Bread

LoafWe discovered a trick about bread recently that changed our lives — a small change, granted, but a wonderful one — and I wanted to tell you all about it. (And yes, I’ll be getting back to the Big Questions soon. Come the new year, I’ll be posting about atheism and sex and grammar and other controversial topics. I’m just giving myself a short break from it all.)

AcmeAnyway. Bread. I’ve always loved those crusty artisanal peasant breads from Acme and the like. They’re so… bready, so much like what bread is supposed to be like and what mass-produced sandwich bread is just a pale imitation of. But it goes stale so fast, in a day or two, and the two of us just don’t eat it fast enough to finish even half of it before it goes to waste.

BoulotBut we recently started getting Bay Bread Company bread in our Planet Organics basket (par-baked, so we can finish baking it fresh ourselves)… and it changed our lives. Not just because it’s amazingly delicious bread (although it is). It changed our lives because it came with instructions on how to keep a loaf of artisanal bread fresh.

I desperately wish I’d known about this sooner. I’ve wasted years of my life eating mass-produced sandwich bread just because it stays fresh longer. So in case any of you have found yourself in the same “can’t eat it fast enough before it goes stale” predicament, I want to pass these instructions along.

1. When you cut the bread, store it cut side down on a wooden cutting board.
2. Cover it snugly with a cotton cloth (a dishtowel is fine).
3. Once a night before you go to bed, sprinkle a few drops of water on the towel.

ClothSimple, no? And it totally works. The bread’s obviously not quite as fresh on the third day as it is on the first, but it’s still yummy and edible. And it means we never have to buy mass-produced sandwich bread again. For which we will be forever grateful. Enjoy!

Tag, You’re It!

TagI just got tagged with this, and found it pretty entertaining, so I’m passing it along. I am now tagging Charlie Anders, Jill Nagle, and Carol Queen. Play if you think it’d be fun, don’t if you don’t. This is not a chain letter, bad luck will not follow you if you break the chain of this silly game. (And if any of the rest of you think it’d be fun to play, please do!)

It’s a blog game. I’m supposed to pick three bloggers I know and ask them to:

1231) Pick up the book that you are nearest to with 123 or more pages. (According to early versions: Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.)
2) Turn to page 123.
3) Locate the fifth full sentence in that page.
4) Copy that and the next two sentences that follow.
5) Tag three more bloggers to do the same.

I got tagged by Iamcuriousblue, and got this result:

The closest book to me was a graphic novel, and page 123 did not have five full sentences. So I started counting with the first full sentence on that page and went to the fifth sentence after that, which took me to Page 125.

Crepax“And if eroticism needs the extraordinary, the new, then your innovations are a threat… some day all the variations will have been played out!”

“Your fears are vain, my friend, since eroticism is not inherited… it’s a personal adventure!”

“At this point you are seeing the second law of erotica… the need for asymmetry!”

It’s from the graphic novel “Emmanuelle, Bianca, and Venus in Furs,” by Guido Crepax. The really entertaining part: I was at work when I got tagged. This book really was the closest to me on my desk. Sometimes I love my job.

The New Comfort Food

Comfort_food_2So enough for the moment with the heavy blog topics that keep me up at night. About a week ago I invented a new comfort food, and I thought y’all would like to know about it.

I came home last week from a day of running errands in the cold and the rain, wanting something to eat that was (a) hot, (b) gooey and melty, (c) loaded with protein, and (d) chocolaty. If it weren’t for (d), I’d have gone for a grilled cheese sandwich like I usually do. But chocolate — hot, gooey, melty chocolate — was essential. Cranky hunger is the mother of invention, and I came up with this new comfort food treat that’s definitely making it into the regular rotation:

Chocolate_chipsThe Grilled Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Sandwich.

