1949 Sugar Rush

From a 1949 recipe booklet for Crisco vegetable shortening.

Vegetable shortening was considered to be desirable because it didn’t have the pork flavor of the lard used on the farm. Now it’s all olive oil.

We used do all of this, the decorative plates, the lace doilies, and fresh flower centerpieces. The dish on the right I can’t figure out. The center is veal stew with cubed meat, celery, and carrots. The instructions say “Serve in rice ring if desired.” but no directions for how to make that. And the peaches around the edge match the plates AND the centerpiece, but peaches with veal stew? I suspect no one stopped to think about whether it could be eaten.

In fact, it reminds me of the Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974 blog. If you can read those without laughing, you probably need to play some of the drinking games from the Housewives’ Tarot blog.

Posted in Food. 2 Comments »

Here comes the sun

The sun came out briefly today and I took the opportunity to capture the moment on film, or whatever you call it with an electronic camera.

What happens to geraniums when you leave them without water for three weeks?  I was pleased to see they revived quite nicely after my recent medical tribulations.

There is even one flower.

Some things do not look better in the sunlight.

This web is not world wide—yet—but it is just a matter of time.

Dust is a status symbol, yes? It means you have other, and presumably loftier, priorities.

Egypt Links

Events in Egypt have clearly gone past the “average Friday after mosque jihad” stage.

For tracking the events in Egypt, al-Jazeera seems to be the main TV coverage. [“Game over” image left-Tunisia, right-Egypt via al-Jazeera]

Live-blogging Egypt from a variety of sources.

The military has reportedly tried to stop the looting but has struggled on account of the chaos in the streets.  Al Jazeera has run what appears to be instantly iconic footage of a military officer standing on a tank, telling protesters that they are “honest men” and assuring them that he would gladly take off his uniform and join them, but he needs them to clear the streets after dark: “Demonstrate and express yourselves as much as you want, but at night clear the streets and let us handle the thugs.”

People in neighborhoods are forming volunteer protection committees and wearing white arm bands to identify each other. Pictures from Danny Ramadan, Syrian journalist in Cairo.  Sandmonkey is calling tweets to a friend in another country.

women carry sticks &join volunteer protection committees on the streets of Heliopolis. Ppl saluting army. It’s great. #Jan25 about 3 hours ago via web

Google transparency report detects internet blocking.  Egypt remains blocked.

Hillary’s statement. (Hillary is scheduled to speak about Egypt on 5 Sunday morning news programs tomorrow.)

…”We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications. These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away….”

Was there a conspiracy at the State Department to depose Mubarak?  Oh, those Wikileaks!…

The US government has previously been a supporter of Mr Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mr Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East.

In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.”

Economist’s viewpoint of cutting off communications networks:

The government in Egypt is cutting off communications networks, including mobile phones and the Internet.

The decision to get out and protest is a strategic one.  It’s privately costly and it pays off only if there is a critical mass of others who make the same commitment.  It can be very costly if that critical mass doesn’t materialize.

Communications networks affect coordination.  Before committing yourself you can talk to others, check Facebook and Twitter, and try to gauge the momentum of the protest.  These media aggregate private information about the rewards to a protest but its important to remember that this cuts two ways.

If it looks underwhelming you stay home.  And therefore so does everybody who gets similar information as you.  All of you benefit from avoiding protesting when the protest is likely to be unsuccessful.  What’s more, in these cases even the regime benefits enabling from private communication, because the protest loses steam.

Now consider the strategic situation when you lines of communication are cut and you are acting in ignorance of the will of others.  The first observation is that in these cases when the protest would have fizzled, without advance knowledge of this many people will go out and protest.  Many are worse off, including the regime.

The second observation is that even in those cases when protest coordination would have been amplified by private communication, shutting down communication may nevertheless have the same effect, perhaps even a stronger one.  There are two reasons for this. First, the regime’s decision to shut down communications networks is an informed one.  They wouldn’t bother taking such a costly and face-losing move if they didn’t think that a protest was a real threat.  The inference therefore, when you are in your home and you can’t call your friends and the internet is shut down is that the protest has a real chance of being effective.  The signal you get from this act by the regime substitutes for the positive signal you would have gotten had they not acted.

The other reason is that this signal is public.  Everyone knows that everyone knows … that the internet has shut down.  Instead of relying on the noisy private signal that you get from talking to your friends, now you know that everybody is seeing exactly the same thing and are emboldened in exactly the same way.  This removes a lot of the coordination uncertainty and strengthens your resolve to protest.


