Sep 30, 2007


Monday's Mute Theme is Family. Enjoy.

Tarzan's family
Von Trapp Family
Cleaver Family

Jetson Family
Adams Family
Sly and the Family Stone
Simpson Family
Trophy Family

There's More To Successful Blogging Than Merely Snarking

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in search of a fabulous career must be in want of networking opportunities.

That's the start of The Savvy Gal's Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) by Diane K. Danielson and Lindsey Pollak. Both women practice what they preach in promoting this book, applying some of the techniques they describe to reach a wide audience (through people like me), and getting reviews onto blogs and other online sources. In fact, the book demonstrates how you can steadily build an audience, get search engines to notice your business or project, move your blog up technorati's rankings, and acquire a group of online colleagues who can help promote your cause.

There is very little connection to Jane Austen, who gets a mention here and there, but who cares? Using her name in this original context got me to sit up and take notice. That's a valuable ploy in this age of short attention spans. Much of the research that the authors quoted comes from some Pew Studies that I had already read. In fact, I have been using the information contained in this study, plus advice from Technorati, to promote my various blogs. Like most folks, I blog for fun and not for profit, but it certainly boosts my ego to see my comment section filled and to read responses.

One of my duties at work is to help programs with marketing. Naturally, the Internet is playing a larger role in outreach and networking for all businesses, and so I help nonprofit groups set up websites, chatrooms, blogs, and the like to promote their organizations. That is why I started this blog: To "study" effective promotion techniques and to implement them. (Oh, but I delight in expressing my opinions while I'm at it!) In regard to promotion,Tom & Lorenzo who began blogging a month before me, have me beat hands down. It doesn't hurt that their wit and humor are unsurpassed and that they happened to hit a nerve with their core audience. But this is exactly what the book talks about: Find your passion, write about it, promote it, and visitors will come.

According to The Savvy Gals, a majority of blogs receive fewer than 100 unique visitors per day. In fact, my largest blog reaches that number and often goes beyond this, but it has taken a lot of steps to get there. In fact, I could have used The Savvy Gal's Guide last year! The competition to get noticed on the Net is keen. I believe the last figure I read, and this was six months ago, was that over 56 million blogs have been created worldwide; and that's not counting face books or my spaces.

So, if you are a guppy blogger who wants to swim with the sharks, a guide like this is invaluable. The authors also explain the basic rules of Internet etiquette, which is where Jane Austen's sage advice comes in. If you wouldn't express your true thoughts face-to-face to someone, then don't write them down in an e-mail or comment section of a blog either. (You hear me anony-mouses?) The guide cleverly follows a fictitious character named Wendy as she learns the rules of online networking. There's even a section on how to choose a photograph to place online. The image should reflect the nature of the blog, as mine, ahem, does for Dishin' Dat. The image is not so perfect for Jane Austen, however, and I have changed it to reflect a more sedate individual for that blog.

In conclusion, this book, only 126 pages long, offers a wealth of advice. The content is excellent and the cover is snazzy, but I think the authors could have used some expert advice when it came to designing their page layout. A zingier headline font and jazzier text boxes would have had more visual impact than a default MS Word doc layout. But I quibble. These gals showed wisdom and good taste when they featured my Internet friend Linda Merrill from ::Surrounding:: as a great example of online networking.

If you blog with passion, as I do about Jane Austen, then people will start to take notice. These days I receive promotional materials out of the blue. Just take a look at my book list! A majority of those materials arrived in my mailbox without my asking. As I conclude this short review, I have only one task left: To inform the Savvy Gal authors that this post sits on my blog. Might as well network while I'm at it!

Sep 29, 2007

The Skinny On Things: Weight and Income and Portion Sizes

Well, here we go again. Miss Xa Xa from Amuse Biatch, sent this article about an Anti-Anorexia campaign starting in fashion week in Milan. Click here at your own risk, for the photo of the anorexic model is not pleasant to view. And Big Fella sent this spoof of America's Next Top Model made by the British comedy team, French and Saunders. Incredibly, Dawn French, who plays Tyra, is a big, hefty woman. I am certain this casting would not have occurred before Tyra's very public issues with weight.

Which brings me to this week's weight rant: Weight as a class issue. This has been the case since time began.

In the days of yore when the middle and lower classes literally worked their butts off morning, noon, and night, and when everyone walked everywhere, and hauled stuff with their hands or on their backs (including the kitchen sink) people were hard pressed to keep any weight on their bodies. Only the rich (and those with metabolic diseases) had problems with obesity. In fact, due to an inordinate consumption of fatty proteins the upper classes frequently suffered from gout. They also had bad teeth, thanks to a high intake of sugary sweets.

