Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...

...send us your booze?

Colin and I have yet to find a couple of delicious alcohols that were available in Chicago here in New Orleans. We could use some Zubrowka, and if Dean would only remind me of the name of that tasty juniper flavored gin, I'd ask for some of that too. ( Was it desert juniper gin?)

So, alcoholic care package anyone??

Tucker Carlson update

Breaking new news to add to the earlier posting about Tucker Carlson, he has apologized for his slight to New Orleans. Twice. The first time was on Wednesday of last week.

The times Picayune reported that Carlson “appeared on Jim Browns morning radio talk show on 99.5 FM to say he was embarrassed.’ I have come to grovel and bow down before the city of New Orleans and ask forgiveness.' he said. 'My god, love the women of new Orleans' But in a mixed message, Carlson went on to compliment the city’s hookers, noting ‘ I’ve never been to a prostitute in new Orleans, but I have met a few and they are better than the average as far as I can tell. ‘He assured Brown that he was sorry for dissing New Orleans. ‘If I had said that about Baltimore, I would not take it back.’

Well, as you might imagine, that was not a stellar come back for Mr. Carlson. I guess he felt he had to try and apologize again, this time with more sincerity.So, later that week he called a staffer of the Times Picayune to try and make amends. Here is what Tucker Carlson said during that apology.

“He didn't mean any offense when he implied that one in three women in New Orleans is a prostitute. ‘It's my favorite city after Washington, where I live,’ he said. I tried to explain that under normal circumstances what he said would be offensive, but post-Katrina it has near lethal implications. But when our nation denies us compensation for the failure of the federal levees, there is a sometimes stated, often implied, justification that we are undeserving. We are drunkards, fornicators, worshippers of idols, we are told. It's our fault that the federal levees failed.”

“Carlson stresses that this is not his perspective. ‘I don't think the question has ever been whether New Orleans deserves federal assistance,’ he told me. ‘I think it's fair for the rest of the country to ask how it's spent. I am a supporter of New Orleans. That's one of the reasons I was really eager to apologize, because New Orleans doesn't need any more abuse,’ he said. ‘The city has suffered a lot. I hate the fact that I may have made it worse in some small way. I am genuinely sorry that I, in any way, added to that.’”

What is most strange about this whole thing to Colin and I is the fact that the whole faux pas was managed by contacting media persons. If this had been Chicago, the bastard who said anything disrespectful to the ladies of Chicago would have had to deal with an angry Mayor Daley and a Sox’s baseball bat. In New Orleans, the Mayor and the rest of the city and state government is out to lunch and the only way to apologize for insulting a whole city is to contact radio hosts and newspaper writers. It is almost as though New Orleans does not have a government, and the city is sustaining itself through contact with individual citizens. I shudder to think what would happen if the Times Picayune offices caught on fire, since it appears that the newspaper is the major way people here are dealing with the continued aftermath of Katrina.

Friday, July 27, 2007

(belated) Friday Cat Blogging

Mame sent us this awesome bag. It arrived last night.

Yes, it is a 'Dag Bag. EDIT: If you squint, you can even see the 'Dag in the 'Dag Bag. If people complain in comments, we can get a higher-contrast image.

Later last night, Hodag was trying to catch a dragonfly. Nora caught it.

After we let it go, Hodag finally captured it and ate it. He seemed very pleased with himself and his ferocious predator instincts.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Coffee Break

During coffee break downstairs, I just ran into a guy wearing a University of Chicago shirt. I asked if he had gone there; he said that he had spent the Katrina Semester there.

As you might guess, the back of his shirt said, "Where Fun Comes to Die."

Speaking of which, does anyone have a photo of that shirt that they could post online? Google's results are disappointing.

UPDATE: added a link. Thanks Jennifer!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Campus Tour (1)

Tulane doesn't subjectively feel significantly larger or smaller of a campus than the University of Chicago. But there are two things that are different about this campus, that I can see just from obvious features:
  1. Tulane's a Division I school.

