Monday, January 29, 2007

What to eat

Michael Pollan (of Berkeley and the book that I so want to read, The Omnivore's Dilemma) had a great article in the NYT around "real food." Which breaks down into: green leafies, whole grains, less meat, less refined crap, etc., etc. It was very affirming. He even mentions flexitarians (come to find out, even just cutting down to meat on the rare occasion has the same health benefits as going all out veggie). Anyway, it's an intriguing look at major trends in food fads. Which I'm interested in this week because of reading Henry James's In the Cage alongside Jennifer L. Fleissner's article on James's "Art of Eating." Apparently James was a devotee of this movement dubbed "Fletcherism," which preached the need to slowly, meticulously, and continuously chew each bite of food. It sounds kind of disgusting: can you imagine chewing something a hundred times? But this apparently resonated with James.

Anyway, back to Michael Pollan. I excerpted some highlights:

Epidemiologists also had observed that in America during the war years, when meat and dairy products were strictly rationed, the rate of heart disease temporarily plummeted.

Na├»vely putting two and two together, the committee drafted a straightforward set of dietary guidelines calling on Americans to cut down on red meat and dairy products. Within weeks a firestorm, emanating from the red-meat and dairy industries, engulfed the committee, and Senator McGovern (who had a great many cattle ranchers among his South Dakota constituents) was forced to beat a retreat. The committee’s recommendations were hastily rewritten. Plain talk about food — the committee had advised Americans to actually “reduce consumption of meat” — was replaced by artful compromise: “Choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.”

A subtle change in emphasis, you might say, but a world of difference just the same. First, the stark message to “eat less” of a particular food has been deep-sixed; don’t look for it ever again in any official U.S. dietary pronouncement. Second, notice how distinctions between entities as different as fish and beef and chicken have collapsed; those three venerable foods, each representing an entirely different taxonomic class, are now lumped together as delivery systems for a single nutrient. Notice too how the new language exonerates the foods themselves; now the culprit is an obscure, invisible, tasteless — and politically unconnected — substance that may or may not lurk in them called “saturated fat.”

And herein lies the tragedy of government-issued food guidelines and pyramids when said government bows to every lobby and industry rather than paying attention to health. We will never be told to eat less meat, even though that's a big part of the answer to both our health problems and our environment problems.

How did that happen? I would submit that the ideology of nutritionism deserves as much of the blame as the carbohydrates themselves do — that and human nature. By framing dietary advice in terms of good and bad nutrients, and by burying the recommendation that we should eat less of any particular food, it was easy for the take-home message of the 1977 and 1982 dietary guidelines to be simplified as follows: Eat more low-fat foods. And that is what we did. We’re always happy to receive a dispensation to eat more of something (with the possible exception of oat bran), and one of the things nutritionism reliably gives us is some such dispensation: low-fat cookies then, low-carb beer now. It’s hard to imagine the low-fat craze taking off as it did if McGovern’s original food-based recommendations had stood: eat fewer meat and dairy products. For how do you get from that stark counsel to the idea that another case of Snackwell’s is just what the doctor ordered?

And then Pollan gets into some simple guidelines for eating healthier, which I've parsed out:

From Whole Foods to Refined. The case of corn points up one of the key features of the modern diet: a shift toward increasingly refined foods, especially carbohydrates. Call it applied reductionism. Humans have been refining grains since at least the Industrial Revolution, favoring white flour (and white rice) even at the price of lost nutrients. Refining grains extends their shelf life (precisely because it renders them less nutritious to pests) and makes them easier to digest, by removing the fiber that ordinarily slows the release of their sugars. Much industrial food production involves an extension and intensification of this practice, as food processors find ways to deliver glucose — the brain’s preferred fuel — ever more swiftly and efficiently. Sometimes this is precisely the point, as when corn is refined into corn syrup; other times it is an unfortunate byproduct of food processing, as when freezing food destroys the fiber that would slow sugar absorption.

