Dog Versus Baby

I have owned a dog for my entire adult life—more properly, a Chihuahua. First, there was Sal. Then, for a brief period, there was Sal and Penny. Since 2007, it’s just been Penny. (RIP Sal.) Both Sal and Penny, despite their temperamental differences, have always been treated like actual family members. We rarely leave Penny at home while we vacation or visit family. And, like family, we have made great allowances, and often, excuses, for her misbehavior.

Anyone who knows Chihuahuas will be unsurprised to hear that Penny is abnormal for a dog but fairly standard for a Chihuahua. She is sweet and cuddly and playful. She doesn’t even mind strangers, once it’s clear they are staying for a while. She easily adapts to hotels and new houses and new people. But, her list of dislikes, or, more properly, things she cannot tolerate, is long: other dogs, birds, squirrels, loud noises, strollers of any sort, doorbells, delivery people of any sort, and of course, babies and small children.

Why the Museum Is Closed

How to Die Slowly in America

As America enters its second season of Obamacare enrollment, a poll released Monday confirms that for the first time, a majority of Americans want the Affordable Care Act fixed, rather than repealed, owing to its visible successes. Unquestionably, the law can be improved. Among the many harms caused by opponents of the Affordable Care Act, one of the worst can be traced back to the efforts of Sarah Palin, who launched the phrase “death panel” into the public consciousness in an August 2009 Facebook post: The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.

Palin was referring, however nonsensically, to a provision of the ACA that would have reimbursed doctors for discussing (discussing!) end-of-life care with Medicare patients and their families: things like palliative care, hospice care and when to suspend treatment in case of a mortal illness. Families don’t receive this kind of counseling as a matter of course, and they should, for so many reasons—we spend too much money trying to rescue bodies that are too far gone to save; it’s cruel to make families endure the end of hope and the end of life in the same moment; too many people’s last moments are tortured, not peaceful. But Palin’s lies—that is what they were—created such a firestorm that those provisions were withdrawn from the final law. So now, an area of medicine that remains woefully inadequate for many Americans will remain so, even in the face of an opportunity to develop and expand it.

Uber Forever

Numbers are boring, except when they’re not, like when Uber, a five-year-old company that has accumulated over a billion-and-a-half dollars in investment capital and is worth eighteen billion dollars, stands to raise another billion and double in value from six months ago, to between thirty-five and forty billion dollars. This, Bloomberg helpfully points out, puts Uber at “about 1.5 times the capitalization of microblogging service Twitter Inc. and at about the same size as Inc., Delta Airlines Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc.”

Though both Uber and Delta are in the people-moving business—Delta being the world’s busiest airline, with over a hundred and twenty million passengers last year—it would seem to make more sense to put Uber in the context of cars: Bloomberg also notes that Hertz, the largest rental car company in the U.S., has a market capitalization of $11.3 billion, while the entire U.S. taxi business generates some eleven billion dollars a year.

Eat the Ginger

Around Christmastime, when you search for recipes with “ginger,” you get exclusively sweet things: gingerbread, gingersnaps, ginger cake, ginger donuts, ginger biscotti, ginger muffins. But ginger is so much more. It’s one of the four or five ingredients that I am never, ever without. I would like to share with you my One Weird Trick for using ginger in a foolproof and easy way.

Nearly everything I cook starts with the same process: Get out a pan, put some oil in it, and saute some combination of chopped plants; on Top Chef this is referred to as “building flavor,” or sometimes as creating a base. Onion is pretty much a given. Garlic, usually. Also common are celery, carrot, and peppers. (Depending on which specific ingredients you use and the various subtleties of how you use them, these base ingredients are sometimes called mirepoix, or soffritto—or, confusingly, sofrito, which is not the same thing; soffritto is Italian, sofrito is Spanish/Latin American, with slightly different ingredients depending on even which Latin American country you’re talking about.) Ginger is a key ingredient in a flavor base for so, so many cuisines—Indian, Chinese, Thai, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Filipino—so it should be as present in your cooking as garlic or onion, and you should have it on hand at all times. This can be difficult, because though it is fairly hardy, it will dry out after a while, and what if you have a stretch where you’re only cooking French or Italian food? Your ginger will go bad.

Except it won’t, because you should freeze your ginger.

Eat the Pear

The problem with the pear is the same problem that afflicts the apricot and the cantaloupe. When ripe, and fresh, and of good quality, it is spectacular, but it is a low-percentage fruit, its ripeness difficult to divine and often misjudged. I would wager there are literally millions of pear-eaters who have never had a good pear.

And that is unfortunate, because it is really an excellent fruit. Cheap, easily available, some varieties fairly hardy, with a wide variety of textures and flavors and uses, pears may not be quite as easy and foolproof as apples, but can make a fine walking-around fruit in addition to the more adjustment-friendly methods you might put them to in the kitchen.

There are dozens of varieties of pear, but in the States it is damnably difficult to find most of the weirder heirloom varieties. Still, a trip to an fancy grocery store or farmers market in the late autumn will yield a few different types. What they have in common, aside from all being pears, are called sclereids, or stone cells. These are plant tissue with a distinct hard exterior, hence their name, and are responsible for the “gritty” texture of pears. I think some people do not like this texture; it can get stuck in your teeth. But that is merely a symbol of the inherent toughness of the pear! Pear trees can live for over a hundred years, their wood is so fine and hard that it’s often used for woodwind instruments, and in some parts of Chinese mythology it’s a symbol of immortality! This concludes the Fun Facts section of today’s Crop Chef.