  2. They have ROTC here.

For the first point, we look at the prominence of the athletic facilities (we hope to come back to that sometime during football season, hopefully after our humiliating defeat at the hands of LSU). There are two signs of the ROTC presence that are visible to me on a daily basis. One is that the Navy recruiter has left business cards and informational flyers on several bulliten boards on my hallway. The other is that the Physics department is across the street from the Navy building:

This cannon sits in front of the Navy ROTC building, and it's aimed at a point approximately twenty feet below my desk. The gun is dedicated to "World War II members of the Tulane NROTC."

There's a flagpole directly behind the cannon, flying two flags: the official US flag, and my favorite currently-flown US flag.

Meanwhile, back at home in Chicago...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Nothing really says summer like baseball. When I think about summer and baseball I think of green grassy field, warm sunshine and the crack of a good hit. In my mind baseball stands for all the good things about summer, friendly competition, exercise, hanging out with people you care about watching or playing a game. This morning I am having a little trouble reconciling my general benevolent view of baseball with a recent event that has been reported in the Times Picayune: "Ex- Zephyr killed by foul ball".

New Orleans does not have a professional baseball team. Instead they have the Zephyrs, the local triple-A minor team. Colin and I have not yet gotten around to going to games, but Colin has begun checking the scores every day in the sports section (a true sign of growing sports team loyalty). The article I mentioned above describes how this weekend a former player of the Zephyrs (turned coach to a double A team, the Tulsa Drillers) was killed by an errant baseball.

"Mike Coolbaugh, 35, died Sunday after being struck in the head by a line drive as he stood in the first-base coach's box during a game in Arkansas."

Obviously I did not know this guy, and yet I still feel sadness. I guess mostly my reaction is surprise and shock. You can be killed by a baseball? Somehow this had never occurred to me. I can think of a dozen sports which I associate with major injures and death, and baseball had not been one of them. I always thought that the worst that could happen while playing stickball was a torn groin muscle. Baseball, that American icon, up on the list with apple pie, seems a lot less innocent to me today.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Adventures in Food: Gumbo Follow-up

The rabbit gumbo started its life like this:

(the red and green can behind the plate is Zatarains's brand Creole Seasoning) It turned into a 2-gallon pot of awesome, just in time for my lab to show up and help us eat it.

The house-warming party was interrupted a few times by the power going out. We're starting to suspect there is something wrong with our power. We spoke to the landlady, who is just as confused as we are. She had the power re-done a few years ago; they might have screwed someting up then.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Water Spout over Ponchartrain Yesterday

(photo shamelessly stolen from the Times-Picayune)

This, and two others like it, were seen yesterday over Lake Ponchartrain. I could actually see them from my window, but I didn't realize what they were at the time. I could tell they were over the lake, so I decided that they were some weird cloud formation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Apparently, there is a good chance I am a prostitute!

I was not going to get political on this blog, because we all know where that leads... lots of hate mail. No, I actually did not want to delve into politics because I believe that a weblog is not the correct forum for that sort of debate. I like discussions to occur in person and to allow equal time for everyone to air their opinions. However, I believe I have discovered a particular political issue everyone can get behind. I call it: "Tucker Carlson is a big fat asshole".

How is this political? Well, Tucker Carlson is a right wing pundit, so already we are deep into politics. Also, the particular issue that is causing me to call him an asshole is also deeply political, the David Vitter scandal. For those of you who do not know, this started with his number appearing on the list of phone calls to the "D.C. Madam". Later, a former brothel owner in New Orleans alleged that David Vitter also had patronized her house of ill repute. This has become mired in politics not only because Vitter is a US senator, but also because he is a fairly conservative Republican. David Vitter is known for: being an opponent of same sex marriage, being a proponent of abstinence only education, and being heavily critical of former President Clinton's moral behavior. In particular, Vitter claimed that Clinton had behaved immorally in a public office and therefore should be removed from that office. The strong statements against Clinton have come back to haunt the senator since he has been caught engaging in an extramarital affair.