From Complexity to Simplicity. If there is one word that covers nearly all the changes industrialization has made to the food chain, it would be simplification. Chemical fertilizers simplify the chemistry of the soil, which in turn appears to simplify the chemistry of the food grown in that soil. Since the widespread adoption of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in the 1950s, the nutritional quality of produce in America has, according to U.S.D.A. figures, declined significantly. Some researchers blame the quality of the soil for the decline; others cite the tendency of modern plant breeding to select for industrial qualities like yield rather than nutritional quality. Whichever it is, the trend toward simplification of our food continues on up the chain. Processing foods depletes them of many nutrients, a few of which are then added back in through “fortification”: folic acid in refined flour, vitamins and minerals in breakfast cereal. But food scientists can add back only the nutrients food scientists recognize as important. What are they overlooking?

Simplification has occurred at the level of species diversity, too. The astounding variety of foods on offer in the modern supermarket obscures the fact that the actual number of species in the modern diet is shrinking. For reasons of economics, the food industry prefers to tease its myriad processed offerings from a tiny group of plant species, corn and soybeans chief among them. Today, a mere four crops account for two-thirds of the calories humans eat. When you consider that humankind has historically consumed some 80,000 edible species, and that 3,000 of these have been in widespread use, this represents a radical simplification of the food web. Why should this matter? Because humans are omnivores, requiring somewhere between 50 and 100 different chemical compounds and elements to be healthy. It’s hard to believe that we can get everything we need from a diet consisting largely of processed corn, soybeans, wheat and rice.

From Leaves to Seeds. It’s no coincidence that most of the plants we have come to rely on are grains; these crops are exceptionally efficient at transforming sunlight into macronutrients — carbs, fats and proteins. These macronutrients in turn can be profitably transformed into animal protein (by feeding them to animals) and processed foods of every description. Also, the fact that grains are durable seeds that can be stored for long periods means they can function as commodities as well as food, making these plants particularly well suited to the needs of industrial capitalism.

The needs of the human eater are another matter. An oversupply of macronutrients, as we now have, itself represents a serious threat to our health, as evidenced by soaring rates of obesity and diabetes. But the undersupply of micronutrients may constitute a threat just as serious. Put in the simplest terms, we’re eating a lot more seeds and a lot fewer leaves, a tectonic dietary shift the full implications of which we are just beginning to glimpse. If I may borrow the nutritionist’s reductionist vocabulary for a moment, there are a host of critical micronutrients that are harder to get from a diet of refined seeds than from a diet of leaves. There are the antioxidants and all the other newly discovered phytochemicals (remember that sprig of thyme?); there is the fiber, and then there are the healthy omega-3 fats found in leafy green plants, which may turn out to be most important benefit of all.

From Food Culture to Food Science. The last important change wrought by the Western diet is not, strictly speaking, ecological. But the industrialization of our food that we call the Western diet is systematically destroying traditional food cultures. Before the modern food era — and before nutritionism — people relied for guidance about what to eat on their national or ethnic or regional cultures. We think of culture as a set of beliefs and practices to help mediate our relationship to other people, but of course culture (at least before the rise of science) has also played a critical role in helping mediate people’s relationship to nature.

It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society — estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs — is unsustainable.

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg’s can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils — whether certified organic or not — will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called “Hara Hachi Bu”: eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the “eat less” message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s? — but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you and certainly can’t hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less “energy dense” than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians (“flexitarians”) are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around. True, food cultures are embedded in societies and economies and ecologies, and some of them travel better than others: Inuit not so well as Italian. In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals — and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can’t possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of “health.” Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It’s all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn’t bordered by your body and that what’s good for the soil is probably good for you, too.

And now I'm hungry.

Seriously, read Pollan. He makes me want to bike to the farmer's market.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Which feline...

Which famous feline are you?

At first I was Tigger. I decided that wasn't accurate, so I managed to get The Cheshire Cat.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PWR takes over my life

Currently under way is the consumption of my life by the PWR program. Lesson plans, xeroxing, uploading documents to the course website, reading papers, conferencing with students... Oh yes, and I'm supposed to be taking two grad classes on the Frankfurt School & Henry James.

