The Case for Vegetabletarianism

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Mynagirl by mynagirl

I’ve decided I’m a vegetabletarian. I might be the first and only. You see, I’ve been in a bind for a couple of years. I am an animal lover, and lately I’ve been feeling flat-out odd about eating them, as I’ve done for all of my life up until now. I’m sure in a post-apocalyptic world I could become hungry enough to kill an animal for food, but as the child of a comfortable and genteel age I am uncomfortable at the thought of a living, breathing creature dying for me to eat its flesh.

But until recently I haven’t seen a practical alternative to being a regular, card-carrying member of normal, meat-eating society. Veganism is, like other religions, a form of deluded zealotry I cannot connect with; even more moderate vegetarians can be a general pain in the ass — the pariah of the group lunch, the impromptu dinner with relatives, the summer bar-b-que, and any other social situation where being an overly vocal picky eater makes the entire event a drag for the normal people who just wanna eat their hot dog.

The other general problem I have with vegetarie-egans is that sometimes they seem to claim that humans aren’t meant to eat meat. Clearly, humans, like many creatures on this planet, evolved to eat meat, and I find it ridiculous to dispute that. For the record, I do, however, revile hunting as the sport of psychopaths and evolutionary retards. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with someone raised in our modern-day society who can consciously cause pain and terror in a living creature for fun. Even if hunters do eat their kill as did our cavemen ancestors, it doesn’t make any difference to me… there are lots of things our ancestors did (raping, stoning an unwanted child, killing a neighbor over a small dispute) that would be illegal or immoral by even the loosest of today’s standards.

But if you look closely at the factory farming industry, I’m not sure they’re much more concerned with animal pain and suffering than the hunting retards (although presumably the guy killing the chicken in the meat factory doesn’t actually enjoy it). Animals, especially the smaller ones, are given such a minimum of space to live that you can’t even imagine it. I read one article that equated the amount of space farmed chickens have to a human living in an elevator with 10 other people for his entire life — doesn’t really seem what nature intended, does it? As a kid, you’re often not really aware of those kind of things; you eat a Happy Meal and you’re happy. But as an adult, I find myself wishing that I could eat the meat my body wants without worrying that my dinner was kept in a cage and force-fed through a tube.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that one factory farming company’s owner (the companies are more likely all multi-national conglomerates, but play along here) decides to be a kinder, gentler factory farmer.

Weird Al Yankovic is a Genius

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Music by mynagirl

One of the wonderful things about a friendship and relationship is the glorious dance of discovery and compromise that comes about as you mix and match your preferences, likes, and dislikes with those of your mate. Often, your similar likes are what bring you together in the first place: a shared reverence for the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique album, the ability to quote from The Princess Bride, a fondness for wry humor and a well-turned phrase, a love of technology.

Then, as you get to know each other better, you find that some of your tastes don’t always match up. I remember being a bit taken aback when I first learned Scott found my morning staple of NPR pretentious and tedious, and instead revealed that he had been a Howard Stern listener. I was surprised by his look of pained endurance (much like a faithful hound dog getting a medical procedure) as we watched one of my favorite all-time movies, the Burt Reynolds / Dolly Parton musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In turn, I’m sure he was disappointed when we watched one of his favorite movies, What’s Up, Doc? and I was irritated and impatient with the female character’s nasal voice and intrusive meddling.

However, this experimentation also leads both parties to the wonderful broadening of experience and taste as you are exposed to things your mate likes that you also find delightful. I now love the movies So I Married an Axe Murderer (“We’ve got a piperrr down!!”) and Doctor Strangelove (“I do not avoid women, Mandrake… but I deny them my essence.”). He and I now both watch his favorite show of Seinfeld together constantly, and I even loved Howard Stern’s movie Private Parts. Similarly, Scott now listens to Eminem and Busta Rhymes with me and even enjoyed 8 Mile after we saw it together. He loves the short-lived cartoon show The Critic that I introduced him to and watched The South Park Movie at my urging (loved it).