Now, I know you are thinking, well, this is all very interesting Nora, but how do we get back to Tucker Carlson? I am getting there, I promise. So, this last week or so, after Vitter's number appeared on the phone list of the former D.C. Brothel owner, Democrats have been going crazy accusing Vitter of Hypocrisy. Similarly, Republicans have been going crazy claiming him as man who stuck by his morals, has made a public apology to his constituents about his affair, and is trying to live up to high moral standards. Among his defenders has been Tucker Carlson, who used his show "Tucker" on 7/13/07 to discuss why the Senator should be allowed to retain his seat. (transcript of the show can be found here)

Excerpts from the show: (the italics are mine)

PRESS: He lied about going to a hooker. By the way, may I point something out? This is against the law. This is a felony. The question is not is he going to resign, the real question is; is he ever going to be charged with breaking the law. By the way, prostitution is against the law even in New Orleans and even in Washington, D.C.

CARLSON: It‘s against the law in the sense that double parking is against the law.

PRESS: Tucker, you ask the vice squad about that. They‘re a little more serious.

CARLSON: In New Orleans?

PRESS: I think it ought to be legal.

CARLSON: Have you ever been to a restaurant in New Orleans? One out of three women is for sale. I mean, come on—

Before I continue I want to make one thing clear. I am making no claims about whether Vitter should be allowed to stay in office, no claims on the legality or appropriateness of prostitution, of extramarital affairs, of being a hypocrite or being a moral human being, none of it.

I am just saying this: Tucker Carlson is an asshole, because he is just making shit up to defend a position he supports. How does disparaging a third of the women of New Orleans help anyone in this situation? Does him calling this city a modern Sodom and Gomorrah help with the recovery effort? Does it help Vitter retain his political position? Does it help ensure sexual privacy, which Carlson is such a huge proponent of? No. It helps none of those things.

If the American people are ever going to have real conversations about morals, politics and "The American Way" we need to be honest. We need to use facts, figures and logic, and not grandstand. Tucker Carlson is clearly not capable of engaging in a real conversation, because he is just an asshole.

Monday, July 16, 2007

OMG cute overload

Ok, I just got a call from Colin. He told me to look on Cute Overload to see something cute. Imagine my surprise to find a photo of Hodag and Myself snoring at Moomers! Dear lord, I have inspired a new category of cuteness.

Thoughts About Town

Yesterday's Times-Picayune had an article about an upcoming Fox show called K-ville (caution: the online article is obnoxiously formatted onto 10 pages). I hadn't heard of the show, but I guess they have been advertising.

It mostly sounds like it's supposed to be a cop show. The interesting artistic bit is that they're setting it in New Orleans, and the director is trying to use that to make the city itself a real character in the show. The article discusses how the producers are trying to make an entertaining television program while not being tastelessly exploitive of the city's tragedy. The angle they seem to be going for is "hope."

One thing I like about it being a cop show is that it's a new perspective on the city's recovery. The crime seems to me to be the biggest problem lingering from the storm. New Orleans has always had a lot of crime, but it's gotten worse since Katrina. The city just passed 100 reported homicides in 2007. Keep in mind that the city's population is currently estimated to be about 65% of what it was before the storm. That means that this year's murder rate is likely to be about 15% higher than it was in 2004.

So talking about crime is a good perspective to view the city from. I'm mildly excited for the show. I don't like cop shows in general; this one in particular would really suck if it's just another cop show. But if they portray the cop show aspect and the city correctly, it might be really awesome:
Sarafian was scouting locations in the city one day when he was approached by an elderly citizen who was curious about the crew.