Luckily, my students are amazing. Even if my lesson plan for today was derailed in light of their anxieties over a bibliography that isn't due for two weeks, and which is actually the most straight forward assignment (perhaps that's what's bothering them?)

Anyway, just wanted to document what I've done this week.

Monday: teaching in the morning, followed by lunch, class on Henry James, job talk, finishing Lukacs essay and writing a response, etc.

Tuesday: designing lesson plan, Frankfurt class, xeroxing for PWR, lesson planning & reading essay till 1 am

Weds: teaching, lunch, reading student papers, conferencing, dinner, now more student papers.

I think I'm going to make up for being insanely busy by drinking too much espresso & eating lots of starch & sugar.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for choice

It's blogging for choice day, but I feel that I've said all I can say on the topic. Luckily, Jill at Feministe has a comprehensive post on why being pro-choice is the pro-life, pro-woman position. So I'm just going to link to her brilliant post & reproduce a couple of favorites here:

I am pro-choice because those who attack abortion rights don’t plan on stopping there — they’re also going after contraception, science and even sex itself. And they’ve got a whole lot of political capital.

I am pro-choice because I see what places look like when “pro-life” policies are the rule of law. I see it again and again and again.

I am pro-choice because I see what places look like when abortion is safe, legal and available, contraception is accessible, and sex is considered natural, normal, and something we should take responsibility for, not be ashamed of.

I am pro-choice because “pro-life” policies kill and maim women. I am pro-choice because abortion rates are no higher in countries where abortion is legal than in countries where it is outlawed — but countries where abortion is legal see lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates, greater economic prosperity, and greater gender equality.

I am pro-choice because women who live in the developing world account for 95 percent of the world’s illegal abortions, and I believe that access to safe health care should not be contingent on where you happened to be born. I am pro-choice because the countries with the lowest abortion rates — Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland — have liberal abortion laws, good health care, comprehensive sex education, and accessible and affordable contraception.

I am pro-choice because many countries where abortion is illegal or highly restricted have significantly higher abortion rates than we have in the United States, and astronomically higher rates than we see in Western Europe. Some of those countries include Brazil, Chile, Bangladesh, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, and the Philippines.

I am pro-choice because of the number of women hospitalized after unsafe illegal abortions in these countries:
Bangladesh: 71,800
Brazil: 288,700
Chile: 31,900
Colombia: 57,700
Dominican Republic: 16,500
Egypt: 216,000
Mexico: 106,500
Nigeria: 142,200
Peru: 54,200
The Philippines: 80,100

I am pro-choice because 80,000 women die every year from complications from illegal abortion, and hundreds of thousands more are injured.

I am pro-choice because the risk of dying from abortion is far higher in countries where abortion is illegal than where it’s legal.

I am pro-choice because illegal abortion is the cause of 25% of all maternal deaths in Latin America, 12% in Asia, and 13% in sub-Saharan Africa.


I am pro-choice because I care about children — and according to the Children’s Defense Fund, 100% of the worst legislators for children in this country are pro-life.

Friday, January 19, 2007

End of winter break, beginning of winter quarter

So Andrew is back in WI. The apartment feels very empty (although, since it is, after all, a studio, this might seem like a good thing). I miss Andrew.

Back to the running list of activity...

6th: I think we finished Memoirs of a Geisha? Anyway, got some work done, baked amazing chocolate chip cookies (tips from an extra egg yolk, melted butter, and more brown sugar than white), and went to Alex & Kaitlin's for dinner, dessert, & apples to apples (which is a crazy game).