The working class stiff had to make do with soups and stews made from potatoes, leeks, and bits and pieces of cast off-meats like offal and pig’s jowls. Thus, in previous eras, a deliciously plump and well-fed woman was the envy of all, and men regarded her as an object of desire. In fact, some primitive cultures today still revere obesity as a sign of wealth, health, and fecundity. There’s nothing better than a few layers of fat to stave off times of hardship and famine!

The Industrial Revolution changed this unnatural order of things, and the middle class began earning enough money to provide comfortably for their families and live sedentary lives. Obesity was no longer the sole province of the rich. In addition, photography was invented, and everything went to hell in a handbasket for those who had reached Rubenesque proportions. Much to the ordinary woman’s dismay, photos made plumb cheeks look plumber and round limbs look chunkier. The same lens that made dumplings of ordinary women, caressed every bony angle of a long, attenuated body and high-cheekboned face. In front of a lens, skinny women like socialite Babe Paley looked elegant and the normal-sized woman looked ordinary. Never mind that Babe's lungs must have been black as coal; and that she died of cancer. When it comes to issues of looks and weight (notice I am not speaking of health) it's the external package that counts, not the internal life.

So with the populace eating white refined flour and sugar, and living lives of comfort, and riding everywhere in autos and buses and trains, folks in general began to chunk up. Aside from designer clothes and fabulous jewels, how were the rich to physically distinguish themselves from these bourgeois upstarts? Through diet and exercise, of course. Whilst the middle classes were busy working, sometimes two shifts a day, and mothers began to join the work force in droves, the upper echelons, especially the trophy wives, began to skinny down drastically. During the 70’s bony society gals were known as X-Ray wives. Today we call them normal.

One can imagine the sheer effort of will it took to reach a size 0 in an era when size 10’s were common, or ordering the most expensive foods at the most exclusive restaurants and leaving your plate half full. Such profligate waste is generally unheard of among the lower and middle classes, who invented the doggie bag out of sheer necessity. Below is an image of Helen Gurley Brown, an x-ray woman and promoter of 'thin is in'. As long time editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, she helped to force feed the skinny body/big boobs woman as the new feminine ideal. The best adjective I can come up with to describe Helen's past and current weight is 'skeletal'. She might be wearing Pucci, but I think the total look is highly unattractive.

Back to the topic. Along with lack of movement and exercise, the giantification of food and portion sizes in grocery stores and restaurants has contributed to our collective weight problems: huge lunch and dinner buffets; platters that groan with fattening foods; supersized portions of french fries and half pound or quarter pound burgers; and giant sized candy bars are common fare for the average Joe. Couple these inexpensive but huge portions with the affordable meals one can purchase in grocery stores, like mac and cheese, or pizza, or spaghetti, and the lower classes are on a constant CARB and sugar high.

But good food is expensive, and often not available in small food markets in inner cities. Whenever I go on a diet, I know my food bill will double. Fresh produce and lean cuts of meat are costly, and creating healthy meals from scratch is time consuming. For a family with two working parents (some of whom work double shifts), or a single parent who works in a low wage position, preparing and eating a nutritious meal is an impossibility.

So I posit, and I think many nutritionists would agree, that obesity and poor diet, poor literacy skills, and poverty are intricately linked. I cannot imagine a poor parent coming home from a double shift telling the family that they're going to the gym to work out for an hour. I cannot imagine that after a long work shift, a parent has the time to take the bus to a grocery store in the suburbs in order to find the quantity and quality of fresh produce required to feed the family a healthy and nutritious meal. I cannot imagine that this family could afford such food even if it was available in a neighborhood market.

So while Paris and Nicky and their ilk nibble on fresh asparagus and work out in their privileged clubs on the latest elliptical machines, their maids are clipping coupons for foods that can be stretched with cheap carbohydrates, like rice, pasta, and potatoes.

Sadly, we also live in a society that promotes 'obesity hate'. Fat is the one vice that is visible; smokers, gamblers, and alcoholics can generally 'hide' their vices from view; but over eaters cannot hide their weight gain. I am amazed that a complete moron (like Sally Ann Voak) is allowed to write that fat people are lazy or unhappy. One assumes that a person who makes such a statement sees only the external package, and that for them the internal life (goodness, kindness, compassion, and pursuing one's dreams and talents) has little meaning.

