Cripes, just say what you mean!

Hot off the presses from

SACRAMENTO — Anti-gay marriage groups say California Attorney General Jerry Brown is twisting their words.

Supporters of a ballot measure that would ban gay marriage want to amend the state Constitution to say “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

But last week, Brown’s office changed Proposition 8’s ballot title and summary to say the measure seeks to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Project Marriage coalition spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns says her group plans to sue to get the language changed back.

Uh, why? I don’t mind putting words in her mouth. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that she’s worried that might seem discriminatory. Or hateful. Or — and this is a rough one — less likely to get voted in.

Doesn’t the fact that saying what you mean on the ballot decreases the chances it’ll pass point toward something that’s bad for the voting public? And does Project Marriage think that they can successfully sue to euphemize their ballot without appearing to deceive the very voters they want to woo? What does that say about their regard for the voting public?

My problem with that is completely in addition to and beyond the usual argumentation:

  • It undermines marriage!
  • There are serious consequences!
  • Such as undermining marriage!
  • …which has…uh…serious consequences!

Anyone against same-sex marriage (you can call it anything you like – same-sex marriage, gay marriage, homosexual matrimony, whatever — the terminology in this regard is unimportant) reading this, please listen up. I’m trying to help you — especially if you live in California — by pointing out how you are being Animal Farmed out of legitimacy. The Protect Marriage coalition doesn’t think you’re capable of noticing that “only between a man and woman is valid or recognized” means the same as “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Oh, speaking of legitimacy: please explain to me again how anyone’s heterosexual marriage gets undermined when two men or two women tie the knot?

I know two things:

  1. Same-sex marriage has zero effect on my own marriage.
  2. Same-sex marriage, legal throughout the country, would be a tremendous boost in pride for me as a citizen. It would mean that we treat people fairly by offering all the same financial benefits and a shot at being happy together.

Organizations like “Protect Marriage” really get my dander up because “Marriage” is not under attack and does not need protection — except from those who would seek to use it as a tool of bigotry.

Cherries — help! / English Vacation Schedule

We’ve got to be doing something wrong.

There are some lovely cherries on sale at pretty much every place you can buy food around here. Stalls out on the square, produce mongers of the wine-and-cheese and imported meats variety, even plain old supermarkets are all offering beautiful, luscious, juicy, dark sweet cherries from places like Turkey, Italy and even Franconia. They’re good — really, really good in yoghurt or just rinsed and pitted as a snack.

Seems like fruit so excellent like these cherries are would be great candidates for baking into cobblers and muffins and all sorts of things, right? That’s what I thought too. But after two attempts, we’re still having no luck. Somehow we’re baking all the good flavor out of those cherries.

We’ve tried a cherry cobbler recipe (last year, and we had high hopes for it; so high that we were traumatized and couldn’t even speak about it until now). It came out of the oven looking and smelling pretty darn nice, but upon digging in, all we could taste was the oatmeal-based streusel over the top of it. It was very disappointing.

Tonight we tried these muffins and we were skeptical, having tried something similar with some fantastic blueberries lately (and being less than nonplussed with the muffin results), but they smelled great while cooking, looked great coming out of the oven (in spite of our odd oven), and renewed our hope. And then:


Actually the muffiny part of them was much better than we expected and we’ll be using that recipe again in the future. But again the cherry flavor is Just. Not. There. At least the muffins stand up on their own. But how can I bake with these dark sweet cherries and hope to preserve any of their flavor in the finished product?

English School HolidaysIn other news, it would seem that the English and Germans’ royal relationships* are still manifesting themselves in the school holiday schedule.


Hey, it’s another one of those websites missing a vowel towards the end there! But I’m giving it a look-and-see anyway. There are a lot of trips on the horizon for us — some for both of us, some for one of us, some next week and some next year — and poking around on the dopplr site, it would seem to be pretty slick, allowing you find your fellow travelers and keep track of them — as much as they’d like you to — with relative ease.

