Friday, November 25, 2005

Parking Etiquette

First of all, I’ll describe my general parking strategy: Let’s say that I enter a parking lot that is full, and I need to wait for someone to exit before I can park there. I’ll position my car in some midway location (not right at the entrance, and not at the exit), will try to place it so that other cars can pass me if they want, and will wait for someone to return to their car, drive off, and free up a parking space.

This method has several advantages. One is that it removes the angst involved in driving around and around, essentially waiting for the same thing that you could wait for while standing on one place (for someone to come and reclaim their car). The second is that it removes the angst involved in realizing that someone returned to claim their car just as you drove by it, and therefore the person in the car behind you is going to get that space.

But today, after strategicly positioning myself, and congratulating myself on how quickly a shopper emerged to return to their car, a Lincoln Navigator that had been way ahead of me went into reverse and passed me on my right, in order to position himself for the parking space that was soon to be freed up.

I could imagine him thinking: “Well, I was in the parking lot before she was, so I deserve this spot.”

Ok, but I’m thinking: “You’re being pretty pushy. I would never go into reverse to try to take a place that another car had already clearly claimed.”

As it turned out, a few seconds later, another shopper emerged to claim a car further ahead on the right, and another one to claim a spot even further ahead on the left. My quick-to-reverse parking challenger got confused. He wasn’t sure of the optimal approach. He started edging forward, indicating he’d take the second spot on the right. Then the third spot, the one on the left.

The ultimate outcome: We all had to wait until the third spot was emptied – the Navigator was blocking us. Then the first car exited. Then I parked. Then the second car exited. Then he finally could park. If he had stayed where he had been in the first place, he would have parked faster, I would have parked faster, and the first two cars could have exited faster.

Now that’s not always the case, sometimes the spoils do go to the driver that is willing to elbow out the competition without regard for formalities. But I think some general guidelines would be helpful. How about my basic strategy – up above – as the basic rule…?

Organic, Free Range…

Although in theory I’ve always been completely in favor of the idea of free range anything (although we’re usually talking about chickens here…), the only free range product I ever bought was free range eggs. I think that means the chickens that laid them were allowed to range free outside the proverbial coop.

Not that I was satisfied with my chicken. In fact, I’ve been hovering on the edge of giving up chicken altogether because it’s usually so tasteless. And when I get really ambitious (as in – I have a dinner party) I buy kosher chicken because it’s usually a tad better, at least it doesn’t have all that nondescript chicken fat that I wholeheartedly dislike. So why didn’t I try free range chicken? Because the free range eggs didn’t seem to taste any better than regular eggs, so I didn’t hold much hope for the chickens that laid them.

Until, that is, last week, when out of necessity I bought an organic, free range chicken at Trader Joe’s. I needed it to make chicken broth, the first ingredient in my annual thanksgiving butternut squash soup, and this was the only boiling chicken they had.

Well, the difference between it and virtually any chicken I’ve ever tasted was extraordinary. None of that (to me) repellant chicken fat, and breast meat that for a change had somewhat more flavor than cardboard, and a somewhat darker color than milk. I’m not claiming that it competes with marbled beef, but still, a huge improvement over regular chicken.

Which means that from now on I can enjoy my chicken more, feel a little more ethically ok, and have a somewhat emptier wallet…

Sunday, November 20, 2005

So True

Craigslist is the Trader Joe's of the internet. High quality, bohemian vibe, great value.

A friend just said this me in the context of the amazingly good results we've had in hiring people from Craigslist. But the same can be said for buying and selling stuff there as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

David Mamet’s New Play - Romance

It is (or was) playing at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. This is the first time I actually see one of Mamet’s plays on stage, and I was blown away by the wit and extraordinary dexterity of the dialogue. I’ve seen quite of few of his movies, and watched DVD’s of his plays, but there was a three dimensional feel to the dialogue, several people talking at once in perfectly sequenced arrangements, that was like nothing I’d every heard.

Romance is apparently, also Mamet's first comedy, which is astounding, because he’s so so funny. A master of timing. It’s the first time I realized what a truly extraordinary talent he is.

That being said, the play was more of a trifle than a true full length play. No real plot. No third act. Very heavy handed riffs on Catholics vs Jews vs Gays… although impecable production, great acting, great staging.

So… on the one hand I agree with this review by the L.A. Weekly, but on the other hand, the play was still a real treat. I’d go again.

The Mouse and the Elephant

A friend of mine that recently moved down from San Francisco to L.A., and has lived in New York City for more than 10 years, commented to me that the relationship between S.F. and L.A. is like the relationship between Boston and NYC. San Franciscans love to put down L.A. It’s a constant topic of their conversation. They feel in constant competition. Angelenos, on the other hand, feel no such threat. They’ll all say that S.F. is a nice town, and that’s it. It just doesn’t really register in their consciousness. Just as Bostonians feel themselves superior to New Yorkers, while for New Yorkers, Boston doesn’t even register in the consciousness… There’s no comparison…

Reminds me of the joke about the mouse running alongside the elephant. The mouse says:

“Look at all the dust we’re raising”.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Very Disconcerting…

That the only California Proposition that almost passed yesterday was Prop 73 – parental notification of intended abortions. It’s the proposition that I was most adamantly against. Cathy Seipp explains my position much better than I could, right here.

