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Sep. 1st, 2017 09:16 pm


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I made a spreadsheet comparing prices across grocery stores to Whole Foods' new prices.

Conclusion: still cheaper to shop at your regular grocery store, with the exception of Pavilions/Vons. No clue why their prices are so damn high.

  1. Whole Foods prices, cheaper, is still probably going to be out of reach for most people. Add to it that they do not have the regular items that your average family gets like brand name cereals, sodas, snacks, etc., unless Amazon decides to change their character entirely, people are going to stick to what they know.
  2. Sprouts is most comparable to Whole Foods in terms of quality, and they almost always have sales on meat and produce you're going to get anyway. They often have 72 hour sales, and you can get produce on average for less than a $1 a pound. Their meat is also pretty comparable to Whole Foods, and usually cheaper.
  3. Krogers/Ralph's is cheaper overall; their meat's usually decent, but their produce selection sucks. And it's kind of a crapshoot whether or not the produce will be good on the day you get it.
  4. I tried to compare Super King/99 Ranch, but since they are ethnically specific markets, they don't have all the generic American stuff. Kind of hard to find an Asian equivalent to kale, and I was just reminded of how much more variety there is in the ethnic markets. I need to make it out to them more. Note: it's been years, but I hated the meat/seafood aisle at Super King. None of it was fresh. Though maybe that's changed - they now have a modern website and you can apparently use Instacart with them.
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My standard disclaimers:

1. I like Roy Choi.
2. I've made some of his food from his cookbook.
3. I like but do not love his Kogi tacos. Would not stand in a line for an hour for them. Love some of the concepts of his other restaurants. Would try them all if practical.
4. I admire his goals.
5. I've never eaten at either Locol location.

Pete Wells apparently wrote a pretty inflammatory no-star NYTimes review of the Locol location in Oakland. Jonathan Gold called him, maybe not wrong, but "ungenerous". Roy Choi wrote something, honestly, that is kind of incomprehensible to me.

That being said, this location is on Broadway, downtown? Ain't nothing going to survive in Oakland if it don't deliver on flavor. This location is not in a food desert - on Google Maps it looks like Pandora's headquarters are right around the corner. And it doesn't matter how good your intentions are, if you can't compete with the taquerias or the Vietnamese delis with $2.00 sandwiches (it might be $3 now; it's been a while) a few miles away, what are you even doing?

Funny, I remember going home over my break in November, and taking a walk around my neighborhood, being alternately nostalgic and horrified/fascinated by the changes that gentrification brought to it. We walked into a store whose aesthetic screamed Silver Lake hipster, and I point-blank asked my sister who in our neighborhood could actually afford anything there. She shrugged. We passed by an artisanal popcorn shop, a "new American" themed restaurant with a pricey looking menu and communal benches, and another breakfast place. She claimed that people drove over an hour just to come to that restaurant. I wondered if they do, do they just come in, eat, and go, or do they stick around to explore?

Ironically, that day was Sunday and apparently all the restaurants were closed. We ended up eating at the KFC I'd grown up eating at, that our friends had gotten their first legal jobs at. Saw the bulletproof glass and I was like, yup, here we are.

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For some reason, the Inspector Gadget theme song is stuck in my head.

This 8Asisans post about how American kids hate eating vegetables because it's not cooked properly had me agreeing completely. Or maybe cooked stupidly is the better term. One of the things I hate most about ordering entrees in American restaurant is the fact that the vegetables will always have come from a frozen bag, be a salad, or just boiled to a tasteless mush. Unless we're in a really fancy restaurant, and even then it's usually a salad.

One of the things about living with Mark that I've had to get used to is the fact that he and his family eat a lot of salad. I prefer my vegetables cooked to a certain point - it's just the way I grew up, and the way vegetables taste best to me. I've gotten over it, but it's still not as satisfying as a vegetable stir-fry or some jai (Buddha's delight).

Hmmm... I have not attempted to make jai yet...
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They taste pretty disgusting, and were not much improved by the addition of sugary strawberries.
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To continue with the grocery shopping topic - we bought some stuff at Whole Foods to make dinner last night because our ethnic market didn't have shallots and pancetta and a few other things and I stopped at the sign that said: "Conventionally grown avocados $1.99 EACH".