7th: Finally, the trip to SF. We missed the train we had aimed on taking, but this gave me the chance to find hilarious chicken stickers at a stationery store (which became part of Mer's b-day present). In the city, we immediately wanted to get to the Haight-Ashbury. The MUNI workers didn't believe us at first about a free "family appreciation day," but Andrew prevailed. We got to Buffalo Exchange, only to find that my clothes are apparently not suitable for store-credit exchange. There's something very humbling about having your past fashion choices judged by a man wearing hip huggers, a butterfly print button-up, a cropped leather vest, and a tophat. In other words, dressed as a modern-day Mad Hatter. Luckily, I found a pair of cute jeans and a new skirt to make up for the humiliation.

After wandering about a bit, we ended up at the Blue Moon Cafe -- which we both remembered from the SF guidebook. Yummy falafel wraps. Brief glance through a used bookstore in wild disarray (books stacked on top of shelves -- not the best place to be if an earthquake hit). After they reprimanded Andrew for asking if they had any "crossword a day" books with a snide comment about the impossibility of ever finding a blank "used" crossword book, and after they confirmed that they didn't have a lit crit section, we got the hell out.

We headed to the park for the view of the painted ladies (beginning of Full House), and enjoyed the dog park area. Then we decided to walk back to the Caltrain station -- which was a long walk, with pleasing areas of beautiful houses, and dangerous areas of people screaming and one man notifying all passersby that he would "kill for meth." Passed through Hayes Valley (I think), and I found the Marx-Engels reader for $12. I hurried Andrew away from a music/dancing session in the street, and we made it on the Caltrain home... where we decided to make our own dinner.

8th/Monday: Last day before classes started... went to Meredith's party in the evening... thoroughly enjoyed being social with Andrew.

9th/ Tuesday: I had one class & prep to do for my first PWR session... Visited with Jill over our class plans.

10th: Very nervous about my first day of PWR. My bad dream -- in which too many students showed up, I forgot the syllabi, and we got kicked out of our classroom -- came partially true. After Andrew had set up my computer with the projection system and left, another instructor came in claiming she'd been switched to my room (because she likes having windows. Well hell, I like having windows, too, and I even more enjoy not being switched out of my room on the first day of class). Problems with PWR actually changing things on the official Stanford course site. Anyways, the rest went well, I think. An Incovenient Truth & the color coded threat level system are just too perfect as examples of rhetorical appeals...

Celebration w/ Andrew over dinner & Medium.

11th: Free day... we ended up at the library, then catching a bus, I think doing some grocery shopping?

12th: Friday night we went into Palo Alto for dinner with friends (Alex & Kaitlin, Dennis of Microsoft & his gf) at "Thai-phoon" (clever, right?), and then for drinks at Three Seasons. Poor Andrew -- I was intrigued by the chocolate martini... They drove us home, in an adorable Prius, and I felt rather tipsy still.

13th: Quieter day, and we stayed in...

14th: Mer's birthday! And Desperate Housewives get-together. Played some Cranium, and we continued the game one on one afterwards.

15th: Sadness. Last day of Andrew's visit... Had work to do, but we also had an expedition for buying ingredients for a special dinner. We made veggie lasagna (which is now rather old, but I couldn't bear to throw it out, so I'm freezing it). Also made our own interesting concoction of baked apples & sugar & vegan butter. Good stuff.

16th: More sadness. After doing various things while Andrew packed, and crying over lunch, I went on the bus with Andrew to the Caltrain station... said goodbyes, and he called me so I could walk back to campus and talk... Went to the English dept., finished reading, and went to class... which I think helped in that I couldn't really think about anything else then. I did PWR stuff after, avoided going home... talked to Mer on the phone on my walk home... Then I had an EV pizza dinner event coming up, so I didn't have to think too much...

17th: Class not as exciting as week before, I'm definitely making plenty of mistakes from which I hope I learn. After class I had lunch and a nap, then office hours... then coffee w/ Justin, James, & Lupe, which I very much enjoyed... then an English dept. meeting over pizza. Back home for some reading & Medium.

Yesterday I had office hours, and then I read about 160 pages of Portrait of a Lady. In the evening I went out with the cohort for drinks (definitely needed). Then there was the second half of Grey's Anatomy, and more reading...