Over the years of our friendship, relationship, and marriage, Scott has always loved Weird Al Yankovic. God forbid the Coolio song “Gansta’s Paradise” be played, lest Scott feel the need to belt out Weird Al’s parody, “Amish Paradise”:

It’s hard work and sacrifice

Living in an Amish paradise

We sell quilts at discount price

Living in an Amish paradise

That parody annoyed the hell outta me! First of all, I liked Coolio’s song, and the Stevie Wonder song on which it was based. Weird Al’s song spoiled it for me! Because, after enough repetitions of Scott singing or playing the Weird Al version, I would hear the Weird Al lyrics in my head even if I was listening to the Coolio version.

Years ago, when Scott bought the album “Running with Scissors” and played the song “The Saga Begins” (about Episode One of the Star Wars series), I thought the lyrics were mildly clever but I wasn’t a big Star Wars fan, so it didn’t really do much for

Da Marco Italian Restaurant – Highly Recommend

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Da Marco
1520 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX
(713) 807-8857

It’s easy to miss Da Marco: the small converted house is set off the street right at the most harrowing narrow-laned portion of the Westheimer curve; the sign is well-lit but competes for eye attention with the nearby tattoo and body piercing joints. Those eclectic surroundings, sprinkled with top-notch food choices is, of course, a major part of the appeal to this section of Houston. This gracious Italian eatery fits right in.

Last night was our first trip to Da Marco; we wanted an upscale (but not outrageous) dinner treat before heading over to the SkyBar. The entrance to the restaurant leads you into a tiny 3′ curtained area, and from there the hostess escorts you another three feet to the small bar. Jacketed waiters efficiently weave through the small non-smoking dining room — the feeling is intimate but not overly cramped. The place was very well candle-lit, although a bit too warm in the bar area because of the open wood-burning bread oven just behind the well-roasted bartender. The families and couples dining there on this visit (a Friday night) were a comfortably mixed bunch: everything from middle aged couples in jeans and tennies, to younger couples in suits and evening dresses, to at least two very authentic-looking garrulous Italian families.

Our white-linened table was nicely placed near a back wall and our waiter was affable and knowledgeable. The wine list was all Italian, with only a few selections available by the glass. The menu was structured in a traditional three-course format: antipasti, pasta, and entrée. The off-menu selections were presented via a chalkboard and included an oxtail pasta selection as well as main courses of rabbit and in-house aged angus beef. Our meal for two included:

antipasto
Frisée with pears, candied walnuts, and some type of wonderfully soft ripe cheese
 
 

antipasto
Giant sea scallops with orange segments (two bites into which Scott proclaims, “this might be my new favorite restaurant”)

pasta
An unbelievably good sweet corn ravioli with huge bits of fresh lobster meat
 
 

pasta
Mouth-watering porcini risotto with fresh hunks of ripe parmesan

entrée
Very tender pork tenderloin with figs in a sweet balsamic reduction, accompanied by a very tasty cheese polenta
entrée
Fabulously tender duck in a sweet glaze, accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and wonderfully grilled brussel sprouts

Total meal cost: $140 before gratuity

Alas, we skipped any dessert / coffee course, as we were full and ready to move onto the remainder of our evening’s entertainment. But Da Marco’s definitely delivered what we were looking for. The food was unbelievably good, the waitstaff attentive (the steady stream of fresh bread and ripe olive oil was quite evil), and the ambiance and people-watching were perfect: not too clattery, nicely candle-lit, and a fun mix of patrons. And, as a big bonus for us, it was all smoke-free. There was a separate dining room completely enclosed by French doors — it could

Review of the NordicTrack CX 995 Elliptical

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Product Reviews,Technology by EngineerBoy

We purchased the NordicTrack CX 995 Elliptical Trainer (aka CX995 or NTE1392) recently, directly from the NordicTrack website. The online experience was smooth, and the product was delivered within the promised time frame. Here are our impressions of the unit, so far:

If I Were Already Hercules, I Wouldn’t Need This Thing!

Please note that their delivery company only delivers curb-side, and will not bring the unit inside. They clearly state this in the shipping section, but the full impact does not hit home until the delivery guy leaves you with a 260 lb. cardboard box, secured with straps, sitting on a wooden pallet in your garage. You can take about ¼ of the weight out of the box by schlepping in the smaller bits and pieces, but the main unit, with the attached elliptical ramps, is all in one piece. In our case we were installing the unit in our upstairs bedroom, and getting it upstairs was quite a challenging chore. Be sure you have two strong, competent, affable people to wrangle the thing, because it’s pretty frustrating.