That's not even organic!

In other news, apparently Pump It Up parties are now the thing to do for little kids' birthday celebrations. Man, kids have much cooler toys and entertainment these days.
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I went on a little shopping spree yesterday, as my immigrant instincts kicked in:

Bone-in ribeye steaks - $4.49 a pound! Compare to Whole Foods at $16.00 a pound.

I didn't buy these, but the prices are from the weekly ads they send to us:

Oranges - 4 lbs for 99 cents.
Butternut squash - 4 lbs for 99 cents.
Green cabbage - 5 lbs for 99 cents.

I am still in amazement. I don't even really remember most of what I bought, other than to say OMFG those prices are awesome and I grabbed some stuff. Oh, and though I don't believe any of it is actually organic, the produce is really fresh and tastes great. I'm still wondering how they get stuff that cheap and still make any profits.
Apr. 1st, 2008 03:59 pm


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What Every American Should Know About The Middle East:

  1. Arabs are part of an ethnic group, not a religion. Arabs were around long before Islam, and there have been (and still are) Arab Christians and Arab Jews. In general, you’re an Arab if you 1) are of Arab descent (blood), or 2) speak the main Arab language (Arabic).

  2. Not all Arabs are Muslim. There are significant populations of Arab Christians throughout the world, including in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Northern Africa and Palestine/Israel.

P.S. Don't read the comments.

Perhaps I should write one, too about what Americans should know about China:

1. Nobody in China eats General Tso's chicken.
2. There are different ethnicities within China.

According to LAist, April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Perhaps I should tell Mark to get some halloumi. I have no idea what other sorts of cheeses are grillable.

Is anybody else watching Top Chef this season? I just watched the last episode, in which the Quickfire was to make an "upscale taco" and the Elimination Challenge was to make food from the pantries of a neighborhood in Chicago for a block party. So far, no one's really standing out, but I do know who's pissing me off - from Eric the bald dude who said that "Mexican food is soul food not upscale food" (shut up, dude) to Valerie (I think that's her name) who fucked up macaroni and cheese with Velveeta, not learning from her mistake the previous time. Another thing I hated was how they made all the women give soundbites about how hard it is to be a woman in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure it's true, but the way it was edited, no one said anything useful and it came across as kind of whiny. Come on, Top Chef editors.2.
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We went to go see Jennifer 8. Lee at Vroman's in Pasadena talk about her new book, the Fortune Cookie Chronicles, which traces the lineage of various Chinese American food items such as fortune cookies and chop suey and General Tso's chicken. It was fascinating and very humorous discussion that brought up all sorts of huge, relevant issues - food, masculinity, racism, immigration, and of course, "what it means to be American". I think what she said was "if our standard of what it means to be American is 'as American as apple pie', then how often do Americans eat apple pie, and how often do they eat Chinese food?"

Her presentation was pretty organized, and we saw a bunch of different images and videos, from Chinese people in China trying fortune cookies for the first time, to the video of a sad little five year old girl in China explaining that she was born in America and was being raised in her village in China while her parents were working in America, and America was "at the airport, far away".

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Once again, The Smoking Gun is an awesome news source. They broke the news that the LA Times "Pulitzer-prize winner Chuck Phillips" was duped by some white guy in prison over P. Diddy's involvement in Tupac Shakur's death. The LA Times had to apologize this morning, and there may be a lawsuit.

Unrelated, but relevant: Via Maud Newton - Chris Lehmann on "Victim 'Hood" and Tayari Jones' "There's A Sucker Born Every Minute".

For my artsy friends: Adobe Photoshop Express Beta is free (for now) - you get 2 gigs of space for your photos. Woohoo!

Tonight I go see Jennifer 8. Lee at Pasadena's Vroman's, where she's going to be talking about her new book Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It's mostly about how Chinese American food (shocker) isn't really Chinese.
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Get the "The Original" Outdoor Cooker for Christmas. It is a burner on stilts that comes with a hose to hook up to your propane tank and a 30 quart pot. It is tall and unwieldy and should not be turned on when children are around because it's a recipe for nth-degree burns.

