Random Archives

Let them eat gluten-free cake

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicCheck out that 11 foot tall gluten-free cake. It’s the tallest gluten-free cake ever.

This was on display yesterday in Washington, DC as part of the Gluten-Free Food Labelling Summit. Also, May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

Their goal was to try to get the attention of the FDA. Congress ordered the FDA to implement proper labeling standards by 2008 but it hasn’t happened yet.

I have celiac disease and know all too well how it’s a disease that most people don’t know anything about. “It’s a public health crisis no one is talking about.”

Nothing exemplifies that more than the North Carolina man who was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for selling fake gluten-free bread and making many people ill, including sending one woman into premature labor.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, he posted this rant on Facebook: “”Gluten free is bull—-!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolerent dont realize that its all in there disturbed little heads.” Grrrrrrr. Proper labeling laws would help ensure crap like that doesn’t happen again.

This cake stunt worked. Due to all the people who contacted the FDA and all the online publicity for the summitt, a FDA rep showed up at the cake site. “We absolutely understand why you are here and why it is important,” he said. “We will get it done.” I hope so.


Give up on yourself

A one sentence solution to procrastination from the late Japanese psychotherapist Shoma Morita:

Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.

(H/T Andrew Sullivan)


It’s time to take Christ out of Christmas

It’s interesting how Stephen Colbert got away with basically giving away a sermon on national TV.

Not only that, it’s a sermon that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging all those alarmingly succinct statements of Jesus about wealth (such as “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” – Luke 6:24):

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat

Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> March to Keep Fear Alive

Money quote:

It’s time to take baby Jesus out of the manger. Replace it with something that’s easier to swallow. How about honey baked ham?

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend Jesus was as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge he commanded us to serve the poor and needy without condition. And then admit we just don’t want to do it.

In a rousing discussion of this Colbert video on Facebook, Bishop Savas Zembillas posted the following G. K. Chesterton quote:

It may be possible to have a good debate over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. Alas, it is impossible to have any sort of debate over whether or not Jesus believed that rich people were in big trouble—there is too much evidence on the subject and it is overwhelming.


The best 46 seconds of cello music

I know, here I am yapping about cello music again. I can’t help it. It’s another gray November day and nothing accompanies gray November days better than cello music.

My favorite 46 seconds of cello music is from the first movement of the Elgar cello concerto. The late cellist Jacqueline Du Pre made this piece famous in 1962 when she first performed it as a teenager (unfortunately she was diagnosed with MS in her late 20s and had to stop playing. She died at age 42). The way Du Pre plays this section of the movement usually makes me cry so I don’t listen to it often, because I don’t want to desensitize myself to it.

I recently studied videos of Du Pre, Yo-Yo Ma and newcomer Alisa Weilerstein (she’s 28 and hailed as the next Yo-Yo Ma) performing the first movement (specifically my favorite 46 seconds of that movement). I still think Du Pre performs it the best, with Alisa a close second. I made my four daughters watch the four clips and three of them say Alisa’s is the best.

Here is Jacqueline playing the first movement (begin at the 2:10 mark and continue until 2:56):

Here’s Alisa Weilerstein. Continue until the 52 second mark:

An here’s Yo-Yo. Start at 2:20 and continue until 3:05:

A side note: Daniel Barenboim was the conductor for all three performances. He was married to Jacqueline Du Pre, so one wonders what he was feeling during the Ma and Weilerstein performances.


The Bach Cello Suites finally have some competition!

Any woman who spends her 20s dabbling in computer software and moonlighting as a cello player for rock bands is someone I’m going to be instantly taken with and want to know more about.

And when I hear her music, like that in the below video? Then I immediately become a fan and put it on my playlist of music to listen to obsessively while writing.

The cellist in question is Zoe Keating. According to her website, she is “a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, to create lush, beautiful and otherworldy music.”

Observe (and listen):

Her “Into the Trees” album debuted at #7 on the classical charts this summer, even though she had no marketing or publicity. She has sold 35,000 CDs on her own and you can buy her CDs and MP3s on her site using PayPal. As a scrappy entrepreneur myself, I think all this is very cool too.

You can even listen to five songs from the album on her website.

It’s nice to have some new cello music to add to my cello playlist, which until now consisted entirely of the Bach Cello Suites and a few Jacquelie du Pre pieces (this du Pre piece is my favorite but I can’t listen to it too often because I find it so deeply moving – cello music is often like that).

I took cello lessons several years ago with the hope of learning to play a few of the suites (yeah, I was probably a bit delusional). Then I became pregnant with child #3 and set that all aside.

I happened to be listening to the Bach Cello Suites (as performed by Yo-Yo Ma) when she was born. The most difficult part of the labor occurred during the 5th suite, which is the most intense and most somber suite. She was born during the 6th suite, which is the most joyful of the suites.

