July 12th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Food | Gadgets | Life | Photography | Reading - (0 Comments)

In which it’s a lazy Sunday.

It’s so shitty outside there’s a heat warning on! Stay inside, stay hydrated, check on your neighbors, that sort of thing! Temperature in the mid-90’s with a heat index of one hundred degrees! A big-ass line of storms tonight! Large hail possible!

So I’m staying inside with the A/C on. I’m so grateful to have access to air conditioning technology. And fans, too — we have two fans running, to circulate all that conditioned air (because otherwise it just pools by the door and does no one any good at all).

I stayed up super late last night devouring part three of Seveneves. Other than the agnostic science fiction writer’s silly dream that a catastrophe survived only by scientists would somehow end religion1, it’s a really fantastic read. Being the jaded reader I am I’m loving being so absorbed in a story, since it happens so infrequently to me now.

I’d like to go look for curtains and wood glue and a few other needed household items, but I’m pretty sure leaving the apartment is a bad idea. Scott’s asleep anyway, taking a lazy Sunday afternoon nap.

I slept until two-thirty, then got up and made fried potatoes, Hollandaise, eggs, spinach, and toast for brunch. Not as good as the AMAZING Eggs Florentine at The Egg and I, but still edible. I also had a brilliant iced cardamom mocha breve with the last of the Radiance Dairy cream in it.

The bit of sky I can see under the blinds looks nice and blue, with fluffy clouds and a strong breeze ruffling the leaves, but it’s probably as damp as sweaty crotch out there. I’ve always maintained that the Midwest looks lovely all summer but feels awful.

Yesterday I installed Flickr on my phone and it worked. (It’s never worked on this phone before, and getting images off the phone and onto Flickr has been a pain in the ass since I got the phone last year.) It worked so well, in fact, it uploaded all 200 images in the phone’s gallery and now I have to delete them!

The credit union didn’t get ahold of me at the end of the week, but neither did they do so last time. I just don’t think they’re in a hurry about anything. Hopefully they’ll offer me a position next week! *fingers crossed* If they don’t, I’ll have to start looking for something else in earnest. I mean, I’ve applied for three jobs this week so as not to have too many eggs in one basket, but I’ll really need to buckle down before I run out of money.

Friday, I got my nails done because they looked awful. That evening, Scott went to a ball game (and watched Detroit lose to the Twins in the final inning) and I had the evening to myself. I drank some wine, then rode my bike down to Nicollet and ate at a Mexican restaurant.

El Nuevo Mariachi Restaurant

Then I went home and took a nap, sprawled diagonally across the entire bed, with a fan blowing on me. It was a fucking glorious Friday night.

I just looked up to see that the blue sky is gone, and is now the gunmetal grey of a thick cloud deck. The last time I checked, storms weren’t due for five more hours. Maybe it’ll get interesting out there!

1 We all want to end the bullshittery of organized religion, of course, but evolution and bureaucracy are part and parcel of human nature. Wherever there are human beings, there will be religion, because there will always be a need for jargon to describe the internal and the numinous, and there will always be weird little rule-following bureaucratic assholes making people miserable. Basically, every time a writer kills “religion” in a book, it just tells you that s/he has no idea what religion actually is beyond what it looks like on the surface.

Embarassing stumble

July 9th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Life - (0 Comments)


Yesterday, I stepped into wet concrete.

I’d walked to Las Geel (the Somalian bodega on the corner) and seen the cement truck and guys pouring the stuff right in front of the store. I went in, shopped, paid, and exited. I carefully skirted the fresh section of sidewalk and crossed the street.

Aaaaaand stepped into another fresh bit of sidewalk, with both feet, a bit that didn’t have a barrier around it and was only vaguely marked with an orange traffic cone!

I sank past my ankles and nearly lost a Birkenstock, which I fished out and used to smooth the horrible mess both my feet had made. Then I scurried home with my groceries to rinse my feet before I got chemical burns.

My shoes were so bad I considered throwing them out, but they’re Birkenstock clogs and not cheap and so I figured I’d try to save them even though they’re suede and COVERED IN CONCRETE.

Rinsed my legs and feet first. Then put my shoes on a big piece of plastic and wiped and scraped off as much concrete as I could before rinsing the shoes in the tub, too. Put them in the sun on the front porch.