Do research on various types of seafood boils and a seasoning mix. The most popular mix is Zatarain's, which makes a bunch of other instant mixes like jambalaya and gumbo. Go to the following stores and fail at finding the seasoning packet necessary to an enjoyable boil: Ralph's, Gelson's, Trader Joe's, the Chinese market, even. Later discover that Zatarain's Crab Boil Seasoning is sold on Amazon. Give up on finding it in the grocery store and make your own seafood boil mix.

Next, decide on the seafood. Six pounds of live crab, two pounds of shrimp, one pound of what looks like langosteens but what the Chinese butcher dude calls "freshwater shrimp" from the local Chinese market (with an A rating, even). Get a phone call from guests who decide to also buy a pound of scallops, salmon with crab cake and five pounds of mussels from Costco. Back home, stick the crabs in the fridge before they can wake up. Stick all other seafood in the fridge before they spoil. Scallops and salmon will be cooked separately.

Make preparations for the other food - butternut squash soup and bruschetta (ok someone tell me if it is pronounced brusketta or brus-CHetta?). Make the mirepoix.

Set up Outdoor Cooker.

Start cleaning seafood and fill up the pot with water. Boil water, then toss seasoning packet in. Toss in the mirepoix. Add seafood and anything else you wanted to toss in like potatoes, sausages, etc. Seafood will be done in about twenty minutes.

EAT. And EAT. And EAT.

Verdict on the freshwater shrimp - nobody really liked it, but that may be the fact that it's probably supposed to be cooked differently. It kind of looks like a cross between a lobster and a giant shrimp. The taste was kind of bland in comparison to all the other seafood.

Make seafood cakes out of the leftovers. That's my project today!
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This LAist post on "Why does everyone hate hipsters?" and Stuff White People Like pretty much sums Silverlake up for me right now.

I find this whole hipster-hatred thing amusing. Do people really get worked up over whether someone's dyed hair actually "means something"? It is also amusing because among my friends, we all kind of secretly want to be hipsters who are into the cool little indie bands, the ironic t-shirts and also have ginormous trust funds. Maybe it's really the ginormous trust fund part we want.

We went to the Super King Market yesterday - no sign of hipsters anywhere - just a good old-fashioned supermarket catering to mostly Middle Easterners and Latinos. (They had Mexican Coke! Jackpot!) It was huge! And there were so many good deals - 3 pounds of oranges for 99 cents! They looked good, too. The Persian cucumbers for under a dollar a pound! Giant cans of pickled things! It was all so good. I think we will make it our regular grocery store for now. However, if you go there I would stay out of the seafood section. It was kind of gross - the fish were actually graying. They had a sizable deli and even a Hawaiian BBQ counter.

The next thing I need to find is an authentic Asian supermarket nearby that has a live seafood tank in the back.
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It was all very delicious. I'd been complaining that we hadn't really cooked much Chinese food lately - and damn it, I don't have any Chinese cookbooks. The closest thing I have was my Ming Tsai book, and I'd loaned that one to my sister. I collect recipes when I browse, and I just randomly add them to my account for later reference. Last week, while cleaning them up, I just noticed them sitting there. Mark was loathe to change our hot and sour soup recipe, but I insisted on trying something new. I thought that we might be able to get all the ingredients from our local markets, but alas, that was not to be and we made a trip to our local Chinese market.

We hardly ever go there, and every time we do, we sort of smack our foreheads and go, "why don't we come here more?" (Maybe because it's not two blocks away, like the Safeway is. But man, is it so much better.) An entire row full of soy sauces and vinegars! Rice crackers! Live, fresh seafood in the back! We were originally going to do a stir-fry and rice to go with the soup and pancakes, but then Mark spotted the beef heart.