Recipe for a Great Protein Smoothie

A friend from Washington State that moved to L.A. a few years ago was telling me how his friends tease him:

“Well, have you started doing yoga? Are you drinking protein shakes for breakfast?”

I was disconcerted, because I realized how stereotypically and completely L.A. I’ve become. Yoga, well, I always saw that as a sophisticated manifestation of my L.A.ness. But protein shakes for breakfast. Who would’ve thunk that I’d stoop so low, I who love my toast with good Swiss cheese in the morning.

But it has happened. A couple of months ago I started drinking protein smoothies in the morning in lieu of toast, and to my utter amazement, I haven’t looked back. I’ve become a complete addict to these good-for-you astronaut-food concoctions. In fact, I have them for both breakfast and lunch. And unlike my compatriots, that try to vary the flavor to keep their palate interested, I stick to one, and only one type. I’ve refined the recipe, and offer it here to you for your breakfast and lunch pleasure.

Mango, Banana, Blueberry Smoothie – da best!

In a blender put:

½ cup Naked Juice mango antioxidant juice
½ cup Trader Joe’s plain lowfat organic yogurt
1 cup Trader Joe’s frozen mango, defrosted in the Microwave
½ a banana
½ a cup of frozen organic blueberries
1 scoop Trader Joe’s Soy Protein powder
1 scoop Trader Joe’s Egg and Milk protein powder
½ cup ice cubes

Blend until smooth. You may need to use a spoon to help mix in the renegade protein powder. Of course substitute ingredients as desired. Strawberries, fresh mangoes, etc...

Very yummy, and extremely satisfying, especially with a good cup of coffee.

BTW, about 400 calories, of which about 150 are protein (about 30 grams of protein), and the rest are primarily carbohydrates.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dating and the Modern Woman

Finally, a week after the fact, I feel a need to weigh in on at least a few aspects of Maureen Dowd’s article last week on Dating and The Modern Woman.

Maureen Dowd has, in the past, famously proclaimed that she can’t find a man because men find her too intimidating. Here she goes into a long riff about men seeking women that are below them in …

The one question that two of my male friends asked me about was her statement that the more intelligent a woman (higher IQ), the more unlikely it is for her to get married. Dowd was citing a statistic in some study. They wanted to know if I agreed.

First of all, regarding the study. On these matters I subscribe to the saying that there are small lies, there are big lies, and there’s statistics. Meaning I treat statements of statistical proof with extreme skepticism.

But, on the other hand, what do I think? Well, I think she’s wrong. Sociologists claim that people pair according to their relative “social worth”, which for men is a mix that is skewed towards their social status and professional and career achievements, although it also includes looks, athletic ability, etc… while for a woman it is again their social status, along with looks and achievements. But my own personal experience has been that, apart from the above, the most consistent rule is that people tend to mate with mates of similar intellectual levels.

You can get a pairing of two people where one is shy and the other outgoing. One is not physically attractive, and the other is. One is analytical and the other more artsy. But it’s extremely rare to find people of widely differing intellectual capacity mating up. Why? I would say because they bore each other, and in the longer term (meaning within a few months of dating), that becomes old.

So is it more difficult for intelligent women to find a mate? That certainly hasn’t been my anecdotal impression. I’ve seen exceptions where the intelligence of one mate seems much more or less than the other. But it cuts both ways. It can be the woman who is smarter or more intellectual. Men, just like women, like intellectual stimulation, and a woman who can bring that to the table is more attractive to an intelligent man.

I’m saying this without trying to claim that there is total symetry between the sexes. Mostly, men like to feel in some way that they can be the protectors, and women like to feel protected. Men measure themselves in terms of their professional success more than women do, and women tend to have more holistic measures of success. And I think that accounts for sometimes strange pairings. The preschool teacher who is married to a university president for example. Yes, these seem to be different levels of success, but usually when you dig deep you find that this preschool teacher has the intellectual capacity to keep her husband interested. And if she doesn’t, the marriage often falls apart.

The one thing that I will definitely admit is that the numbers game doesn’t work that well for women. At least not later in life. The reason being that, a) women tend to marry older men, b) women’s biological clock is much more demanding than men’s, and c) on average men die younger than women. The result, at an older age it's more difficult for a woman to mate than it is for a man.

Which all means that after a certain age it becomes increasingly difficult for a woman to mate with a man of her age, most men will be older. It also brings us to the one drastic difference in the way men and women mate – men tend to go for younger women, the opposite is much much more rare.

