Of course these kinds of disclaimers or apologies aren’t really new: Mark Schmitt, for example, who often writes about political process issues, put a number of them into his posts back when he was blogging regularly at The Decembrist. Here’s one from a post on campaign finance

My apologies to readers for a long post on a subject that, evidence shows, is of interest to almost no one.

(And readers who made it to – or at least near – the end of my post on Senate campaign finance disclosures last summer might remember seeing an aside along the same lines.)

I highlight these because I keep seeing them – probably because I appear to be one of those people who finds this stuff interesting – and it keeps reminding me of one of my favorite quotations, from Richard White’s book on the Columbia River:

Planning is an exercise of power, and in a modern state much real power is suffused with boredom. The agents of planning are usually boring; the planning process is boring; the implementation of plans is always boring. In a democracy boredom works for bureaucracies and corporations as smell works for a skunk. It keeps danger away. Power does not have to be exercised behind the scenes. It can be open. The audience is asleep. The modern world is forged amidst our inattention.


if it’s not in a dictionary, is it even a word?

8 January 2009

Often, yes.