Today was quiet: which is maybe why it seemed sadder again to be alone. I slept in (finally), and then settled in for an afternoon with Isabel Archer. Cried at parts. Went out briefly, and luckily my books came just in time for me to read them. Now I'm on to the criticism, and I'm hoping to do more planning for my classes this week, since I'll finally have two sessions.

This quarter is going to be ridiculously busy. I hope that that means I won't have time to feel sad about Andrew not being here. Although that usually wears off after a week or two, and it's back to feeling like just my place. I can't wait for the end of this year: it will finally mark the end of my being tied here. After one quarter of TA-ing next year, I'll be free to fly back and forth much more often.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Let's pretend...

That I posted this like a week ago.

Andrew got here on the 20th, and since then we've been celebrating the holidays (ie, gifts, candles, & cooking), taking day trips, watching movies, and generally catching up on together time.

Some highlights:

21st: Shopping in the rain for groceries & a glass pitcher. After buying brandy, and realizing I was never going to finish this bottle of red wine, I decided on embarking on the culinary adventure that is sangria. Beautiful with floating fruit.

Upon returning, we saw that a Crate & Barrel box had made it to my door. As soon as I saw it, I became convinced that Andrew had bought me the same thing that I had bought him: a fondue set. Because I had looked at some sets at C&B, and ultimately found a larger one at Target. So on the second to last night of Hanukkah, we officially discovered that we had, indeed, decided to buy each other the same thing.

24th: The Christmas portion of Chrismakkuh officially began.

25th: Was spent opening presents under my little growing tree, talking on the phone with the family as they opened presents, and preparing for dinner. Christmas is all about the cooking. We decided on a vegetarian celebration, with matzoh ball & veggie "stoup," butternut squash, homemade stuffing (including my homemade bread), & cranberry-apple compote. We took an evening walk in search of Christmas lights, found some cheery houses, and enjoyed the fact that in CA one can actually walk around looking at lights without getting frostbite. Played scrabble. Dessert: our own gingerbread cookies (slightly underbaked) & chocolate fondou.

26th: Andrew rented a car, and we became mobile. Since we didn't get it till after 3 pm, and because it was raining, we devoted ourselves to shopping. We returned gifts, picked out new ones, wandered about in Ikea for hours, & went grocery shopping. At Ikea I found a duvet cover that was on sale for $10, and which Andrew & I agreed might make a nice couch cover (studio couches are wretched: ugly neutral pattern & coated with a surely carcinogenic liquid proof substance). Come to find out, it's the exact same pattern on my little desk lamp. Apparently I am very attracted to red viney flowers on a white background.

27th: We attempted to take a nature walk, but ended up first in a smelly bird bath reserve, and secondly in a park that was supposed to be closed and that was especially wind-whipped that day. Saw overly friendly geese, then geese lined up on a rock wall in the wind (strange), and a heron and egret hanging out in the wetlands.

After, we went to the "Great Mall" in Milpitas. And it is indeed a huge mall. I won't go so far as to say "great" (that would be more of a value judgment), but there are a prodigious number of stores and outlets. Found a few things -- including some new jeans -- but mainly wandered around in circles and ate at the food court.

28th: Trip to Half Moon Bay -- We visited the tide pools, which were beautiful in the sun, and saw star fish, some sort of sun fish (basically like a star fish with legs multiplied), sea anemones, abalone shells, urchin shells, hermit crabs... Went back to the town to explore and revisit shops we liked last year. Especially the grocery store, which we remembered as being strangely inexpensive. Apparently though they figured out that everyone else is charging more for, well, everything. Caught the sunset, and Andrew further experimented with his camera.