Although nothing will ever quite equal, and certainly never surpass, the Bach Cello Suites, it’s wonderful to have a new cellist on the scene.


A convo about change

W. H. Auden:

We would rather be ruined than changed.

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the present

And let our illusions die.

John Steinbeck:

Men do change, and change comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass. Change may be announced by a small ache, so that you think you’re catching cold. Or you may feel a faint disgust for something you loved yesterday. It may even take the form of a hunger that peanuts will not satisfy. Isn’t overeating said to be one of the strongest symptoms of discontent? And isn’t discontent the lever of change?

Sources: John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday (p. 18) and W. H. Auden’s Age of Anxiety poem.


I’m now slightly obsessed with Mockingbirds

A distinguished reader of this blog brought the Mockingbird to my attention the other day. It’s a favorite bird in the south and known for its ability to sing the songs of other birds in addition to many common noises such as a car alarm, cell phone, creaky door and so many others.

Here’s the best video/audio I’ve found so far of a Mockingbird singing at night. The bachelors sing at night until they find a mate.

Here are some of the various sounds the Mockingbird makes in the video: CRICKET at (57 sec.), FROG at (1min. 7sec.), WOODPECKER, some kind of HAWK and possibly a LAUGHING HYENA at 5min 3sec.

A bird map indicates the Mockingbird visits southern Wisconsin in the summer so I sent a text to a friend who is a bird expert to see if she’s ever heard one here. She has not.

But there’s hope: I now have family in Texas and the Mockingbird is the state bird in Texas so I may get to hear one someday after all.

I gotta stop falling for birds that don’t live in Wisconsin. :)


Why the bullfinch is almost my favorite bird

Birds are perhaps my most neglected interest. I love learning about birds but never seem to find the time to really study them.

Today I let myself indulge in bird study as I listened to this TED talk by an orinthologist in the UK.

Among other things (such as why the study of bird song holds the promise of a cure for Alzheimer’s) he explained why the Bullfinch is his favorite bird.

He said the Bullfinch’s song sounds like a “squeaky wheelbarrow.” Yet these birds have a remarkable facility for learning songs they hear.

If you fast forward about 1/3 of the way through the video you can hear the audio of a Bullfinch singing a song taught to him by a German forester who whistled it for him.

When a Bullfinch hits a wrong note it goes back to the beginning of the song and starts over.

This ability of the Bullfinch was discovered in the 1850s and they became quite popular. Queen Victoria owned a Bullfinch. A  Bullfinch that could sing at least three folk songs was in high demand and fetched high prices.

So I think it’s cool how the Bullfinch sing other songs beautifully though its own song is nothing to write home about. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

It appears that the Bullfinch does not live in the United States. Alas. So I guess the white throated sparrow will remain my favorite bird, even though they passed by us this spring and didn’t make their usual three week stay in our backyard and neighborhood (sob):


Being nice has ceased being nice

I couldn’t help but appreciate this comment on a Facebook fan page (she’s a minister but it has broader applicability):
I learned long ago that “nice” in the ministerial context means “please be the willing repository of our projections and abuse; that’s part of your calling.”

In the lay context it means much the same thing, or roughly equivalent to “please be a well-behaved girl and keep your mouth shut.”

Neither one appeals to me, and I do not place “nice” on the top of my list of Qualities to Aspire To. “Nice” has not a bloody thing to do with love. It has to do with conformity.

Which reminds me of what author and psychologist James Hollis says about being nice:

Being nice has ceased being nice.

When ‘sweet,’ ‘nice,’ ‘amiable,’ easygoing,’ repeatedly apply to someone’s life, the consequences to a person’s inner life might in fact be ugly.


If I am repeatedly nice and compliant, rather than authentic, then I have ceased to be a person of values.

Exactly what the Vicki the Biker in me needed to hear.  I guess I should let her out more often. ;)


How money ruins a wardrobe

Now that we’re moving in to fall, the normal thing to do would be to think about buying new clothes. Yawn. Not interested. Too much work.

Plus shopping requires spending money. Not interested in doing that either.

I was reminded yesterday how that’s just as well. I came across this quote from a Edna Woolman Chase, who was Vogue’s fashion editor from 1914-1952:

The two requisites for being beautifully dressed are 1.) taste and 2) a severely limited budget. Mediocrity is the result of having too much money to spend.

That reminded me of things fashion guru Tim Gunn says:

I believe in shopping on a budget. I know firsthand from working with people that more fashion mistakes happen when people have an unlimited amount of money. They just pick things up willy-nilly, versus someone who’s on a budget and thinking, “Will this work in my wardrobe?”

I’m glad there’s at least one perk to having a severely limited budget.