Then, of course, I had to clean the tub.

The shoes survived, miraculously, and today the spot was covered by one of those bumpy panels that might be for traction but don’t seem to be, so my error is gone.

I made rice and dal for dinner, and fried up some cumin papadums. I did the dishes. I made the bed. I paid my cell phone bill and made my monthly hopeless student loan donation. I applied for a random tech job. I read some of Seveneves.

I did not do laundry or unpack any boxes.

Dear Diary

July 8th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Life - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a diary entry.

Yesterday I was messing about on YouTube in order to watch videos of Amma bhajans; I found Breakfast Lunch and Dinner and ended up watching all three episodes because HOW COOL IS THAT SHIT. It led me to the diary of Samuel Pepys and awakened in me the desire to diary again. Or blog. Or whatever.

Did well with the remaining unpacking yesterday; emptied and collapsed quite a few boxes. Moved his desk out of the corner and to the center of the wall. Moved my bike. One can now walk through the living room! Found some things I’d thought had somehow been lost, including my peacock quilt and shams and saris. There are now only four boxes in the living room and one in the bathroom that remain to be unpacked. Our storage cage in the basement has two boxes of yarn stash in it as well as the Xmas box and tree, the Aerobed, and the wicker basket I’d bought for the now-sold Raleigh and which won’t fit on my current bike.

Dinner was thick slices of ripe tomato, buttered toast, mushroom gravy, a hamburger steak for him and a poached egg for me, and milk.


Tonight I think I’ll serve rice and dhal, or veggie kitcheree, with papadums.

Because I decided to drink an entire bottle of wine last night, I probably won’t get much accomplished today. Maybe unpacking that bathroom box, a trip to the corner store to see he has any veg I can put in the dhal, and a load of laundry.

I love being unemployed. He’s gone off to work two days in a row now with his lunch packed (today he’s got a BLT on Jesus bread, a Greek potato salad, two sticks of cheddar wrapped in hard salami, half a dill pickle, three green olives, a hard boiled egg, and a chocolate-covered caramel) and I’ve had dinner ready when he got home. I have time to meditate and do housework and mess around online. Yesterday I sent my resume off to our new ISP, US Internet, because why the hell not. I love having time to live a comfortable life. So, so grateful the warehouse-retail experience is over.

So far this day I’ve dressed, made the bed, had a latte, and chanted the 108 names. It’s 1:45. Currently listening to ragas and wondering where I’m going to find space for the contents of this box of office-y stuff: the one file box we do have is already stuffed full, and I’m not sure we really need four staplers…

Ugh. I should get off my butt and put the dishes away and walk to Las Geel (the corner store) for supplies.

Amma 2015

July 8th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Spiritual | Travel - (0 Comments)

In which there was a long-ass road trip for both of us, some hotel lounging for him, and some much-needed spiritual renewal for me.

Tuesday we slept in and then packed and drove to St. Charles, IL. It took forever, or about six hours. Checked into our hotel and slept. I was so excited to be with Amma again for the next few days, and so grateful my partner had agreed to take me again.

Wednesday was an all-day program. I got dropped off and meditated and ate Indian snacks and socialized and got darshan from Mother, who smeared my head with sandalwood paste and hugged me like crazy. It was a great darshan. (I mean, they’re all ideal by definition, but some are more enjoyable than others. The ones where you know you’re Mother’s own are the best.) I hung out with Cat for awhile; she gave me some Radiance Dairy heavy cream! I haven’t had any for, like, eight years!

I bought a few things from the bookstore; a tee, a mini altar, a rudraksha necklace. I watched Mother give darshan.

Cat caught a ride with me when Scott came to pick me up and we all three stopped at Los Burritos Mexicanos #3 for dinner. I still can’t figure out what’s in that second green salsa of theirs; Cat thinks cilantro is a main ingredient. Whatever it is, it’s amazing.