Now, that's a sad indictment of our society if ever there was one.

Disclaimer: I am no nutritionist or historian, so please don't read my statements as fact. This is just my personal take on a subject that interests me.

Sep 28, 2007

Thieving Seagull in Scotland

This clip is amazing and hilarious, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is alive, and well, and thieving in Scotland: Click here for an amazing sight.

Seen on the Blogosphere

If y'all haven't ever read the Daily Mail, you should for your laugh a day. A crazy woman named Sally Ann Voak claims that fat people can't ever be happy: "In all my years of helping overweight people to slim, I have never met a happy fat person. There is no such thing - nobody likes looking in the mirror and seeing a fat body."

It must be nice to be so perfect, Sally Ann. On that same page there's a link to an article about the Sex in the City movie shoot, claiming the women are feuding. I didn't read it, but I sure liked the purty pixtures. Looks like Sam and her friends are up to the same old things. Er, aren't these women getting a little long in the tooth to be playing single 30 somethings?

Last, my blogging friend Big Fella got linked in USA Today. His post about Bush's reliance on phonetic spelling while he reads his speeches is a hoot. Congratulations, Big Fella!

Sep 26, 2007

Top Chef 3: The Final Three

Oh, my, talk about being blindsided! Dale not only won the elimination challenge, he kicked ass with the huckleberry/blackberry sauce for his elk. Not only is Dale going to the finals, but he outperformed Brian. That truly surprised me.

Casey's Elk looked awfully raw and the judges did not like her cauliflower puree, but she is going on. Her Quickfire Challenge win was well-deserved, and it placed her in a position of strength for the Elimination Challenges
Hung, our kitchen precisionist, talked the most eloquently about what it meant to be a chef. Let's hope he is able to rise to the occasion next week and put both heart and soul into the final challenge.

And that leads us to the other huge surprise: Three chefs will be competing in the finals. My oh my oh my. I couldn't have been more wrong in my previous post than if I tried. I was certain Dale would leave and that only two chefs would make it to the finale.

Who Will Be The Final Two Top Chefs Standing?

You can vote for more than one chef.

Who Will Be The Final Two?
Free polls from

Can't get enough of Top Chef these last few weeks? In addition to the usual suspects of Amuse Biatch, Blogging Top Chef, and Top Chef: They Cook, We Dish, have you hopped over to Blog by Cosmo Marius and Eric Three Thousand. Their takes on last week are especially enlightening.

Ms. Place's Ideal Date

Handsome, studly, must be willing to hunt, gather, and cook. Must love the great outdoors, clean up well and be willing to provide a romantic atmosphere. Too bad this catch of the day, Eric Ripert and guest TC3 judge, is married.

Sep 25, 2007

Yum Sugar's Interviews With Gail Simmons

Click here to read Parts 1 & 2. Very illuminating.

Top Chef 3: The sexes in the professional kitchen

When I wrote my previous post I had not read Gail Simmons' blog. It's amazing how I echoed her sentiments about female chefs. The war of sexes in the kitchen rages on. Here are her calm reasoned comments. She is obviously speaking from experience, whereas I was shooting from the hip:

Another notable issue in this Quickfire was that of gender. Casey touched upon it when she entered the Le Cirque kitchen and I have to add my point of view. Many years ago, upon graduating from culinary school, I was sent out into the world of New York restaurants and decided my first stop would be Le Cirque, in its previous location at the New York Palace Hotel. I was just an apprentice and was initially assigned to the hot appetizer, pasta, and risotto station. Although I learned an enormous amount, I was the only female in a kitchen consisting of well over 40 people, from dishwashers to sauciers. It was a very difficult place to work. Along with the obvious physical stresses that any kitchen imposes, there was an undercurrent that made me feel as if I had to prove myself just a little more than everyone else because I was a girl.

Could I have imagined it? I used to think so. But now I know Casey noticed it too. It appears as though not much has changed since I was there, judging from her experience. And do not think I believe this is by any means an anomaly. It pains me to think that even in 2007, most top kitchens in the country are still heavily male dominated.

As Peachpie pointed out in the comment section of my previous post, (thank you for the tip, dahling), here is Robert M.'s answer.Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill!


Why the constant feminist rants? It's really getting tired and annoying. The simple fact is, being a chef or a line cook in a top restaurant is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding and brutal and men, by simple luck of nature, are IN GENERAL (NOT ALWAYS) better suited to the task.

