Sunday, April 25, 2010

Earth music...

Earth Day, month, etc., is a great time to recall all the tunes that keep you thinking of the world around you, such as this classic from Roy Ayers, Everybody Loves the Sunshine:

Or, from The Police, When the World is Running Down,

Last, but never least, are any tracks from the beautiful but oft-ignored Stevie Wonder album, The Secret Life of Plants, such as the title track:

Music to think by, and bob your head to, on Earth Day and beyond.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day the easy way (eat out!)...

As this is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (and now all of April is considered Earth Month), in between activism and doing things to live more lightly on the planet, it's also time to take stock, and celebrate how far environmental awareness has come.

What better way to celebrate than to take it easy a day, and let someone else handle the cooking for once? Better yet, chow down on tasty fare that's planet friendly, which is easier than ever to do in the Washington area.

Some gustatory ideas come via Compassion over Killing, which lists a few local places, such as Toscana Grill and Bread and Brew, that plan to expand their vegan offerings during April. Of course, there's nothing wrong with going someplace that's tried and true, for good reason.

Thus, since I was in the area, and has a surprisingly veg-friendly menu (which is not often mentioned), I recently headed to the justly famous Four Sisters restaurant.

exterior of Four Sisters restaurant in Merrifield VirginiaNow, as it was crowded during lunch, there was no seating inside. This is not a bad thing, especially this time of year, when there are breezes, and no bugs, as was the case last Thursday. Woo hoo!

Under an umbrella, with reasonably attentive service, I ordered the "Caramelized Tofu with Lemongrass and a hint of Chili in Clay Pot," and had enough for leftovers the next day.
caramelized tofu with lemongrass and chili in clay hot potMore important, the tofu was hot in the clay pot, both in temperature and spiciness, and lots of rice was provided. I picked out the fresh cilantro sprig (because unchopped cilantro slapped atop food should be outlawed!), and ordered the (inexpensive) jasmine tea to go with, which was the weakest part of the meal. I've had much better jasmine tea many times, but for less than a buck, I can't really complain.

Piggie that I am, I ordered dessert, caramel flan. The flavor was good, but the caramel syrup was thinner than I expected. Still, I lapped it up. And took away leftovers in a large brown paper bag. Gladly. And plan to do so again, when I'm out this way again.

Earth Day (and Month) my way, the lazy way.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wandering about the Great Wall (supermarket, that is)

Since I had to go to Merrifield anyway, I decided to stop at the Great Wall Supermarket one recent afternoon, to stock up on inexpensive, yet good quality green tea (especially decaf).

The packed parking lot should have been my first clue that the store would be full, which it was. However, folks were civil, which made it fun. Naturally, there were many different types of exotic produce, such as different varieties of bok choy (didn't know there was more than one type), baseball bat-sized giant radishes, and the most frightening produce of all, the only spiked fruit that I've heard of (the hairy rambutan doesn't count):

bin of durian fruit at Great Wall supermarket in Merrifield Yes, the feared durian was there in abundance. Thankfully, no samples were provided (they probably would have had to clear the store and call the hazmat unit if that were the case).

Oh, but there were other oddities, which I might give a try another time, especially those in the frozen dessert section, such as:
durian ice cream bars in display case at Great WallYes, durian again, but this time in a safer form, a frozen dessert I might be tempted to try. After a couple of sakes.

I know that adzuki bean desserts are popular in Japan, but apparently the yen for legume-based desserts is popular in other parts of Asia, as these sweet treats were spied in the same section:

mung bean ice cream bars at Great Wall

red bean ice cream bars at Great WallThat's right--popsicles featuring mung beans and red beans, as well as taro. I might have to try one of those sometime, especially the taro. (Just noticed that some of the popsicle boxes actually say "green bean"--don't think I'll be trying those!)

* * *

Oh, I did find the green tea, of course, and herbal tea (especially an instant ginger drink) at much cheaper prices than the local health food store, and the quality is good, especially the jasmine tea. Good stuff. At good prices. The (Chinese) American way.