Thursday I got up fairly early and went to the morning program, mostly to meditate and get something to eat. Didn’t get darshan. In the afternoon Scott picked me up and we saw a matinee of Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out and did some shopping (he got some shirts and I got a dress and a long-sleeved dark blue tee from Goodwill). In the evening, I told Scott he had to get darshan for his own good, whether he liked it or not, because the spiritual health of the family is the woman’s duty, so he had to park at the ashram and come in to the hall to get a token with me. Then I let him leave; bless his heart he came back at one in the morning for our hugs. (His darshan this year was nothing like the love fest She lavished on him last year, though.) Then we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Friday we slept through the morning program on purpose, because I’d decided to stay up all night for Devi Bhava (since I haven’t done so in a few years and really needed to). We ate at Corfu, saw another matinee, and I was back at the ashram by seven, just in time for the meditation and the puja.

Amma (Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) in Devi Bhava

When darshan began I hung out with Tahmi — she laid an awesome theory on me about Calvinism and why so many people actively hate the poor — and we ate dinner together before her next seva shift. Most of the night I sat right up front and stared at the Holy Mother of the Universe and sang along to the bhajans and in general just basked in the presence of an Avatar. I’m half-certain She gave me a few looks; I’m also half-certain She did no such thing because why ever would She be sharing looks with me.

After my darshan I sat on stage for a bit, and when I was asked to move for other devotees I mentally asked if I could sit behind the kalari. The response I got was a clear “no, you should go” and I briefly felt sorry for myself until I saw that the next act up was the folky Michigan satsang duo I’ve always complained about! So I walked out to the back 40 and had a cigarette and realized from the singing of the birds that it was almost dawn already.

After a cup of chai, I went back to my spot (on the floor under a monitor next to the band) and watched Devi give darshan and sang along to the bhajans. I’d somehow ended up in exactly the right spot. Well after sunrise, other devotees began to crowd around me, so much so that I ended up with my shoes and my purse in my lap, smushed up against the velvet rope marking the edge of the musicians’ area.

There were a few first feedings, a first letters, and then a sacred thread ceremony for a young Brahmin boy. Then I sat and watched most of the devotees parade past Mother while she showered them with petals. I had an absolutely perfect position for the very end of the program’s chants, with an ideal view of Her. I did a lot of crying. She made a face at me.

Scott picked me up from the ashram at 8:30, the time we’d pre-arranged and which turned out to be exactly the right time (he’d come into the hall to find me just as Mother was emerging from the kalari to leave). We napped at the hotel until 11, then loaded out and headed for home. I finished my leftovers from Corfu (spinach and feta omelet on rye with a slice of tomato and leftover coleslaw from Scott’s plate) and dozed a bit in the back of the truck. At a gas stop I got back in front; eventually we ate in Hixton, WI; we finally arrived home at a little past six.

The apartment smelled like ass, even though I’d left two windows cracked specifically to avoid it. (Old buildings: what can you do? There’s funk in the walls.) A quarter of an hour of wide-open windows, a fan, and a stick of incense and everything was back to normal.

The place wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d remembered; most everything is unpacked and it’s really close to totally-moved-in and comfortable. I took an afternoon nap but woke up fairly refreshed at dusk. Scott reiterated his affection for the new place (he likes the open plan and the paint colors the most) and then proceeded to use a tape measure to prove that the dresser actually would, in fact, fit in the bedroom! (We moved it in there today.) With the dresser out of the living room, maybe we can keep the recliner after all!

Our first night home, I laid in bed and felt like my head was full of noise and agitation and, well, bullshit. Many years ago I felt the compulsion to say my mantra at the anahatachakra (heart) chakra. Later, this compulsion moved to the ajna (forehead) chakra and it’s been there off and on for years. That night, it became the sahasrara (crown) chakra, a compulsion I’ve literally never felt before. Not only the noise of my mind, but also a brilliant light, was blowing out of it as I laid there and said my mantra while drifting off to sleep. I find it impossible to believe that my awareness has traveled so far; if it really has, then all that so-called advanced chakra stuff must literally be the absolute beginning of spiritual life and not the esoteric knowledge I’d always thought it to be. Well, and also, it says a lot for being the devotee of an Avatar because you basically don’t do anything at all but make the slightest effort and yet you move along the path anyway, basically in spite of yourself.

Had some gut distress during the days of programs; woke up the second night with pain. Was able to eat just fine, though. Last soreness was the first night home, then everything back to normal. One always feels like these things are associated with something Amma is doing, because the symptoms of whatever it is occur only on the days you’re with Her; they never extend to time before or after. On the other hand, if they are, there’s no way to understand how a fussy lower GI tract has anything to do with anything, or a cold, or a fever, or a headache, or any of the things one experiences while around Amma over the years.