In case you haven't heard, Mark has recently become obsessed with eating offal - the stuff most Americans (including me) don't really eat anymore - brains, organs, tripe, etc. I'd seen a recipe for beef heart in an issue of Common Ground, a free monthly magazine focused on environmentalism and spirituality that I occasionally pick up for reading on the train from Chris Cosentino. Chris Cosentino owns Incanto and was also on The Next Iron Chef. He advocates eating offal because it tastes good, and also thinks that if you eat meat, you should be willing to eat all the animal so as not to let it go to waste. He mentioned that for people who are not used to eating offal, that beef heart is a good way to ease people in, because it has a texture close to that of steak. We said to ourselves, ok, we can do that. We started asking the local markets if they carried any. Nobody had any on hand, but they could order it if you wanted to wait a few days. We sort of forgot about that until we saw the organ at the market. Then a light bulb went off. Duh! Of course the Chinese would carry beef heart! They carried tons of it.

The market we went to has adopted the dubious Japanese practice of wrapping everything in plastic and styrofoam. It's kind of annoying. Anyway, beef heart is really cheap. For a heart that was about a pound in size - it was less than two dollars.

For the hot and sour soup recipe, we left off the shiitake mushrooms. Neither of us is particularly fond of them. We had tons of wood ear mushrooms, though. It cooked faster than our other recipe, and tasted great too. One of the differences was that we used black rice vinegar or as it's called on the label - Chinkiang vinegar. It's good stuff.

The beef heart did taste like steak, except a little spongier in texture. Because it is so lean, you have to be careful not to overcook it. It was pretty good.

The scallion pancakes were good too, but definitely very very unhealthy.
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  • Reminder - Bay Bridge to shut down during Labor Day. Just in case you were thinking of actually going somewhere. Last year, it took me nearly two hours to go home to Oakland to see my family. It is normally a 45 minute drive.
  • Trailer for Lust, Caution. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Ang Lee. Joan Chen. Love, betrayal, murder, Shanghai! How could you not fall in love with it?
  • Babies eating lemons:

  • My mom gave me another giant zucchini from her garden - it's as long as my entire arm, and about five inches wide. So I am collecting zucchini recipes.
  • Linux - not just for servers anymore - in case anyone is wondering, yes I still love Ubuntu. It works great; that one bug I have that has been identified for over a year, though, still hasn't been fixed. I can use my iPod, write in OpenOffice, which I prefer to MSWord anyway, browse the web, do everything I did in Windows XP except faster! And without the Blue Screen of Death.
  • Uniqlo's fall look book.
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  • In response to the scandal of the Shanxi brick-kiln slaves, lawyer and activist Wu Ge (吴革) has submitted a proposed amendment to the Criminal Law defining and criminalizing slavery.
  • A recipe for okonomiyaki, courtesy of the Chronicle Books blog. Chronicle Books is one of my favorite publishers - whoever does the design for their books (many people, I imagine) are geniuses. It also helps that many of their books look really interesting and informative. I love okonomiyaki, and I wish there were a Japanese restaurant close by that served it. It looks like it's probably really easy to make.
  • Jackie Chan set to appear in drama set in Japan - a drama on the lives of Chinese immigrants in Japan's Shinjuku district. Uh, no comment for now.
  • Thank you, Jeff Yang: A Taste of Racism in the Chinese Food Scare - Nevertheless, China has been portrayed as a nation blind to hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about recent reports of food contamination. That's troubling, because it reinforces the notion that befouled food is the consequence of a foul culture. Chef and gustatory adventurer Anthony Bourdain may have said it best in a 2006 Salon interview in which he noted that there's "something kind of racist" about culinary xenophobia: "Fear of dirt is often indistinguishable from the fear of unnamed dirty people." Link from Serious Eats.
  • I cut my hand on my dad's butcher knife today. When I moved out, my parents gave me that knife. It is a dangerous thing - it's really heavy, and it's been dinged over the years, so much so that there isn't a straight line anywhere. You know how in Chinatown you go into the little shops with the ducks hanging in the windows? And there's the guy behind the counter chopping your roast pork and roast duck into pieces with simple, beautiful whomps? That's my knife. I hardly ever use the knife, but I took it out to slice some turnips the other day. My chef's knife just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't exactly going through things like butter, but I pounded the hell out of that thing. I'm telling you, my knife will cut through just about anything. I almost feel like a real cook with it.
  • Currently reading: Connie Willis' science fiction novel Doomsday Book - it is surprisingly engaging. I'm almost done with it, and I'm pleasantly surprised. I wasn't really expecting anything except a diversion, but it's got time travel into the Middle Ages and a spunky heroine. (I'm not a fan of the word "spunky", but I'm not sure what else works.) One thing I did notice - people spend a lot of time trying to get hold of people via the phone, and for the longest time, I was like, dude, does the future not have cell phones and the Internet? I flipped to the copyright page, and discovered it was published in the early nineties. So that explains it!
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Over the weekend, we were in Los Angeles. Some of Mark's teenage cousins were visiting from Jordan, and I introduced myself.