Here are the most common varieties of pear in the US and how to tell if they’re ripe. It’s tricky because the majority of pears never ripen on the tree; they can only ripen when picked. To speed up ripening, you can stick a banana in the fruit bowl, and to slow down ripening, you can put the pear in the fridge. But how do you know when it’s ripe in the first place?

A Preview of the Real Amazon Store

Is Amazon good enough for your baby’s ass? Called Amazon Elements, the diapers and baby wipes will only be available to customers who belong to the Amazon Prime membership program, adding another item to the growing list of membership perks. By working directly with a manufacturer, Amazon will be able to price the brand aggressively, with a 40-count package of diapers starting at $7.99. That works out to about 19 cents a diaper, compared to competitor prices that mostly range from 24 cents to 34 cents.

This will sound strange to people who don’t live as nodes in Amazon’s worldwide logistics experiment, but a little less strange to Prime members who do: Amazon already makes, or at least brands, a wide and strange assortment of things. Diapers are just one of its first attempts to move from things into the lucrative market for stuff.

Amazon’s feints at physical retail are focused on Kindles, tablets and phones: These are the tier-one Amazon products, in terms of visibility. They’re thing things Amazon makes to compete with Apple and Google. They get their own advertising campaigns, they’re purported to be in some way “innovative,” etc.

Tier two is made of products that are adjacent to the tier-one products. They’re electronics, or electronics accessories, that don’t really get much advertising, unless you count how easily they’re discovered when shopping Amazon for other stuff. These are the best-known of the “Amazon Basics” products. They’re HDMI cables and adapters. They’re cheap things, things that only have to function, usually in a single way, to be satisfactory; they’re also, perhaps not coincidentally, things that physical electronics stores, which Amazon would like to destroy, tend to mark up.

When Your Ex-Boyfriend Is Kale

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, BuzzFeed News sportswriter Lindsey Adler tells us more about what it’s like to really love Kale.

Cool thing about having an ex-boyfriend named after a trendy vegetable is that ordering a salad for dinner often feels like a comical affair

— Lindsey Adler (@Lahlahlindsey) December 12, 2014

Lindsey! So what happened here?

My first love was a man named Kale, and he broke up with me in the middle of the night one August a few years ago. He just kind of looked at me and said, “I can’t do this anymore,” and I reacted poorly. Breakups are painful, followed by periods of uncertainty, denial, and adjustments. Reminders of what was and will never again be should be avoided at all costs, but for me, it wasn’t that simple: The name of the man who broke my dang heart was plastered all over menus and the NYT Style pages. It took me an unreasonable amount of time (two years) to begin eating kale salads, despite all my hippie-ass, pseudo-vegan inclinations. The word still seems foreign when referencing leafy greens, like I’ve taken a relic from a much different time in my life and applied it in a new way. It’s no longer painful, of course, but it makes for a quick, funny story to be told over brunch.

The Trailer Park at the Center of the Universe

The longest road in California is El Camino Real, a six-hundred-mile route that once connected twenty-one Spanish missions from San Diego to Sonoma. While the state began to pave over the road in the nineteen tens, portions of it still run throughout California, including every city on the San Francisco Peninsula. In Palo Alto, El Camino begins at Stanford University, where it winds past the Stanford Shopping Center, a regal, open-air mall with an Ermenegildo Zegna but no Foot Locker, restaurants but no food court. As the road continues southward, it passes a series of newly finished luxury apartments, then half-completed luxury apartments still wrapped in scaffolding and tarp, followed by a showroom for Tesla, and one for McLaren. Then, finally, it reaches the city limits at the border of Mountain View, about two-and-a-half miles from Google.

A few blocks before the car dealerships, tucked behind a strip mall with a health spa, a Baja Fresh and a Jamba Juice, is Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, a four-and-a-half-acre plot of land roughly in the shape of Utah. The park’s five small streets are not flanked by sidewalks, and the territory of each trailer seems to bleed into the next. Unlike the recent vintage mini-mansions and luxury condos constructed in tightly uniform patterns of stucco and beige, Buena Vista’s hundred and eight mobile homes are a patchwork of styles: Some are an inoffensive industrial brown, one is evergreen, one is baby blue, one has a roof lined with Christmas ornaments that appear to have been hung in the mid-nineties and never taken down. The park houses about three-hundred-seventy-five residents, who are mostly low-income and predominantly Hispanic. It is the last mobile home park left in the city limits.


She’d once written a book, Google said. This was a more than year ago now, while I was composing our eighth email, before I knew much of anything about Lindsey save for her name. That book is titled Here; as she’d have it (email #9), it’s a memoiristic compendium of essays that relives a brief sojourn in Austin, Texas. The book opens with a section titled “Do You?”, a series of rhetorical questions posed to her then-boyfriend—I don’t know if he ever read it. In the end, though, her questions echoed what we hid in our words to each other. Do you know what you need from me? Do you?

I was housesitting for my friend Cam, who’d left Connecticut for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a philosophy course in logic. I was doing him a favor, and, besides, I had nowhere else to go: I’d just graduated, and this was the last safely indolent summer of my life. I wanted to spend what little I had on things that would reliably please me. It was hot then; I wrote for my beer money.

The beginning of that summer was lonely, as nearly everyone I knew had left for cooler climes. And so, like many others, I turned to the Internet for companionship.