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Earth Month rant: How about Fairfax County making Merrifield truly pedestrian friendly by cleaning up the gravel pit known as Gallows Road (and adjoining streets, such as Strawberry Lane)? I've NEVER seen so many sidewalks full of small rocks and gravel in my life--a true hazard to area residents and commuters.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Duh, we already knew--regular password changes are useless!

screenshot of password protected screen
Another study that proves the obvious--research mentioned in today's Boston Globe article, "Please do not change your password," confirms that many of the most common security measures, such as regularly changing passwords, are a waste of time. Duh!

Microsoft conducted the study to measure the effectiveness of frequent password changes. Because users are often forced to change their passwords frequently, they're reduced to writing them on stickies slapped on their monitors. Not good. Not effective. Fail!

Many might be suspicious of the fact that it was conducted by Microsoft (but then, it undertook a similar study a few years ago, which was ignored); this may be the equivalent of a broken clock being correct twice in a day. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier said years ago that the advice given by Jesper Johannsen, urging folks to write down their passwords, was sound. However, Schneier suggests that you stick the information not on your monitor, but keep it on your person. Of course, if IT departments didn't keep asking people to change their passwords, encouraged people to create strong, yet memorable passwords), and updated the security features (firewalls) regularly, then users wouldn't feel a need to write down passwords.

Plain common sense, which is most uncommon.

*Isn't all the IT password scare talk negated by the ubiquity of "remember me on this computer" password overrides, which allows any nosy colleague blank access to your PC if it's selected? (On the Yahoo Mail screen above, that option is, thankfully, left unchecked.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

On a West Virginia mountaintop...

This latest, ugliest coal mining tragedy in West Virginia (25 people known dead) just makes you sadder and madder, the more that comes out. All the safety violations in the previous year, just ignored by the company, Massey Energy.

The violations must have been blatant if the miners themselves were aware of many of them, as was explained by Pam Napper, speaking to CNN (posted on Huffington Post) about the loss of a son, brother, and nephew in the recent blast. (And why, oh why, is CNN burying stories about this disaster away from its main page?)

* * *
This horrendous loss of life makes me think of how we are enabling such flauting of the law by continuing to purchase a product--in this case, electricity--much of which (48-49% last time I looked at my PEPCO bill) is furnished by coal. Ugh.

So, I figure it's time to give Clean Currents a call. (I have a flyer left over from the Veg Fest.) The rep explained (woo hoo, a live person on the phone, without having to go too deep into the voicemail maze) that if I switched to its wind power (you choose 50% or 100%), I'd still be billed via PEPCO, but the bill would have a notation that reminding you that you're billed Clean Currents' rates. Oh, and I'd have to sign a contract for one or two years; there's a termination fee for canceling the contract (but NOT for moving in the middle of your contract), but no enrollment fee. That's reassuring. Also, the locked-in rates are currently about 15% lower than PEPCO's current rates. (Maryland and DC residents can switch to Clean Currents if your current provider is PEPCO, BGE, or Allegheny. BGE's customers, in particular, could use a break.) This provider deserves serious consideration.

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Some good news from West Virginia (or least, about one of its most illustrious sons). A documentary about Bill Withers, Still Bill, has recently been released. Apparently, it's not yet available via Amazon, so there's just this tantalizing trailer...

Still Bill Trailer from B-Side Entertainment on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A music legend, Malcolm McLaren, leaves us

Duh, I didn't know when the hip-hop classic Buffalo Gals was released (a tune which I was unsure whether I liked at the time) that McLaren was also one of the people behind the Sex Pistols. Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)--a music industry original.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Not an April Fool's prank...

tv writer David MillsSadly, the passing of David Mills, who was only 48, on the set of his newest production, the upcoming HBO drama Treme, is not a joke. The former Washington Post writer, and later writer of such highly acclaimed tv shows such as Homicide (the best tv show ever made, IMHO) and The Wire, had an aneurysm Tuesday and never regained consciousness.

To me, his death represents something of the end of a tv era, as the police/detective shows on the tube now are more procedure oriented, with all mysteries solved by show's end, rather than character focused, which is what I loved about Homicide; its cops had real conversations about the important and trivial things we all hash about. Mills will be missed.