So give it a shot…you should be able to find us there under our familiar first and last and user names. And who knows — maybe we could hook up on some future travel together, or at least share some travel tips.

My parents are on the go more and more — and lately, separately. My mom is in Bolivia at the moment (see the map?) and my dad is fluttering back and forth between the main house and their cottage with the dog. He’d been interested, in light of the fuel prices lately, in knowing who was going to be headed up to or back from the little community of cottages up at the lake to carpool. Let’s face it, lots of people are headed up at the beginning of a holiday weekend and headed back at the end of it. The trick would be to know more precisely who and when.

I suggested a pretty standard bulletin board system like phpBB or BBPress to take care of that need, but that might be more overhead than what he needs — just a simple way to keep track of who’s going to be where when. These are already people he knows (they’re neighbors after all) so the information sharing thing shouldn’t be a big deal. Oh, and did I mention it’s free (he’s on a fixed income, ya know) and they have a nice commitment to user privacy? That’s comforting.

This looks like a nice system. Thanks go to J over there in Bonn for featuring dopplr on his blog; that’s how I found out about it.


Every time someone sends me an email and signs it

Sam Sample

a tiny little voice in my back of my head goes


I’m totally not baggin’ on anyone who does that. It’s just a thing my brain does, like when you type ––> into a PowerPoint file it gets automagically corrected into . You know?

In other news, this:

Leopard Luggage

Isn’t it awesomely hideous?

Obama in Berlin

Sarah and I were just watching Barack Obama’s speech. Nice work — not Earth-shatteringly good (didn’t move me out of my chair), but pretty good.

I am a little perturbed at the German TV commentator’s reactions to it. One dude said (and I’m paraphrasing here…no TiVo in my brain…yet):

We were expecting something like a rock concert, sure didn’t get that…

May I ask why? I know they were remarking upon the relative youth of the crowd gathered to hear him speak (one guy guessed an average age of about 25). Do you think that was the reason they thought they were going to get something other than what Obama delivered? Were the German commentators expecting a rock concert atmosphere by virtue of the attendees? Should the attendees feel offended? I think I’d be (am?) miffed that the TV commentators thought a youngish crowd to hear a politician speak would bring a rock-n-roll atmosphere with them. I mean, they attended to listen to Obama — they knew what they were in for. Why were the German newsfolk suprised?

This kind of reminds me of the taste left in my mouth after reading about a potentially really offensive headline over at a while back. It’s not so much that it’s outright offensive — just oddly wrong and out-of-place, like they’re using words they don’t quite understand or just told a joke they don’t really get.

Cold Sesame Noodles

This looked like a yummy offering to accompany grilled goodies (which we never have – no grill) during the summer (which we’re not experiencing – no heat). We gave it a whirl and were very pleased! I found it on the wonderful food blog Serious Eats and made a few adjustments. As tempting as it is, don’t eat it until it’s chilled for several hours, preferably overnight. The flavors need time to mingle and develop. By the way, this recipe is totally vegetarian – possibly vegan if you’re careful about your peanut butter. I don’t know – I’m not a big label reader.

5 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles (see above)
8 scallions, sliced thin
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin

Toast sesame seeds in a medium, dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. In a blender or food processor, combine sesame, soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic and Tabasco and pulse until ingredients begin to blend. While blender is on low, add hot water in a slow stream until dressing has consistency of heavy cream (you might not need all the water). Set dressing aside.

Cook noodles with salt according to package directions. After cooking, drain noodles and rinse with cold water until completely cooled. Shake water out of noodles thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss noodles, scallion, carrot and bell pepper with dressing until well distributed. Chill.