Dinner: eggplant parm

29th: Finally made it to Big Basin! The trip there was intense in and of itself: winding highways that lead to ever narrower and twistier roads. Beautiful though. The park was pretty quiet -- we took off with a map & planned to make a loop. We quickly ran into trouble: a bridge was covered in caution tape. I figured the bridge was still safer than my trying to jump across a river, but Andrew insisted upon finding a better place at which to cross. And we did -- it just seemed a tad wrong off-trailing. Anyway, after lunching near construction (not sure what they were doing), we finally got onto the trail and stayed there. Didn't see a single banana slug, so Andrew took many, many pictures of trees. Trees in sunlight and in shade, big trees, trees with me for scale, trees growing against or into each other...

After, we went down to Santa Cruz. Made it just in time for the sunset on the ocean. We decided not to search for the monarch butterflies in the dark, and instead went to the bookstore we enjoyed last year. I found the copy of Portrait of a Lady we're reading this quarter and Ian Watt's Rise of the Novel. Successful trip.

30th: Got up early and headed into the city to meet Andrew's relatives for a wander through the SF farmer's market, lunch in the ferry building, & shopping. Got lost in the 3 levels of Forever 21 (eek), found nothing I wanted in my price range at Anthropologie (except, you know, gift ribbons), & tagged along as Andrew tried to find the perfect air blower to clean his camera lens (update: he finally found it at the first place we went to here in Palo Alto).

31st: Decided to take another trip to the coast, and went on a nice drive with views, especially around Devil's Slide. Took a short hike in the hills on the ocean, where we climbed to the top of one hill for the view, sat looking out as if we might actually see whales, and watched some hawks circle & scream. Oh, and we finally saw a banana slug. One doing its sluggy thing on some dog poo. We decided not to take a picture of that one.

Returned to the tide pools, which this time had attracted some harbor seals. They weren't doing much, although one did snap at a low-flying seagull.

On the way home, we stopped at Target to buy Cranium (yay!). And we got majorly waylaid in Target's after-Christmas sale.

Anyways: back at home, we made pizza for dinner. This was more intensive than it sounds, since we started from scratch. We made our own dough (Andrew closely monitored the condition of the dough: very concerned that I was going to "overwork" it), topped it, and were pleasantly surprised with the creation.

1st: Drove to Berkeley for R & J's annual New Year's brunch. We stayed longer than we planned, but the time flew by: lots of people to talk to, and many adorable little kids. After gathering advice, we promptly got lost in San Rafael (beautiful church against the hill in the afternoon sun), but made it to the Marin Headlands in time for Andrew to take (yet more) pictures of the sunset. Enjoyed walking along the beach, and driving further up for the view. And we finally figured out where you can get the best view of the Golden Gate. Then, we explored Sausalito -- I wanted French fries at first, but ended up deciding on visiting the candy store. Yum. We were then going to head straight home, but Andrew cleverly took us on a driving tour of SF.

2nd: Last day with the car, so we ran errands: more grocery shopping & a very large bag of potting soil for my little tree. Repotting the tree was an adventure: we moved it with a shopping car that mysteriously appeared by my building over break, and scooped out soil with a measuring cup (since I don't exactly having gardening tools lying around).

3rd: Went onto campus early, and later relaxed at home... watched Medium, made Indian food with the pretty good Korma sauce from Trader Joe's.

4th: Some work, some Andronico's sale shopping (annual soup sale: Amy's organic chunky tomato bisque & medium chili = most perfect foods to be found in a can), and some TV (new OC).

5th: We had planned on a trip into the city, but decided to put it off till Sunday to get an earlier start and take advantage of free Muni service. So instead, we finished watching The Smartest Guys in the Room (awesome: Enron is the case study for the problems with American capitalism & unquestioning trust in the virtue of the "free market," not to mention terribly telling in its connections with the Bush administration), found the classroom where I'll be teaching next week, biked to Menlo Park to check out Nak's market (woohoo Yakisoba noodles & dried shitake mushrooms & cheap nori!) and to buy more coffee. After, Andrew helped me learn how to scan documents in as PDFs & manipulate them in Adobe. Slowly learning the ropes.

Tonight we did the sushi thing (well, Andrew did the sushi thing, and I partook of it), & I just made creme brulee.