I can’t remember when I first met Her, but I think it’s coming up on twenty years. Could I have met Her as early as 1995? I was living in Walla Walla and went to see Her on Fort Flagler for a retreat. Devi Bhava was in Seattle at the Scottish Rite Temple; I remember that the people I was with all pretty much wanted to go, but I knew the most important thing in my life was happening and I refused. I felt like She was somehow whirling everything together, and that She was communicating with entities that were neither embodied nor visible who had also come to get her darshan. I didn’t give a shit that my boyfriend was distressed about my rudeness nor that the people representing our ride were bored and not digging it. It didn’t matter if a few people were bored for a few hours. I had to get one more darshan from Her.

Half a year later, broken hearted and living in California, I was sitting in a cubical farm and thinking about Her endlessly and I smelled Her perfume and felt Her presence and felt incredibly soothed. Weirdly enough, I never made it around the bay to the San Ramon Ashram — I never visited there until just a few years ago…

Here’s my schedule!

June 24th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Domestic Goddess | Life | Moving - (0 Comments)

In which Scott came home for lunch and told me it’s now confirmed that we can actually move this weekend.

Today: pack.
Tomorrow: pack.
The day after: pack and clean.
Sunday: unpack.
Monday: unpack.
Tuesday: drive to Chicago for a 3-day Amma program.

I blew off my second week of notice — 4 shifts — at Home Depot because we thought this might happen, but now it actually is happening and OMG WHY AM I TYPING I NEED TO BE DOING LAUNDRY AND PACKING. MOAR. BOXES.

From Public

(Oh, that credit union interview was yesterday, and I think it went really well! Should hear back by the end of the week. It would be so great to work and live so close together. Especially if that work has a regular schedule and isn’t fucking retail. Did I even mention that the very instant I could request days off to see Amma I did so, and then last week, after over a month’s deliberation, they finally denied me July 4th off? Even without the move I would have quit over that. A year’s worth of shitty scheduling and overscheduling, and you can’t give me one holiday off?)

In which I’m very sorry, but you do not get to pick your race, your age, your orientation, or your sex. You barely even get to pick your tax bracket or style of education. We all struggle with things; your struggle is most likely an unfortunate mental disorder. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, I myself periodically live in terror that I’m about. to. die. any. second. now. and it’s just the configuration of my brain and not a literal medical emergency. This is the power of our oversized human brains… and their very convincing disorders.

Don’t Let Your Doctor Do This To Your Newborn is an hysterical, almost violently pro-transgender article about the crushing dangers of so-called “gender assignment.”

The author claims that calling an infant a “boy” or a “girl” collapses its infinite choices into a narrow, limited, single gender, and that while it’s safe for many it’s basically a death sentence to a few.

Peanuts are “safe for many, but basically a death sentence for a few,” too, I can’t help but point out. Fucking peanuts, okay? And you don’t get to have feelings about fatal peanut allergies; either you suffer from one or you don’t. You’re just born that way. And you stay that way until you die, because that allergy is just part of who you are, down to your genetic coding.

You were expressed that way. Just as you are expressed as male or female. (Don’t even start with the intersex topic; it affects fewer than those with fatal peanut allergies.)

Listen. If it’s wrong to acknowledge a person’s sex — which is an actual thing, coded into nearly every cell, and not a feeling — at birth, it’s also wrong to take high school kids on careers field trips, because you’re collapsing their potential by showing them how adults work at the factory or mine or lab or bank or retail store, cruelly exposing them to a future they should be aware of in advance, in order to help them make informed decisions about adulthood.

How terrible it is, to acknowledge your little girl is a girl, and let her observe other girls being girls, so that she will have some prior knowledge of the condition her chromosomes have expressed in her, as her life unfolds!

One of the doctors who pioneered gender reassignment therapies and surgeries now wholly rejects it based on the results: research indicates that most post-ops do not find their dysmorphia is assuaged enough after transitioning to keep them out of psychiatric wards, and many — something like 40% — suicide in spite of “becoming” their preferred sex/gender.