Them: "Where are you from?"
Me: "I'm Chinese."
Them: "Really? We love Chinese food."
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I am so sick of the iPhone. Yes, it'll change everything forever, with the nifty rotating browser! But how does it work, as a PHONE? Is the reception good? Do your calls get dropped?

I just finished reading this Wired article on Hans Reiser, the Linux programmer who's accused of murdering his wife. The whole thing is really strange. Three items I thought were odd, in a really bizarre article: The author describes the Oakland hills as "quiet and idyllic". Uh, quiet, maybe. Idyllic, no. He also mentions that Reiser first met his wife in Russia, where he had been several times previously using the Russian bride service. Okaaay. Three: Reiser has this obsession with manhood, and thought that teaching his son to play violent video games (which his wife objected to) would help prepare him to be "a man", because he otherwise wouldn't get that kind of education living in Oakland. (That is so funny I don't even know where to begin.)

Oh my god you know how I was bitching about our government and their stupid "English-is-the-official-national-language" thing? Apparently England has this thing where they offer free English classes to migrants, although they are considering limiting access. *sigh* And then I read that people are getting pissed off about having to "press 1 for English". Are you kidding me? Are you really that frickin lazy? And dumb?

We recently watched Sid and Nancy, which was a movie about Sid Vicious and his turbulent relationship with his groupie girlfriend. Neither of us know anything about the Sex Pistols, so we were both sort of befuddled when they cut to him not singing or actually playing any instruments while on stage. Maybe the movie itself is technically good, but I found it really hard to care about the title characters, because to me they both seemed like really unlikeable people who just screamed everything they thought. (And also mentally ill with no one to give them proper medication.) I thought Nancy seemed like a low-rent Courtney Love, and then I found out via Wikipedia that she did want to play the role, claiming that she "is Nancy Spungen". I mean, do you you really want to admit that you are a drug-addled groupie?

I'm almost done reading Extreme Cuisine: The Weird & Wonderful Foods That People Eat, by Jerry Hopkins. The foreword, of course, is written by Anthony Bourdain. There's some interesting stuff in here, but I doubt I will ever come up with the willpower to make myself eat ant salad, even if some varieties of ants "taste like honey".

I thought about the arguments that vegans make about how eating meat is immoral. I am not going to make any moral judgments about that, but I'm wondering about how vegans would suggest managing overpopulation of certain species? For example, crocodile and alligator meat were once banned, but once they started regaining their population, they had to be managed, and crocodile farms were born - for leather, meat, etc.

Hopkins makes a lot of arguments for adding other species to our diet as a "protein source", but I'm wondering why we even need to add another protein source. From all I've heard and read, most Americans consume too much protein anyway.