Posted in Middle East. Comments Off on Egypt Links

Jeddah floods

You don’t usually think of Saudi Arabia as a place for high water, but the coastal town of Jeddah is starting to look like Australia.  Three days after the initial flood, water is beginning to recede, and now there are official reports of 11 deaths.

[photo credit: Saudi Gazette.  More photos here. h/t John Burgess]

Some claim the city of Jeddah has no drainage system, but what’s this?  Sure looks like a water truck, but quite a bit larger than the one that pumped water up to the tank on my roof in Amman.  Maybe that’s the sewage system it’s pumping water into.  
That used to be an issue in some of Amman’s suburbs, whether houses had their sewage and rainwater runoff connected to the proper systems.

Amman is built on rock. The water pipes are above ground; you step over them when you walk in the street. On the day when they turn on the water (Wednesday in my neighborhood) the pipes leak onto the street. When you wake up in the morning, you know it’s water day because you can hear the sound of the cars splashing through the water. Heavy rains used to send water cascading down the street at the bottom of Wadi Sacra, 8 stories below my apartment. If I got stuck away from home it was too dangerous to cross the street. I would have to walk some distance up the hill to find a place where the water was not too deep to cross.

I don’t understand how it can flood in the desert. Flash floods, yes, a flash flood in Petra once killed several dozen tourists in the Siq (a canyon) I believe, but these photos are from three days after the rains stopped, if I understand the problem correctly. Why would the water not just flow to the sea, or sink into the sand?

I see Jeddah is surprisingly large, over 3 million people–almost comparable to Chicago in size.

Will there be an independent fact-finding committee to analyze the problem and put it on their website, say, 6 months from now when all this is forgotten, do you suppose, or have the Saudis yet to reach that level of bureaucratic subtlety.

Hmm, looks like Jedda does have an official website, but unlike the Australian websites that show public service information like bridge and road closures, there is nothing, absolutely nothing about the floods. Maybe their Arabic language website does better.

Posted in Arabs. Comments Off on Jeddah floods

No Little Plans II

We dream of an economically vibrant and environmentally healthy region; one whose concentrated areas of activity enable people of complementary talents to achieve high levels of creativity and productivity; a region where all persons have ready access to jobs; to housing near their jobs, and to good schools and job training; a region in which people are enabled and encouraged to find nourishment in a diversity and complexity of persons, interests, and tastes, and to enjoy an exciting array of cultural, recreational, and intellectual opportunities; and, most important, a region that undergirds strong neighborhoods, communities, and families so that they are enabled to nurture the intellectual, moral, and social development of children.
Chicago Metropolis 2020

Chicago Metropolis 2020 is the successor to Daniel Burnham’s 1906 Plan of Chicago.  (see No Little Plans I) Both were sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago. But contrast the above statement to Burnham’s famous “Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men’s blood,” and you will start to understand how they are different—and how they are similar.

The above quotation sounds like it was written by committee. It was. Six committees actually, within the club, informed by innumerable other committees, companies, policy groups, etc, that take three more pages to list in the acknowledgments. Such is our diverse urban life these days. (BTW, there is an online version of the document as well, quite different.)

Burnham, in his day only had to worry about stirring the blood of men, and you can bet they were all white men as well, property owners and from western Europe. I doubt that the hoards of immigrants pouring in from Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and a dozen other countries that fueled the engines of industry were asked what they thought, although they were very much supposed to be the beneficiaries of Burnham’s concern about green space and slums.

And who is supposed to be stirred by our contemporary committees?  Leafing through the book gives a quick impression.

Lots of cute little kids. The study addresses the issues of “public education and child care, transportation, land use and housing, governance and taxation, and economic well-being”, but it’s pretty clear the intended audience is a diverse one.

Here’s an idea of the type of graphics used.  Quite different from the uniform pastels of the Burnham Plan.

And what about Burnham’s encircling parks and green spaces? In the back of the book, almost as an afterthought, is a five page description of how an “intermodal village center” might work in the Chicago suburbs, based on the protected “green heart” area in the middle of four major Dutch cities. I always like these conceptual drawings in the back of urban planning books, they seem like they might spur much creative thought.