Such numbers are poor support indeed for the concept that transgenderism can be “fixed” with reassignment surgery, and strong support for the theory that it’s a disorder like anorexia or body integrity disorder.

If you think there are male and female brains, you also think there are males and females. Period. Because if there are male brains, those brains are the expressions of the conditions of being male: genetic, hormonal, environmental, and physical. And undergoing hormone and surgical treatments does not change your sex. If you were born male, nearly every cell in your body will attest to this throughout your entire life no matter how many breast implants you’ve had.

Just as dysmorphia is most certainly a disease in the anorexic (and one we treat with the therapy they need, and not the liposuction they want), I’m nearly certain it’s also a disease in the transgendered. I’m sure it’s just as painful as depression or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or any other illness. And I bet it sucks mightily to suffer from it.

But I don’t think chemical, hormonal, and surgical therapies are appropriate treatment for the condition. Once you have your skull shaved to feminize your face, you can’t go back. Once you have your genitalia permanently mutilated altered, you can’t go back. Once you have your earlobes gauged or your cartilage punched or your skin scarified, you can’t go back. Many of the decisions of youth are permanent and can’t be undone. Which is exactly and precisely why your parents forbade you from doing such things when you were a kid, and possibly even made you beg just to get your ears pierced.

Want to live as a woman for a few years, or the rest of your life? Be my guest! I’ll absolutely support your right to buy bras and do your makeup like a hooker and wear nail polish and learn about the ins and outs of leg shaving and the hand-washing of delicate intimate garments. I’ll talk girltalk with you and include you in girls-only excursions; I’ll tell you anecdotes to inform you during your journey through my female world.

I’ll be your friend. I’ll totally be your friend, just like I would if you had a violent bipolar disorder and pruned all my fruit trees to death in a manic episode. I’ll still think you’re you and I’ll still see you, the exact person you are, warts and all. Crazy and all. Just as I hope you’ll see me through my own crazy.

But, while I’ll be vaguely flattered that you, a man, are so pathologically fascinated by my sex that you’re trying to join it, and I’ll probably be amazed by your inherent femininity and by how much you’re not like men, and I’ll probably even seek out and show you brain scans of men living as women and enthuse with you about how much they look like the brain scans of actual women and be amazed with you about the plasticity of the brain in general, I’ll still know you don’t menstruate. I’ll still know you were never a 12-year old girl growing her very own tits. I’ll still know you were and are a man, although one with issues I don’t really understand, and I’ll love you anyway, just like I love people with chronic pain I don’t have, or mental illnesses different from my own, or who have lost body parts I still have.

Same the other way. If you’re a female who wants to live as a man, I will absolutely treat you like a man. I’ll help you learn to flirt with women. I’ll ask you to carry the heavy things and fetch the drinks and kill the spiders and fix the car and pay the tab. But I’ll also know that you know what it’s like to have boobs, and menstruate, and network horizontally like a woman rather than vertically like a man, and I will not share with you the experience of not wanting to be what you are, because I’ve never once wanted to change sex, not even for an instant. Because sex doesn’t fucking matter. And gender is already plastic.


In which many exciting changes — a move, a job change, and not one but two opportunities for travel — are afoot!

The lease is up here, and while this apartment has some incredible amenities — such as southern exposure, a gas range, amazing cross-ventilation, and a wonderful view of a park with a pond in it — it also happens to be located in a rather industrial-sized, non-walkable bedroom suburb, so we’ve recently signed a new lease for an apartment in or very near Uptown.

“Uptown” is the neighborhood directly south of downtown Minneapolis, and it’s eminently walkable as well as featuring access to Eat Street, the Midtown greenway, and lots of groceries and bars and venues.

The new place has off-street parking for Scott and a storage locker for my bike (I’m hoping), wood floors, a larger kitchen, a bathroom practically identical to the one we have here, A GAS RANGE, a residential neighborhood that will probably be quiet, and a killer location for walking and biking to stores and bars and restaurants. (Well, during the nice months of the year, anyway.)

We’re still waiting on a move-in date from the new landlord (the current tenant hasn’t moved out yet), but it should be within the next few weeks.