The recipe is simple. Self-evident, even. The only trick is that you have to put peanut butter on both slices of bread, so the chocolate chips get sandwiched in between. And you should grill at a fairly low heat, to give the chips time to melt. I used butter in the frying pan, for the deliciousness; and I used whole wheat sandwich bread, to pretend that it was marginally healthy, and also ‘cuz that’s what we had in our fridge.

SandwichI’ve probably re-invented the wheel here. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this. But I’m ridiculously proud of it anyway. If any of you try it, tell me how it goes. And if any of you have ever invented any comfort foods, let me know! I’d love to hear about it.

Please Think of the Children: Sex Offender Hysteria

Snidely_whiplashI don’t normally expect to get interesting sex news from the Skeptical Inquirer. But they had a recent article about sex offenders and sex offender hysteria — a fascinating and important article, with info that surprised even me.

BillboardNow, some of the stuff here is just obvious — or should be. You’ve seen those billboards about how 1 out of every 5 children/teenagers will be approached online by a sexual predator? My first reaction to them wasn’t, “Oh how terrible, won’t someone save the children?” My first reaction was, “That can’t possibly be right. How exactly are they defining ‘approached by a sexual predator’? Are they including every piece of Viagra and porno spam that lands in the kids’ mailboxes?”

Teenager_onlineTurns out my instincts were pretty much dead-on. No, they didn’t get the “1 out of 5″ figure by counting Viagra spam. They got it, among other things, by counting unwanted requests for sex or sexual information that teenagers got — FROM OTHER TEENAGERS. In other words, if you’re 16, and your 16-year-old best friend emails you asking if your honey has ever gone down on you, and you think it’s none of their business — that counts as an act of online sexual predation. The pertinent quote: “When the study examined the type of Internet ‘solicitation’ parents are most concerned about (e.g., someone who asked to meet the teen somewhere, called the teen on the telephone, or sent gifts), the number drops from ‘one in five’ to just 3 percent.”

Sex_offender_signSome of the article’s other revelations are also not entirely surprising — although it’s fascinating to see these myths ripped up in such vivid detail. There’s a lot of stuff about how many of the sex offender laws — notification laws, sex offender registries, laws banning sex offenders from living in certain areas, etc. — bear no relevance to the reality of how sex crimes are committed and by whom, and are almost entirely ineffective in preventing further sex crimes. And the article has a marvelously clear-eyed analysis of how both politicians and the news media have taken people’s real fears about sex crimes and run with them screaming into the night — all the way to the bank. Pertinent quote: “Nobody really wants to go on the record saying, ‘It turns out this really isn’t a big problem.’”

TrackingAnd the article’s most crucial conclusion — that sex predator hysteria diverts attention and resources away from efforts that might actually be effective — while it’s extremely important, is also not entirely surprising. Pertinent quote: “The resources allocated to tracking ex-felons who are unlikely to re-offend could be much more effectively spent on preventing child abuse in the home and hiring more social workers.”

But this article doesn’t just confirm the obvious (or what should be obvious). There are some very commonly-held myths about sex offenders that turn out to be total bullshit — myths that I believed myself until I read this piece.

And the one that surprised me most was the one about repeat offenders.

Repeat_offenderIf you’ve watched any crime shows ever (fiction or non-), you “know” that sex offenders are more likely than any other type of criminal to repeat their crimes. This “fact” is what’s used to defend practices like monitoring and registering sex offenders. And it is apparently completely untrue. Pertinent quote #1: “In the largest and most comprehensive study ever done of prison recidivism, the Justice Department found that sex offenders were in fact less likely to reoffend than other criminals.” Pertinent quote #2: “A study released in 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years, (only) 3.3 percent of the released child molesters were arrested again for committing another sex crime against a child.”

I really need to stop getting my legal information from “Law and Order.”

There’s just one important piece of information missing from this article. It has to do with how “sex offender” is defined in the first place — and in my opinion, it’s central to this discussion.