Posted in Architecture, Illinois. Comments Off on No Little Plans II

No Little Plans I

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.
—Daniel Burnham

Ah, the Burnham Plan.  More properly, the Plan of Chicago, first published by the Commercial Club of Chicago in 1909 in a limited edition of 1650 copies, then lovingly republished in 1993 as a reproduction. The followup document is Chicago Metropolis 2020, but more about that later.  You can read a scanned image of one of the original copies of the Burnham Plan in Google books, but then you will miss one of the most important parts of the book, if not the most important— how it looks and feels.

First the cover, as classic and black as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and with gilded letters.

Then you open the book.  Handling the pages is a delight.  They’re thick, and an ivory color. Plenty of space is used for the illustrations.  Some pages are even blank—no rush to save money by crowding things together.

Burnham’s plan invokes the timelessness of Babylon, Egypt, Athens and Rome,  then the sophistication of city planning in Europe.

But mostly it’s a vision of “organic unity”

and the “Spirit of Chicago”.

A civic center for governmental activities was planned for west of the lakefront; today the University of Illinois stands on this spot.

The project was not commissioned by a governmental agency, but by the business leaders of the day.

“The Lakefront by right belongs to the people,” wrote Burnham.

I stopped short when I read that.  The book is full of purple prose, compound sentences, and phrases meant to be skimmed over, not parsed.  Then comes this  simple, clear statement about the lakefront. “Not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.”

And that, in the end, is what Burnham is most remembered for, not just Chicago’s long, continuous, and public lakefront, but green space:  parks with lagoons, wide boulevards connecting the park systems, and forest  encircling the city.

I like this book, yes, and although it was quite expensive at the time (a paperback version is now available in time for the centennial), I have never considered reselling it. But you should see urban planning students with this book. Smitten, yes. I once saw a video a student had made superimposing Burnham’s drawings over a satellite image of the city. It was about a 1 minute tape, but they set it to loop and the other students watched it over and over for a good ten minutes.

Later:  The Commercial Club’s Chicago Metropolis 2020 in No Little Plans II

Posted in Architecture. Comments Off on No Little Plans I

Arabic alphabet cheatsheet

(I’m supposed to trace the alphabet with my toes to start rehabilitating my foot.)

(They didn’t say which alphabet.)

(This chart has videos to go with it, and a page for initital, medial, and final forms.)

[image credits: alphabet table (U of Alabama), picture alphabet, Stanford Alphabet Chart –click on a letter and see how to write it, audio and video]

Posted in Arabic. 2 Comments »

Palestinian Flag Flies in DC

We are proud to see the flag. It’s about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood is raised in the United States. We hope that this will help in the international efforts to provide recognition for the Palestinian state.

—Maen Areikat, Palestinian chief envoy to the United States

The Palestinian flag was flown for the first time over the office of the PLO mission in Washington.

It’s about time.

The event was reported by Haaretz, which adds

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow had recognized Palestinian independence in 1988 and they would continue to do so today.

World-wide, some 100 countries have declared recognition of Palestine.  Guyana has recently said it will recognize the Palestinian state. So have Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. Europe may follow suit.

The Jerusalem Post and al-Arabiya (photo) also ran the story; Washington Jewish Week noted that the ceremony took place in the freezing rain and was attended by no U.S. diplomats.  The Washington Post ran the AP story.  NYT did not run the story at all.

Fly one, fly them both.

Posted in Palestine. Comments Off on Palestinian Flag Flies in DC

Translating Hafiz

What is a “translation”?

I recently came across a reference to the 14th century  Persian poet Hafiz (thanks, paulinelaurent!) who recommended the book The subject tonight is love, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Wanting to explore Hafiz further, I googled for some texts of his poems and found a few examples of the Ladinsky poems here. Here is one:

Damn Thirsty


The fish needs to say,

“Something ain’t right about this

Camel ride –

And I’m

Feeling so damn


[*disclaimer:  I am thoroughly enjoying this particular Camel ride.—N]


Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Australia Day

Happy Birthday Oz.

So, how to celebrate the day? Last week I discovered that in one Australian town they pass out free “wavers”. Merriam-Webster won’t tell me what Aussies think a “waver” is, but I’m going to stick my neck out and says it means “flag”. Now, which flag? Apparently in Oz they are deeply conflicted about flags.

Frequent polls showed the percentage of Australians wanting a new flag increasing from 27% in 1979 to 42% in 1992, to a majority of 52% in 1998.

The Australian government likes this one:

[Image credits: Wikipedia. First Fleet Bicentennial Reenactment, Sydney Harbor, 1988; Australian flag identity crisis]