I gave notice at Home Depot a couple of days ago. It’s been… interesting employment for me, and required a lot of comfort zone-stretching (sharing a desk, never sitting down, limited online access, steady physical exertion, etc). I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed any of it nor that the physical component hasn’t been good for me, but I’m incredibly happy to have a concrete end date in sight (since knowing it was temporary was sometimes the only thing that kept me sane).

The very day after giving notice I got a call back from a credit union two blocks — 600 feet from door to door, as the crow flies — from the new apartment! After signing the lease I’d used Google Maps to reconnoiter the area looking for work, and lo and behold there was a job posting for a part-time teller! In the neighborhood!

How great would that be? A two-block commute to a part-time job in a quiet environment? No nights or weekends or holidays? To work when Scott’s at work? (They’re open 9-6 on weekdays and 9-12 on Saturdays. I’d never have to work two solid months of 8-hour weekend shifts again! Even if I have to work every Saturday morning forever, it would still be a thousand thousand times better than the insanity that is the home improvement warehouse retail schedule.) Had a lovely pre-interview by phone today with the credit union’s HR; I have an in-person interview at the branch next Tuesday. So excited!

If it doesn’t work out — which it might not, of course, because they don’t post the pay range even in the job description and it might be minimum wage, which I’d probably pass on even with the ideal location and nearly-ideal schedule — I think I’ll just take a couple months off and get back into some semblance of a routine.

After a year of being scheduled anywhere from 6 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week, 363 days a year, I now have nothing like regular mealtimes and am usually not hungry when I have to eat or am starving when I can’t. Sleep schedules are utterly blown, and I’ve nearly lost my ability to sleep when I have to because I’m either inappropriately not tired or totally exhausted for whatever my schedule requires of me. I’ve never really considered myself a routine-oriented person, but that might be because I always had much more of one than I’ve had this past year. Random scheduling fucking blows and I feel deep sympathy for all those who are trapped in it.

Anecdotally, the new place is two blocks — normal city blocks, not the monstrosities here in the old apartment’s neighborhood — from a 30-year old breakfast joint called The Egg and I. HOW COOL IS THAT. There is nothing that close to this apartment but grass, trees, other apartments, roads, and weeds. Oh, and a pond.

So, the Employment Of Misery is basically over, a new lease is signed, I’ve started packing, and I already have an interview for a highly desirable position in the new neighborhood. On top of that, we’re going to see Amma in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and we have plans to visit Walla Walla in mid-August for a Morgan family reunion/get-together!

Totally stoked. Now I just need to put more stuff in boxes and find something nice to wear to next week’s interview!

The overpass

May 21st, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I rode my bike to work, and four-and-a-quarter hours later I rode it home again.

My apartment is technically only six blocks from work; it’s just that they’re such gigantic, industrial blocks that those six blocks actually equal 1.2 miles. (A mile usually contains 17 typical city blocks, that’s how big these blocks are.) The route is more or less a straight line from the edge of the apartment property and down a giant street over an I-394 overpass.

This overpass:

Love locks

When you look at the cars, well over ninety percent of them have only one occupant. And that one occupant is hell-bent on getting on, off, or through, and is on the phone far more often than you’d like.

Even with a constant and rather vigorous wind, the whole area generally reeks of exhaust, unless it’s very early in the day. Where ‘reeks’ is a value of ‘you’re not really sure if you can breathe.’

At about half-past four today, when I came home, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic. So many individual people in their big-ass SUVs going home from work.

What ever happened to the sedan? Why is literally everyone driving a truck? There’s no way these people need to tow shit; maybe they think they’re safer in the winter months? Regardless, everybody’s driving WAY more car than they’ll ever need.

I realize people are primarily just doing what they need to do to get by, but it’s obscene, the sheer bafflingly huge amount of wealth and waste represented by rush hour, as viewed from a single overpass in a metro area of the United States.

The infrastructure alone runs to the millions, and then all those cars. All the gasoline. So much money, so many resources used for this: the afternoon traffic jam, a wasteful ritual that nobody even likes.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

It’s just so stupid that we didn’t earnestly invest in trains and convenient public transportation back the 70’s when we first realized we were having concurrent air pollution and fuel acquisition crises. Sure, most cities have a light rail or three, but we’re still installing lines like it’s a brand new clean-and-green idea instead of old hat, and the lines that do exist are useless unless you live right up on one. We just never prioritized, so what we have today is millions and millions of people all over the country driving themselves to and from their jobs, which are basically never in their actual neighborhoods, because there’s just no convenient alternative.

