Saturday, December 23, 2006

Overheard at the Harris-Teeter

I am the cook in the Munger house (my wife bakes, sometimes fiercely, but draws the line at producing normal foodstuffs. When asked why, she says, "I went to law school, AND got married. If you do those two things, you should NEVER have to cook.")

One of the big meals I cook is the Italian Catholic traditional (sort of, it's a Rhode Island/Philadelphia ItaloAmerican custom) "7 Fishes" dishes meal for Xmas eve. That's one of the fun things about being Catholic, you get to go through chains of reasoning like this:

1. The Xmas eve vigil requires no meat, but fish is fine.
2. In America, we can celebrate by having a "7 fishes" tradition (I've seen 12, also) of 7 "meatless" dishes. Light things like lobster with butter and shrimp scampi.
3. But, one also gets together for big extended family meals. So you need something that finnicky kids will eat. So you make meatballs, which contain both beef and pork.
4. But, it would be rude NOT to eat those wonderful meatballs, because the cook went to that trouble. So you have one or two, in ADDITION to the 7 dishes of fishes.
5. Then, even after the kids are big, and will eat fish just fine, you still make meatballs, because it is a tradition.

In other words, tradition grows to encompass the exact opposite* of the supposed tradition, without contradiction.

Anyway, in order to get all the stuff I need for two days of cooking, I got up at 7:30 am, got ready, had a cuppa, and then was at the Harris-Teeter grocery by 8:30.

And the freakin' parkin' lot was FULL, already. I had never seen this before, so I have to report it, like an anthropologist might.

1. The store was roughly gender balanced, an equal number of men and women. But nearly all of the shoppers (and the store was nearly full!) were female. Large, small, old, young; hunting and gathering like they have been since...well, since there was a since. And these women had LOADED their carts.

2. Nearly all the workers were men. And there three or four men in EVERY AISLE, trying desperately to stock things. AND THEY WERE LOSING GROUND! Women were taking vegetables, of all kinds, directly off the big trolleys that they bring produce in on from the trucks. Women were pushing the trollyes out of the way, and in some cases literally elbowing the stock-men out of the way.

3. I heard one woman ask why there were no green beans. Stock guy said more were coming, but it was hard because everyone wanted them for green bean casserole. She stared at him, and said: "You are out of it because everyone wants it? I thought you made money selling food." I could have kissed her; a rational person. Wouldn't have minded, actually, since she was also quite fit and attractive. The point is that she is absolutely right. They can't be out of something they KNOW people want a lot of, since the answer is "Stock more." An unexpected run on rutabegas, sure, that could happen. But how can you be out of green beans when you know why people want them at this time of year?

4. I heard one other great conversation, between two stock men, 20 feet apart. They were both probably 25. A sloshing sea of women was surging around these guys, pulling cans off the shelves and checking lists.
Guy 1: "I knew she was going to torture me for that."
Guy 2: "Did she?"
Guy 1: "Oh, you know it. First she says I have to leave, then she says, 'Oh, you really hurt me, you broke my heart. I have to think.' So, I had to listen to like two hours of this crap. Women are just nuts."

5. There was a guy doing an imitation (intentional, I think) of Patton, right behind the swinging doors where they were bringing in stock from the trucks. The guy (who I couldn't see, but could hear clearly when the doors swung open for a trolley, and could still hear a little when the doors were closed) was saying:
"Gentleman, today is war. And you are losing. They are driving you back, and you bunch of candy-asses are just taking it. Get out there! Get out there, and get that stock up, you bunch of maggots! You are the lamest excuses for stockers I have ever seen! You make me SICK!"
I think he was kidding, because all of the stockers coming out were openly laughing, and shaking their heads. But the war metaphor was a good one, although some of those women shoppers were more like pirates. They would waylay a trolley and plunder it before the stocker even knew he had been boarded.

Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!

*this word was left out of original post.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Overheard at a Liberty Fund Conference.....

Overheard at a Libety Fund Conference, in Key West:

1. During discussion, a very serious time:

Older gentleman: "I found this passage very insightful, or at least provocative. It describes [he describes what it describes, at a bit of length, though not inappropriately so. Description involves metaphor of piracy]"

Younger gentleman: "Oh, I underlined that, too! It said, 'pirates'! I LOVE pirates."

2. During walk, in afternoon:

Older gentleman, very cultured fellow: "Oh, look, I went into that museum last time I was in Key West, 20 years ago!"

Younger woman: "How was it?"

Older gentleman: "It was only a mild rip-off, making it perhaps the most worthwhile attraction on this island!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"...To See Ourselves As Others See Us"

Whoa, George, can you really not see how you come across, or do you really not care?

"I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."

-- President George W. Bush, as quoted in the most recent issue of People

Because they have a soul?