The director explained the show's premise to the man, who thought about it for a second then said, "I hope you don't screw it up, because that could be good."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This Post Dedicated to Mame, and to Nora's Mother

Hodag used to climb up onto two empty boxes to sit in the window. We bought him a piece of cat furniture.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Market day/ adventures in food (1)

There is a farmers market held on Tuesdays near our house in New Orleans. It is a cute little market, well stocked with local seafood, vegetables and even some free range meat. I have gone there the last couple of Tuesdays to pick up supplies for dinner, and this week Colin came with me. We had a lovely time, and purchased the following items:

  • Creole tomatoes, a heirloom tomato variety
  • green peppers
  • Crayfish and pork sausage
  • Andouille sausage
  • Cornish game hens
  • Mixed mushrooms, oyster and shitake varieties.

Now, Colin and I have been experimenting in southern cooking. On Sunday Colin made crab cakes and corn relish for dinner (Commander's kitchen "Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Sweet Corn and Jalapenos", pg 196). The tomatoes and green peppers were bought to combine with okra for "sauteed okra vegetable dish" (Joy of Cooking 1975 edition, pg 311). We cooked the okra dish this evening with a couple of browned chicken drumsticks thrown in. The results was a tasty one pan meal. The Andouille and Mushrooms were purchased to combine with a whole frozen rabbit I got from Jake's Uptown Market to make rabbit gumbo for dinner this Friday.

Now, I am afraid that I am going to have to get socio-economic on your asses. I am sure that all the Chicagoans out there have heard of "food desert"areas where there are few if any grocery stores. This is a major problem in post Katrina New Orleans, when many chain grocery stores closed locations, rendering access to fresh fruits and vegetables significantly more difficult than it ought to be. In Chicago, a fabulous report on food deserts exists (as PDF). From that report I have borrowed this food desert concept:

distance to any grocer/ distance to any fast food restaurant = food balance

if food balance is:
  • greater than 1, more fast food than grocers
  • equal to 1, equal distance to grocers and fast food chains
  • less than 1, less distance to grocers than to fast food

If we assume (Note: this is super simplified) that the closer a person is to a grocery store than the better their diet is, then food deserts are a major area of concern for preventive health care problems like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Here is a map of food access in New Orleans. If you type in our zip code, 70118, and look at the number of grocery stores of any type, then you can see how few stores in our whole zip code are available to buy fresh food from. This is particularly disturbing if you note that Shell gas stations and Walgreen's/Rite Aids are considered "small food stores". Colin and I think that only three of those "small grocery stores" actually carry fresh food (ie. are not quickie marts). We usually go down to Tchoupitoulas and Jefferson or Tchoupitoulas and Napolean for our major food shopping. Its appalling that not a single large grocery store exists in our entire zip code, and only three places have fresh ingredients for sale.

Thank god for the Tuesday market.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


As I mentioned before, Colin and I are experiencing a bit of homesickness and culture shock. One of the many ways that I have felt disoriented in New Orleans is my new found inability to pronounce anything. As you might be able to guess, a large number of streets, restaurants and public buildings have names which are french in origin. This actually presents no problem for me, because although I failed grade school french, I am pretty capable of pronouncing french words and understanding the basic linguistic rules that govern french pronunciation. The problem I am having is the words which through the course of history have become purely "New Orleanian" in pronunciation.

Now a similar phenomenon existed in Illinois (who can forget Versailles pronounced ver-sails, or Cairo kay-ro, or even library, of the famous "Library, State and Van Buren" pronounced lie-burr-ary?) but here it is either more common, or I have more trouble figuring it out.

Therefore, I present to you a brief pronunciation lesson ala New Orleans:

Example number one, how would you pronounce the following word?

This is a major street along the Mississippi river in New Orleans. If you tried, as I did to pronounce it as if it was Greek, "tah-choup-it-oulas" you were wrong. Down here it is pronounced "chap-ah-too-lis", after the native American tribe that inhabited this area.

Example number two:

This is a famous Creole restaurant in the French Quarter. Colin and I had dinner here recently and enjoyed the shrimp remoulade, and the "fork tender" brisket. (Brisket so soft you can cut it with a fork.) The correct pronunciation of this establishment is "two-jacks".