And now I get, in my meandering, no-real-logic-to-the-order way to Amy Klein’s article in the Jewish Journal, that Luke Ford talks about so well in his blog. He leaves one quote for the interpretation of the audience, but I’ll weigh in on it. Amy says that:

“Look, I’ve tried dating down. My last two boyfriends were by no means my intellectual equals; they weren’t threatened by my brain, but they weren’t particularly interested either. Or interesting, really. I chucked them in hopes of finding my intellectual equal…”

I cringe at this statement. What kind of person writes something like that about the last two people they dated? How, for example, would Amy feel if they wrote that they chucked her because she was not their physical equal, and after awhile they couldn’t stand her awkward figure? If you feel that someone is not desirable to you, you don’t date them. That’s fine. But you don’t go writing about how you chucked them because they were not your equal. Am I missing something here? I don’t think so. We’re all sensitive to being offended. In fact Amy, with her strong Jewish heritage should remember the Talmudic(?) statement that anyone that shames their friend in public, it is considered as though he spilled blood.

And here I’d like to jump to Maureen Dowd’s answer to a question posed to her in a follow-up interview:

Do women ever marry down much?
— William G. O'Connell, Minneapolis

A. A lot of high-powered, high-earning women end up with men who put less focus on earning and ambition, and that makes for a happier, alpha-beta balance. But it's harder for women to duplicate the "staff siren" syndrome I write about, where men like to get involved with the young girls who are paid to revolve around them and make their lives easier. I've had fantastically smart and cute young male assistants, but never entertained any notion of marrying them.

Isn’t there a logical inconsistency here? If the men are marrying young girls that are fantastically smart and cute, it just means that men don’t care about the formal trappings of success for their mate. They see her inherent value and like it. Maureen Dowd is implying that she doesn’t want to mate with her fantastically smart and cute young male assistants because she’s superior to them. But she’s not. She’s just older and in a more established position than they are. The real sad point for us women relates back to the age issue. Men usually marry younger women, that option is only rarely open to women. I wish we could change it, I’m not sure we can.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


In a reassuring way…

Iran’s president Ahmadinejad said that “Israel should be wiped off the map”, and Europe is up in arms. This may be the trigger for the U.N. to do something serious about Iran’s developing nuclear arsenal. A large demonstration is planned in Rome (today?).

Supposedly the catalyst for this reaction, apart from Ahmadinejad’s statement is Tony Blair’s rebbutal:

“Calls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community. To anyone in Europe, knowing our history, when we hear statements like that made about Israel it makes us feels very angry, it's just completely wrong. ... Ask yourself: A state like that, with an attitude like that, having a nuclear weapon?"

My hat off to Blair. First of all for saying what he said, and second for the insight that it would actually get a rise out of anyone in Europe. My impression of the past few years has been that Europe could not care less. I’m stunned (in a good way) that they do.

I’d speculate that part of the reason that Blair’s statement worked was the recent withdrawal from Gaza, and the (also) surprisingly positive vibes in generated in Europe for Israel. But the bottom line is that Blair is a real mensch, and let’s hope that the movement to curtail Iran’s nuclear power does take hold.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

To Fight, or to Let Pass

Last night I saw the documentary film Little Man, about the birth of baby Nicholas, born 100 days premature, at less than 1kg, and the struggle to keep him alive.

I acknowledge that parents have a right to decide how much effort will be put into resucitating and keeping their child alive, but consider this. At age 9 months, his parents refer to Nicholas as the $2.7M baby – that’s how much his care has cost to this point, mostly paid by insurance. From that point on he continues to need 24/7 nursing care, which they explain, is paid for by the state of California (our taxpayer dollars at work), and almost weekly visits to the emergency room. At age two and a half, he has a super-cute smile, barely walks, barely sees, barely hears, needs oxygen to breath, is given food intravenously, and is probably retarded, although the precise degree of retardation cannot be determined. He seems to still need 24/7 nursing care. Although it’s not specifically spelled out, at this point in his life I would estimate that he’s at least the $5M baby. And at age 20? Probably $8-10M.

At some point the filmmaker (one of the two mothers, this is a lesbian couple), acknowledges that part of the confusion is that today in an ICU you can keep almost any baby alive for as long as you choose to, the problem is that as you do that, the disabilities pile up. The ICU is not a womb, and underdeveloped lungs, large amounts of antibiotics, and constant resuscitation, lead to appaling physical and neurological damage that is only fully evident months and years later.

There’s another amazing line in the documentary. The State of California considers EVERY baby born at age 26 weeks or earlier to be disabled – and therefore eligible for 24/7 care. The state is acknowledging that even if you keep a pre-26 week baby alive (and keep-alive ages are getting younger and younger), that baby will almost certainly be disabled. As the filmmaker acknowledges, that’s something that’s hard for the parents in the ICU, seeing their tiny baby, to believe. To them it’s just a struggle for him to survive. They feel as though if he survives everything will be alright. Wrong…

Bottom line, the concept that we’re enabling younger and younger fetuses to survive outside the womb is largely a falacy. We’re allowing them to survive, but at what cost, and with what disabilities.

And the real bottom line is that, unfortunately, this should not be just the parents’ decision to make. There’s no reason the taxpayers of California should be paying for this baby’s 24/7 nursing. I and many other people would never vote to keep such an extremely premature baby alive, and have no interest in paying for the consequences. And there’s no reason the payers of health insurance premiums should be paying for ICU time and post-ICU medical care for a baby that was born so small. People who want such insurance should pay for it separately. People like me, who think that keeping such a small baby alive is cruel and unusual and unnatural, should be able to opt out.