(Nod to KL, who never sleeps)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Manuel Ayau

Interesting, and inspiring, bio over on my pal Hispanic Pundit's blog.

Reminds me of another friend's take on the problem with nearly all modern
policies, and politics, on the poor. We ask ourselves what causes "poverty."

But poverty is the natural state of man. If you fail, if you don't develop effectie institutions, you stay in poverty.

What we need to study, and talk about, is what causes wealth. Except that we already know that: property rights, independent courts, constitutional republic as a government form, and capitalist economy with effective financial institutions.

Why don't most nations have those things? Some of it is education. But some of it is that politicians can't claim credit for letting wealthy citizens keep their wealth. So, we fight poverty, and take money from the rich and give it to government agencies to burn in a thousand smoky little fires. Voters see the smoke, and assume something useful is being done.

What we need to do is NOT fight poverty. What we need to do is fight the things that prevent us from becoming wealthy.

Great Moments in Marriage

A funny story from J.G. at Eternal Recurrence.

Reminds me of "Great moments in marriage," tho.

Here's one: We are at a party, full of Duke glitterati and people from the Durham community, with a lot of visitors from New York thrown in. A little over my pay grade, or at least over my cultural scale of conversation.

At our table of ten, other woman tells story of getting married in Catholic Church, though she wasn't Catholic (hubby-to-be was, is, VERY Catholic). Had to do classes, make promises, etc.

My wife says, "Oh, we had to do that, too! I'm Catholic, but Michael isn't. And something funny happened to us, didn't it, Michael? Tell them!"

I stare at her, say, "Okay...." and then tell this story.

We had to go to classes, and take a test for compatibility, before getting married in 1986. After three weekend (I was commuting down to DC from Dartmouth, in NH) meetings, we had the final debriefing. The priest kept shuffling papers. Then, he turns red, and just blurts out, to me: "Have you told her about your problem? Don't you think you should? It will matter for the marriage. And I'm not sure the church can sanction this union."

I was fairly hung over, as I had been for many of these Sunday a.m. at 8:30 meetings, since we always went out the night before. Thinking quickly, I said, "What?"

It took him a while to work up his courage, making guttural sounds. Finally, he said, "Your problem....the problem with your....(bright crimson bald head now, on priest)....your IMPOTENCE!"

[Apparently, in one of the questionnaires, not really paying attention, I had answered that "YES", I was impotent.]

[This was funny, in part, because Donna had direct evidence, about 7 hours earlier, that I was actually NOT impotent, at least not when I visited her.]

So, she starts giggling, and pretends to cough. I stare at the priest, and mumble about being sorry, I must not have been paying attention. He is mortified (NOTE: How can a celibate priest give advice on sex and marriage, in the first place?) We finish the meeting very quickly, and get the blessing of the church, once it turns out I can make the girl pregnant, so she can do her Catholic duty and reproduce like a wild rabbit.

So, I finish telling this story at the party, and there is hilarity. Good job, I'm thinking to myself, way to be a good dinner guest.

As soon as it quiets down, my wife, who is looking pure daggers at me, says, "My GOD, Michael, not THAT story!"

After we get home that evening, I spend the rest of the night in husband purgatory, teetering right on the brink of husband hell. And I'm not even Catholic!

EPILOGUE: I have no idea what story she actually meant, by the way. When she starts speaking to me, I'll let you know. Should be no later than the end of January.

UPDATE: Anonyman wrote this in comments, but it deserves light in the post itself....

Nice story. Of course, you could have had the exact opposite problem, as I did (no, not impotence)at a recent "holiday" party at my signifcant other's office. I showed up, on time for once, got us drinks, and joined her talking to a group of women from the office. I had given her the drink I retrieved for her and remained there as a dutiful husband. I then proceded to spend the next half hour listen to women discuss not only their own birthing experiences, but those of other women they had known. I stood there motionless, thinking I was scoring points by not leaving, not laughing (at the wrong things), and not vomiting over everyone's shoes. When we finally left, I sat silently in the car waiting to receive my praise for being so polite and well mannered. After about 10 minutes of stony silence I couldn't take it and asked her if everything was OK. To my surprise I was severly rebuked for "just standing there" and "not contributing to the conversation". When I pointed about that I had no "birthing stories" to share, and it was all I could do to keep myself from being sick as I stood there, she told me I should have made somthing up rather than just not say anything. So mm, next time just make it up, it's better than telling the wrong story, or saying nothing at all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Which One is the Parody?

It actually takes a little effort to figure out which of these is "real," and which is the parody.

Just from the way he says, "and I'm Ed Glaeser," you can tell this is a pretty darned self-pleased group. In fact, from Glaeser's facial expression, he appears to be pleasing himself right there on camera!

The original

Skit (funny in its own right)

Skit (even better, but still not as good as the original)

(grateful nod to Tommy the Wannabe Wannabe, hereafter TTWW)