Some Assembly Required, Some More Assembly Required, More and More Assembly Required…!

Assembly is also a bit of a chore, but if you’ve ever bought a complicated piece of furniture from IKEA or some other put-it-together-yourself place, you can probably handle it. Keep in mind that assembly is definitely a two-person activity, as there are several cases where things have to be held in place and aligned, while other things are assembled/inserted/etc. Again, the directions clearly state that two people are needed, so believe it. It took us about 90 minutes to get the thing together.

Oh Baby, That’s Smooth

Once assembled, the first ride was very positive. The machine is extremely solidly built, and the movements are quiet and sure as you ellipse. The machine also comes with a wireless chest pulse sensor, that you wear around your torso, and you can track your heart rate on the console as you work out. There are also heart-rate monitors built into the handgrips if you don’t want to use the wireless one. The handgrip sensors will also measure your body fat percentage (damn them).

The footpads on this model are spaced apart such that the movement feels very natural. We had tried some of the other NordicTrack ellipticals in various sporting goods stores, and the foot pedals were widely spaced, meaning that you were doing a weird sort of bowlegged shuffle instead of a normal-feeling running motion.

The incline of the ramp adjusts electronically, so as you go through your exercise program the unit will hum and you will suddenly be “running” uphill. The motion on this unit is very smooth, and it feels very natural, like running but without the pounding.

This Unit Are Smart

The console provides around 20 different workout programs. They offer such things as hilly terrain, where the slope changes as you run, fat burning, strength training, etc. My favorites are the ones that let you target your heart rate and then the unit automatically varies

Can You Save Your Technology Career?

Posted on August 1st, 2003 in Commentary,Technology by EngineerBoy

Dude, You’re Getting a Career!

Through dumb-luck, I fell ass-backwards into a computer career when I aced my first college computer class back in the dark ages, where I learned Fortran programming using punched cards. I promptly changed my major from Business to Computer Science, and never looked back. When I hit the job market in the early 80’s it was just in time for the blossoming of the Personal Computer (PC) market, which was the Boston Tea Party of the Technological Revolution, and kicked off one of the most explosive periods of technological advancement since the Industrial Revolution.

I rode the first swells of this wave throughout the 80’s, never fearing for my career prospects, and worried only about being able to work with the really cool emerging technologies instead of the old, stale, well-known ones. But as good as I (and my compatriots) had it in the 80’s, nothing could have prepared us for the 90’s, when the rising tide of technology turned into a tidal wave, sweeping over everything else in the business world, drowning some, lifting others, but moving everybody and everything with tremendous, irresistible force.

Those of us who learned to surf this monster had a lot of fun. And after those first violent upheavals, where only the skilled could stay afloat, the wave smoothed out enough that any motivated dork with a boogie board could ride it, too, as long as they stayed in one spot and didn’t try to do anything fancy. The problem with this is that the wave became crowded with neophytes and one-trick ponies who were only surfing the wave because it was trendy and cool, and who made it impossible for truly dedicated riders to enjoy the curl.

But now the wave is getting smaller. Oh, it’s not disappearing, but it’s moving into deeper waters, and becoming a more integrated part of the ocean of business. This is analogous to the Industrial Revolution in America, where the rise of factories and mills created a class of workers who were always in demand, had freedom of movement because there was work everywhere, and could be proud of what they did because it was nothing short of world-changing. The rise of labor unions helped preserve and protect the way of life of a factory worker, and extended this period of economic prosperity for the American working man.

But as heavy industry evolved, it started to develop economies of scale, and to realize that there were skilled workers all over the world, and most, if not all, of them were cheaper than Americans. Also, as technology advanced they found out that automation could be used to reduce the need for human labor, reducing the number of available jobs even more. So industry and labor waged a pitched battle for years, with industry wanting to automate industrial jobs or move them offshore, and labor fighting tooth and nail to preserve the jobs of their members (and therefore keep money in the union’s coffers). But the path was inevitable,