Here is another street,

that neither Colin or I have figured out how to pronounce. Is it "frer-re" like brother in french, or is it "frer-rette" sounding sorta like ferret? Let us know how you think it is pronounced. Freret is a street that runs through Tulane's campus and into the industrial corridor. The picture above shows the mosaic sign that is inlaid on some of the sidewalks of the older streets of New Orleans.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Summer Plans

I guess I should check in with an introduction as well. We got in on Tuesday night, the 26th, and spent the rest of that week and weekend unpacking. I started going to my summer job the following Monday. Steven and Courtney showed up late (3:00 AM) Tuesday night with the truck, which they had driven down from Chicago for us. The following night we discovered that Lauren Sailor was also in New Orleans on her bike ride across the country (there's a photo of her in one of her cohort's blogs). Nora showed Steven and Courtney around the city, and we had Lauren over for dinner a few nights later. Now that they are all on their respective ways again, we're starting to settle in to our normal routines.

I'm going to work every day. My program doesn't actually start until Fall Semester at the end of August, but I was offered a job for the summer. I was getting tired of my job in Chicago and really wanted to feel like I was starting graduate school, so I took them up on it. I'm working in Wayne Reed's lab in the Physics Department. The lab works on polymer physics. I'm just finishing up with our introductory teaching experiment on Zimm plots. My project for the summer is to learn about a new detector we just acquired. It relies on Mie Scattering (as opposed to the usual Raleigh Scattering that we use), and usually gets used as a black-box device. I'm supposed to work with it, and see if we can't figure out better how it works.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Moving in

Ok kids, we are officially moved in and have started intarweb services. Now we can upload photos of our new city, comment on them, and let you know how we are doing. So far we are settling in pretty well, although we are still experiencing some culture shock (more on that later).

For now, here are some Photos of our new place and the trip to New Orleans.

This is the front of our new apartment. The door you can see leads into a hallway and a staircase, all of which leads to our second floor apartment. You can also clearly see the second floor porch in this picture, which Hodag has begun to take advantage of on milder days.

This is the view from that porch onto the street below. You can see the lovely Penske truck that we rode in for 20 hours over two days to move all of our junk to Louisiana. The drive itself was a hoot, if you have never traveled in an over-sized truck across country with a cat in the cab, then I am not sure you have lived. Hodag was a real trooper, he hardly caused any trouble at all, he just meowed a bit and seemed a touch car sick.

Here is the 'Dag, looking out the window onto the rainy roadway. It poured the second day of our trip, and we were trying to outrun the rain from Arkansas to New Orleans. For a while we were ahead of the storm, but it caught up with us when we were parked outside of our new apartment, trying to unlock the doors.

Here are some photos of the inside of our apartment. Notice the awesome Victorian details.
First stop on our tour, the hallway and the staircase.

So, here is the banister to the staircase and the chandelier that hangs above it. In the chandelier photo you can also see the one o the windows in the staircase (there are two, and they both look like that one)

Off the hallway leading up from the staircase is the bathroom, followed by our bedroom. The bathroom is not especially interesting, so I will skip that, but here is the bedroom.

On top, the totally cool antique dressers Colin and I bought for our clothing. I have the smaller dresser, so I also get to appropriate some shelving for the rest of my clothes. On bottom the built in shelves. Mostly we plan on using the shelving for tsotchkes and books.

Two views of our kitchen.

Fireplaces! On left, bedroom; on right, kitchen.

Off the kitchen is a glass enclosed porch. We will be using this as the office as soon as we manage to get Colin's rudonkulously heavy desk up the stairs.

Lastly, there is the living room/ dining room. This is the most interesting wall of that room, as it contains the window, the fireplace and the built in bookshelves. There is also a doorway from this room that leads to the outside porch over the entryway to the apartment.