It’s such a massive, heartbreaking waste.

I bike, but I pretty much hate it. It’s not convenient; it’s dangerous. This area IS FOR CARS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and although I ride as defensively and with as much paranoia as possible, I’m still pretty much always on the verge of being hit by a driver who is distracted, in a hurry, on the phone, pissed off, or just not expecting a pedestrian or bicyclist to be fucking around on a freeway overpass, because everybody drives.

When I was a broke college student, I never really understood what they meant when they called America “the richest nation in the world.” Like, I didn’t have any money, and nobody I knew at the time was rich. We were all living hand-to-mouth, growing our debt, struggling. I didn’t really understand that all the infrastructure around me counted toward that national wealth, and that it reflected the decisions we made collectively as a society.

Decisions like choosing to live in an entrenched and wealth-destroying car-centric manner, forever and ever, amen.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

Now, I understand the history of the Interstate Highway Project and how it helped with jobs and transportation of goods; it’s hard to be against it, really, even knowing the consequences. BUT WHY OH WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN TRAINS.

Had it been trains, we would have designed everything differently. People would just expect to be able to walk or bike or take convenient public transportation to the store, the doctor, the school, and the job. Instead of sprawling, wasteful, ugly suburbs, we’d have communities.

We wouldn’t blindly accept the idea that it’s normal to live and work so far apart, that we should drive to the grocery and the dentist and the bowling alley; we wouldn’t have all these impossible-to-walk mega complexes; we wouldn’t waste so much space.

Around here, an old Minneapolis suburb, there are giant, wide streets that take half a minute to walk across, many without sidewalks. There are giant shopping complexes (like the one I work in, which is two huge big box stores and two multi-business strips containing nail salons, coffee shops, and pet stores) that were never intended to be walked across: the sidewalks go nowhere when they exist at all, and the whole layout is intended to keep motorists from speeding, not to make it possible to walk from business to business. (There’s a pond in the center with some grass, like a nod to a park-like setting, but it’s a bitch to get to without getting HIT BY A CAR so only employees of nearby businesses ever really use the space. Everybody else just drives around it.)

The complex is so car-centric in its design that most of the time, people drive — they literally drive from the Costco parking lot to The Home Depot parking lot, even though they’re right next door to each other: that’s how badly designed the space is for humans.

And this is repeated pretty much everywhere. Nearly every Walmart you’ve ever been to is out in the middle of nowhere and it just sprawls; if other businesses spring up near it, you can’t walk to them. We just don’t design economically because we have so much space to sprawl out in, and people won’t walk if it’s uncomfortable or difficult.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

Our lease is up and we’re apartment-hunting. I want to live as close to downtown as possible; I want regular-sized old-fashioned city blocks and I want sidewalks and I want to be able to walk to a corner store for eggs. I hate the massive, industrial Cub we shop at here. I hate the artificial, wasteful, unwalkable shopping complex it’s in. I hate that my job is SIX HUGE FREAKISH BLOCKS AWAY instead of, like, twenty normal, sidewalked, business-inhabited blocks. Between our apartment and my job there could be tens or hundreds of businesses; instead there’s a fraction and the rest of it is space designed for cars: wasted space.

Cars are dirty and expensive, but the vast majority of Americans cannot survive without one because of the way we’ve designed our communities.

. .. … …. ….. …. … .. .

I was looking at Minneapolis on Google Maps the other day while apartment hunting, and found this little greenway… in the middle of nothing. The website was so excited about turning the area into a greenway for everybody to enjoy, blah blah blah.

In order to enjoy it you’d probably have to drive your bicycle there, park, and then ride around. Because it’s not really convenient to anything, and nobody’s going to use it organically because it’s not on their way from A to B.

Which is a perfect example of how utterly, impossibly car-centric our culture is.


May 10th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Life - (6 Comments)

In which I’ve been tracking what I eat.

According to the BMR Calculator, to maintain my weight I should be eating 1,920 calories per day. To lose a pound a week, it should be 1,420.