WoodstockHere’s the thing. When you see statistics on how many sex offenders there are, or what percentage of people will be victimized by one, you should know this: In many states, including California, “sex offender” statistics include people who have committed consensual sex crimes. Depending on the state you’re in, it can include prostitutes, johns, gay men arrested for cruising in public parks, teenagers arrested for having consensual sex with other teenagers, etc.: folks who are totally not what people picture when they’re getting freaked out about how the streets are crawling with sex offenders. (An old friend of mine is very likely being counted in sex offender statistics due to a public indecency arrest — not from flashing women in dark deserted streets, not even from getting a blowjob in an alley, but from a midnight skinny-dipping adventure with friends when they were in college.)

So when you see statistics in the paper about how many convicted sex offenders there are, or how likely it is that there’s one in your neighborhood, remember that they’re not just talking about rapists and child molesters. They’re also talking about people like you and me.

Of course we should be upset about rape, child molestation, and other violent, invasive, actual sex crimes. But let’s aim our anger and fear in a direction that makes sense, reflects reality, and might actually make a difference.

The Science of Cow Farts: My Letter to Debra Saunders

Cow_fart_1Debra J. Saunders — a conservative commentator for the SF Chronicle, who occasionally used to be smart and snarky and worth paying attention to but is now mostly stupid and snarky — just wrote this column about global warming that I had to respond to. The gist of it is that (a) a few scientists don’t agree with the human-caused global warming theory, therefore there is no scientific consensus about it; and (b) cow flatulence creates more greenhouse gases than auto emissions, therefore we don’t have to worry about reducing auto emissions.

Cow_fart_5I wrote a letter to the editor in response, but they didn’t run it. I’m not annoyed — I know they get a zillion letters, and in fact the response they did run (third from the top on the Letters page) was a good one. But my letter was good too, dammit, and I thought y’all would like to see it. So here it is. Enjoy!

*****

Cow_fart_3Editor:

Debra Saunders’ column about global warming (12/12/06) makes it clear that she has no idea what science is, or how it works. The fact that a handful of scientists don’t believe in human-caused global warming doesn’t undercut the theory — any more than the handful of AIDS denialists undercuts the theory that HIV causes AIDS. Serious disagreement within the scientific community is not the same as an overwhelming scientific consensus disputed by a handful of cranks.

Cow_fart_4And her argument about cows is just silly. The meat industry is as much a product of human civilization as the auto industry. If cow flatulence creates more greenhouse gases than auto emissions, it’s hardly an argument against reducing auto emissions. If anything, it’s an argument for reducing the consumption of beef.

-Greta Christina

*****

Cow_fart_2One final note: I would just like to point out that a Google image search for “cow fart” yielded 87 results. An additional 20 for “cow flatulence.” Impressive. Not as startling as the 453 results I got from “sexy fishing” (see The Aging Slut), but not bad.

Dream diary, 12/13/06: The Greyhound stagecoach and Weird Al Yankovic

BusI dreamed that I was taking a Greyhound bus to visit my family in Chicago. I boarded the bus, but soon realized that (a) the bus was being pulled by horses like a stagecoach, and (b) the driver was Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al handed me the reins and insisted that I drive the bus, which scared and upset me — I didn’t know how to drive a stagecoach, and the horses were going really fast, careening around corners and nearly tipping the bus over. I kept screaming at Weird Al to take the reins back, but he just laughed like a maniac, and kept insisting that everything was fine.

Weird_alI eventually managed to stop the horses. I screamed at Weird Al for a while and then stormed off the bus. But I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a bad neighborhood, and I had no idea where I was (although I was pretty sure I was still in San Francisco). Eventually another Greyhound bus pulled up, also going to Chicago; but the driver was very cranky, and since my ticket had already been torn, he didn’t want to let me on the bus. He eventually did, but there were no seats left, and as the bus pulled off, I wondered if I’d have to stand all the way to Chicago.

(P.S. I really wish I could have found an image of a bus being pulled by horses, or that my Photoshop skills were up to the task of making one. That was a truly vivid and frightening image, one which no simple picture of a bus could ever convery.)