Amusing to me is the fact that the most befuddling items of consumption were started by the Chinese. Who the hell thinks up shit like bird's nest and thousand-year eggs (not actually a thousand years old)? Apparently, we do. (But I'm still American enough that I always turn that shit down.)
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  • We still do not cook enough, but we're getting much better about it. We have made some discoveries in our food obsession:
    • Anthony Bourdain, for all his "charm" (I'm not sure how else to put it), is a terrible cookbook writer. We've made a few things from his Les Halles cookbook, and they were totally a lot of work with not a very big payoff in flavor. For example, we made a fish and potatoes recipe. In the book, it tells you to boil the potatoes before you stick them in the oven with the fish. What the recipe does not tell you, but the picture does, is that the potatoes need to be cut up.
    • Ming Tsai recipes are pretty good. Plus the man is so pretty.
    • Gourmet recipes are really good, if kind of a pain to do.
    • Farmer's market vegetables are soooo much better than what you get at Safeway. Especially tomatoes.
    • My sister revealed that we used to have a kiwi tree. And a raspberry plant. That got chopped down. Also on the chopping block: our apple tree, pomegranate tree, lemon tree, wine grapes. What took its place: my mom's giant zucchinis and tomatoes and green beans and other things. I think our lemon tree is growing back.
    • Organic Safeway garbanzo beans SUCKS ASS. I think we bought one can because we decided to experiment a little. We decided to make hummus with it and it had NO flavor. Then we cranked up the garlic and that made it palatable. I even fed it to my sister and my cousin.
    • By the way, what the fuck is up with "organic" cereal like Rice Crispies? Isn't that still processed stuff with the same amount of bad stuff in it?
    • We shop at a ton of different markets. Not because we want to, but because the stuff we need cannot be found in just one supermarket. There's no American market that has fresh fish swimming around in an aquarium-like thing where we can buy fresh fish that can be gutted and fried for us, or decent pita bread and pickled things and cheap falafel, or seaweed or good rice crackers and other necessary Asian snacks for a good price.
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Halloumi, the grillable cheese. It's yummy, especially grilled. It's too salty by itself, but Mark tells me you generally eat it with other stuff anyway, like with tomato and pita bread, which soaks up some of the saltiness.

I am still sick and was diagnosed with bronchitis. Yuck. Anyway, I hate our health care system, but what else is new?

I have been busy sleeping and watching tv and re-reading Bloom County, which despite its goodness really, really depresses me based on its all-too-familiar relevance. I mean, the last cartoons I just read were going on about Falwell and homophobia! (Did we even get anywhere?)

Anyway, this is what I have been watching these past few days:

Rome, Season Two: HBO rules. Sex, violence, corruption, and the Republic! What's not to love? The writers take a lot of freedom with historical accuracy, but the important points - Caesar's death, Octavian's rise are all done pretty well.

Heroes, episode before the finale: Ando better not die. That is all. I find Jessica/Niki's split personality plot too stupid for words, and if Tim Kring says that her superpower is being "superstrong", why not just let her be superstrong without being crazy? That would make so much more sense than the stupid changes in personality.

Bill Moyers Journal: Everyone's probably forgotten about the "Buying the War" episode by now, but the ones after it are also equally good, if not better than the first episode. This last one I watched interviewed a female black Princeton professor about race, in which she also pointedly made the case that she can converse on other topics besides race, a gay Christian man who goes to Europe only to be confronted with Islamic fundamentalism (I didn't like this segment that much because I think his assumptions were flawed), and an interview with Harpers' magazine president on the Free Trade agreement.
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My mind keeps blanking out on me when I want to write about anything. So here's a bullet list:

  • Work is better. I am still annoyed by some aspects, but overall I think my performance is finally better and I am no longer freaking out.
  • Whenever I drive to San Francisco, I think it is trying to kill me. God, with the signs that are blocked by giant SUVs, and the nonsensical city planning, how does anyone get around and find things?
  • The Internet is so weird. I cannot get enough of Icanhascheezburger.
  • I cannot figure out how people walk around in heels. I bought some very nice shoes - they're about two and a half inches high, and I wore them out today, and I kept stumbling.
  • I love KCRW, especially their podcasts. (If you live in Los Angeles and listen to them, I think they have decent giveaways, too.) I like to listen to them while I cook; it's really relaxing. The ones I recommend the most are Good Food and The Treatment. Good Food is about, duh, good food. The Treatment interviews various people in Hollywood. I like that they not only interview mainstream people like Quentin Tarantino and Chris Rock, they also cover indie people and documentary makers, like Rory Kennedy who did Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.
Apr. 6th, 2007 10:40 pm


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Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter. With lots of recipes.

Found via Serious Eats. This link is for Mark.
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