Karstadt Steak Bar

The Joint

Königstraße 14
90402 Nürnberg
Telefon 0911 – 213 0
Fax 0911 – 213 2120


We visited the Steak Bar (I think it’s actually called “Perfetto”) in the basement of the Karstadt store near the Lorenzkirche at the suggestion of a co-worker of mine. He wasn’t wrong. The €5,99/100g Argentinian Angus was the best beef I’ve ever had in Germany. It was odd having a great steak in the basement grocery section of a department store, but maybe that added to the experience.


Eating a steak in the subway station basement grocery of a swanky department store doesn’t sound that classy, does it? Well, surprise! It is a really nice environment. There is a small corner set up with several tables and lots of seating around the bar (accommodating about 40-50 diners at a time) and from most angles you can watch them throwing your chosen cut on to the grill. The butchers themselves come around and take orders and serve it up right, according to your wishes. My only gripe is that I asked for medium well and my meat was only just medium. But I didn’t send it back – it was my first real steak in about 5 years. I wasn’t about to waste another minute.

Nürnberg Day Trip

It’s so close (just about an hour away), and yet we’ve never visited it save for its airport and Christkindlmarkt. There’s a lot of history there: art, culture, politics, you name it. So yesterday we opted for a BayernTicket and spent the afternoon in downtown Nürnberg.

I’d been thinking about this for about a week since a co-worker recommended the Karstadt department store’s grocery for a nice cut of beef (there’ll be a separate post about that in the form of a review) and our free time happened to coincide with Spirit Asia (thanks for the tip Christina).

So we got there painlessly, exited the train station, walked about a block and found the festival. It seemed about 80% Thai food and 20% everything else, ranging from full-body massage to bonsai trees and gardening supplies. We settled on some overpriced Indian food that was fine — but no Ganesha, even allowing for the carny-food atmosphere.

Good thing admission was free.

After lunch we just started strolling around, crossing the Pegnitz, getting our Fußgängerzone on and some shopping at Karstadt (in addition to the steak dinner). Result: Nürnberg is a nice place. It’s got the old-world charm in its Altstadt but much more cosmopolitan than Regensburg. We had great luck with the weather and that helped a lot.

General Tso’s Chicken

A favorite of American and Canadian Chinese restaurants, General Tso’s chicken isn’t actually Chinese. But it is awfully tasty. I’ve been looking around for copycat recipes for a long time before actually attempting one. This one was the jumping off point for my crack at the dish. My version is below.

1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c white wine or sherry
2 c chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 in ginger, peeled and minced

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 egg, beaten
3 T soy sauce
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4-1/2 c oil for frying (1/2 inch deep in skillet)
1 small bunch (about 8) green onions, sliced
2-3 red Thai chilies, sliced (remove seeds to decrease heat)

To prepare sauce, put all ingredients into a large jar with a leakproof lid. BE CERTAIN to put the cornstarch somewhere in the middle, preferably between two layers of liquid. If you put it on the bottom or top of the ingredients, it won’t fully integrate and you’ll be choking down starch lumps. After all ingredients are in the jar, seal it and shake it until completely blended. Set aside.

Heat the oil to medium high. Combine the beaten egg with the soy sauce. Put the cornstarch in a large Ziploc. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg first, then drop several coated chicken pieces into the cornstarch bag and shake vigorously. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess cornstarch and fry until golden and crispy, turning once (this is horrifically messy – sorry). Set cooked chicken aside to drain on paper towels.

In another deep skillet, heat one tablespoon oil to medium high. Quickly stir-fry green onion and chili for 30 seconds to one minute – just until green onion starts to become tender. Shake sauce mixture again and add to onion and chili, stirring frequently until thickened. Lower heat and add chicken to sauce, stirring until chicken is well coated and heated through. Serve over rice with steamed broccoli.


You can use this recipe as a template for a Spicy Peanut sauce. When preparing the sauce jar, reduce the sugar to one tablespoon and the vinegar to 1.5 tablespoons, then add 1/3 cup of peanut butter. Instead of just shaking the jar, whisk the contents until there are no large lumps of peanut butter. Continue preparing as usual.