Grand Theft Auto: Jerusalem

Left_behind_2Sometimes the Christian Right surprises even me.

There’s this Christian video game, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” in which players try to convert people to Christianity — and if nonbelievers won’t convert, players have to kill them. (It’s in the news because non-psychotic Christian groups are asking Wal-Mart to stop carrying the game, on the grounds that it’s, you know, monumentally fucked-up.)

Left_behind_1I’m not going to get into the hypocrisy of this, the complete violation of actual Christian values. I’m not even going to get into the disingenuous, “we don’t understand why everyone’s so upset” attitude of the company’s president. I can only shoot fish in a barrel for so long, and these are exceptionally slow, stupid fish.

What I want to say is this: If there were a video game being sold in Iran and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, in which Islamic fundamentalist characters won by converting or killing non-Muslims, people in the U.S. would be having nineteen kinds of hysterics. The Christian right especially.

So… okay, fine. I guess I am getting into the hypocrisy of it. So sue me.

Rod_and_todd(P.S. Because everything I needed to know I saw on the Simpsons, I have to mention the Christian video game Rod and Todd Flanders play, a “shoot to convert” game very similar to the “Left Behind” one. Bart’s playing the game with Rod and Todd: he excitedly shouts, “Ooh, full conversion!” and Rod says, “No, you just winged him and made him a Unitarian.”)

No Whining Allowed: Greta reading, Fri. Dec. 8

FootlooseI’m going to be reading at a cool event this Friday, a benefit for the Women on the Way Festival in January. Come by and say howdy if you can. The theme of the event is No Whining Allowed, and… well, here’s the official blurb.

FOOTLOOSE presents NO WHINING ALLOWED:
A Benefit for the Seventh Annual Women on the Way Festival in January, 2007
Friday, December 8, 2006 at 8:00 PM.
Shotwell Studios 3252-A 19th Street (bet. So. Van Ness and Folsom), SF

$5-25 sliding scale;
$25 donation includes FREE PASS to a
Women on the Way Festival show at Dance Mission in January, 2007
Info/Res: 415-289-2000 or ftloose.org
Advance tickets available at ticketweb.com or 1-866-468-3399

As women, we have to deal with a lot — media opinion of how we should look, societies determining how we should act, glass-ceilings, Aunt Flo, menopause, uncomfortable shoes… We are told to just deal with it all with a smile on our faces — NO WHINING ALLOWED. But if you could complain, what would you say?

Writers, poets and comediennes mouth off about what it means to be a woman these days (womanhood to be self-defined). Stick around at the end, sign up for the open mic and have five minutes of fame telling all about your female glory or shame. Lilycat will be the hostess with chocolate on hand for whining control.

Featured performers are:
Lady Monster
Greta Christina (that’s me!)
Alicia Dattner
Nicole Henares
Gina de Vries
Raina Bird
Sabeena
Katie Rubin

For more info about the featured performers, visit http://www.ftloose.org/calendar.html

Hope to see you there!

A Very Special Christmas Song. No, Really.

QueenIs this the Yuletide?
It’s such a mystery
Will I be denied
Or will there be gifts for me?

Come down the stairs
Look under the tree and see…

This is the best Christmas song ever. It’s Pledge Drive’s Christmas-themed parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” written by my friend Tim Walters and his friend Steve Rosenthal. And it’s absolutely dead-on — the lyrics, the performance, the production, everything. You will never be able to listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody” again without thinking of it… and without falling into fits of the giggles when you do. You can listen to an MP3 here:

http://www.doubtfulpalace.com/artists/PledgeDrive/XmasRhap.mp3

And you can listen to/download more Tim-related holiday music here:

http://www.doubtfulpalace.com/artists/Holiday/index.html

Trust me on this one. Even if you hate Christmas. It is hilarious, and it is fucking brilliant. Just take my word for it.