Out of curiosity, without doing any kind of dieting except avoiding white bread, I tracked what I ate this week. (The “Goal” column show the tracking site’s defaults; I’m ignoring them because the fat and carb recommendations can go fuck themselves. I can’t even imagine how you’d meet the fiber recommendation; I eat basically nothing but beans and veggies and it’s still not “enough” fiber.)


On my sedentary days, I tend to eat less, apparently. On the super-fucking-busy days at work, where I end up walking multiple miles, and rather rapidly at that, I eat about two thousand calories. Monday I closed, and didn’t bother with dinner. Wednesday, I worked 8 – 2 and didn’t have any lunch. But I probably would have eaten about two thousand calories on those days, too, if I’d had my druthers. (Sometimes, after busting ass at the store all day, it’s so much easier to sit on the couch than it is to cook something.)

I’m about as fat as I can stand to be, so I’ll probably start restricting carbs pretty heavily for awhile. I was just curious about what I actually eat “in the wild,” so to speak, since we usually only ever track our eating when we’re on a diet of some kind.

How to make pudlas

April 19th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Food | Recipes - (1 Comments)

In which there’s a process more than a recipe.

A pudla [ pooda, poodla, puda, chila, cheela, chilla ] is a savory pancake made from lentils, rice, and/or flour. They’re cheap, easy, delicious, and I think it’s weird that I’d never even heard of them until last year. (Apparently they’re a breakfast food in India, sometimes served as snacks, or for lunch with side dishes. I don’t know why they don’t exist in every cuisine that uses lentils, because you can make them with any kind.)


To make some, you don’t really need a recipe so much as a procedure, maybe like this:

1. Soak 1 c. dal in 2 c. warm water for 2 to 4 hours

Get out your ugly pink bowl and put a cup of dal and two cups of warm water in it. (I used the last of the chora dal*, about 3/4 cup, and some toor dal to make a whole cup of dal. You can use any dal at all except maybe urad, and any combination of dals including urad.

Put your ugly pink bowl in the microwave to keep the heat in because it’s kinda chilly today and let the lentils soak for 2 to 4 hours. Check on it every so often; if the water gets cold just run the microwave for a minute.

Soaked dals

The dal will have absorbed at least half the water and gotten larger. If there’s a lot of water remaining, drain some off, but this recipe isn’t picky. If the batter is too wet, the extra water just steams off during cooking.

2. Add desired flavorings and grind into a pancake batter consistency

I grabbed these things: turmeric, cumin, asafoetida, methi powder, garlic, jalapeno, onion, and ginger. You can use any, all, or none of these.


Add some spices to your soaked lentils: perhaps 1/3 tsp. methi powder, a dash of asafoetida, 1/4 tsp. whole or ground cumin, and 1/4 tsp. turmeric. Mince onion, jalapeno, garlic, and/or ginger in whatever proportions appeal to you and add them to the bowl.

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Grind the whole mess until you’ve got yourself a pancake batter-like consistency. Add water if needed. You can use a blender or a food processor or an immersion blender.

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Stir in up to a teaspoon of salt, depending on your taste.

3. Fry

Heat a griddle or a Teflon pan to medium-high heat. Add a little neutral vegetable oil.

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Fry your savory pancakes. Remove to a plate (lined with a paper towel, if your pudlas are a little greasy).

Pudlas need to be cooked longer than regular pancakes because the dal is raw and needs time to steam fry, but the process is similar and will seem familiar: pour batter onto the griddle, smooth with the back of a spoon as you would with thick pancake batter, cook. Lift an edge to check for doneness, and flip when golden.

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4. Eat

Eat a couple-three pudlas hot, with whatever condiment appeals to you. Green chutneys are often recommended — I like mint, myself — and coconut chutney is awesome with them.

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Fry up however many pudlas you’re going to eat — they’re remarkably filling, so you’ll only need a couple — and put the rest of the batter in the fridge in a closed container. It’ll keep at least a week, so you can fry up a snack whenever you want.

More recipes:
Chora daal na pooda –
Chola dal poodla –
Moong dal pudla –
Stuffed moong dal chilla –
Panchratna poodas –

* ‘Chora dal’ is split cow peas, otherwise known as blackeyed peas, so it has a very low glycemic index which is what makes pudlas such an excellent bread substitute.