I especially don't understand how someone like you, who's been fortunate enough to work in some of the greatest kitchens, can implicity accuse the entire industry of being sexist and misogynistic. To me it's a copout and an excuse. If you want to continue to use this forum as an outlet of your own personal agenda, you better back it up.


Sep 24, 2007

Top Chef 3: Where's the Drama?

Try as I may I cannot think of anything witty or snarky to say about the last Top Chef 3 episode. It was everything I wanted a Top Chef episode to be: great challenges, fabulous cooking, outstanding guest judges, and a fair final judgment.

Bravo finally delivered and the chefs rose to the occasion, even Sara, whose food probably tasted better than the judges intimated. But someone had to go, and raw meat that should be cooked is seldom attractive, except to my pooch. Sara made the huge mistake of not crossing her T’s and dotting her I’s, as she said on the show. Her Chowhound interview was also illuminating.

So four chefs are left, and here is what I think of them:
Hung: I will always associate the words “finesse, grace, style, and elegance” with Hung, and no matter how hard he tries to be a CPA, this cheftestant shows too much insecurity to be a true bad ass. His statements about coming over as an immigrant and having big dreams revealed much to me: I know how you feel bro. Be that as it may, Hung is a classically trained chef who knows his way around a kitchen, even a strange one. His confidence in his technical skills is unsurpassed among the other chefs, but it is like Dale said – Does he have heart? In addition, if Hung makes the finals he will suffer from his lack of popularity among the other cheftestants. If the past is any indication, Hung will probably have the opportunity to choose two former cheftestants as sous chefs in the finale. As we know, both Tiffany and Marcel were sabotaged by their teams, so the future does not bode well for Hung who is not regarded a team player.

Casey: She surged ahead of the pack in recent weeks to become the final female contender. In fact she's on such a strong roll that she’s a shoe-in as one of two finalists unless she does something in the semi-finals to mess up. Bravo needs a female chef in the finale this third go ‘round or else the series risks turning into a male bastion joke. As an aside, I find it pathetic that for three seasons only one female in four makes it to the semis, and, no, I don’t buy that male chefs are better than their female counterparts. Also, our perception of Casey as a weak contestant is Bravo’s fault. In the beginning they depicted her as a pretty, ornamental woman in the kitchen, one whose skills were uneven. Now, I really have to struggle to think of Casey as a viable candidate. That was bad editing, Bravo. Should Casey win, people will always wonder if she was chosen not for her abilities but because it was time a woman won the competition. As for particulars, I will always remember Casey’s outstanding taste test challenge and the abysmally slow way she chopped those onions.

Dale: We’ve had fun dissing his taste, but he has emerged as verbally the most colorful character. Some of his better lines during the last show were:

"Some of you watching this will think you can do this. Well you know what, most of you can’t because it’s really effin hard."
Looking at the chefs from the Culinary Institute: "It’s kind of like the last supper. Jesus’ apostles of culinary greatness."
"Brian, what is that big green turd on that plate because it was crazy."
"Cooking is love; you can taste it when the chef has not had his heart broken; and you definitely know that you got laid tonight."

Dale's cooking skills are uneven, however, and I just have never thought of him as top chef material. Case in point: when the chefs had $200 and an hour to shop for their elimination challenge ingredients he glommed onto Casey. Here’s some bad news, Dale: Any friend of Casey’s gets cut from the competition. Beside the fact that you are terrible with details (forgetting the honey sauce) you also were the one cheftestant most eager to pick Hung’s brain about the quickfire challenge to find out how that dish was made. My prediction is that you will be the first of the four to go during the semi-finals.

Brian: In her interview with Chowhound, Sara expressed her desire for Brian to make it to the finals. One other blogger intimated that Brian had made it quite far, and so the signs point to Brian triumphing in some way. I wouldn’t be unhappy with a Brian/Casey showdown, but I am rooting for Hung. Yes, Brian is an executive chef, but for someone in his exalted position, he has shown very little consistency. He was a terrible leader during Estaban Cortazar’s party, but to be fair, his leadership skills are superior to Hung’s.

I would like to see a Hung/Casey showdown, but would be satisfied with a Casey/Brian finale. Whoever makes it, there’s a decided lack of buzz about this Top Chef 3 finale. In the past two seasons, anony-mouses came out in droves, snarling at anyone who didn’t support their top candidate. Where are they? The comments on my blog this TC season are as polite and convivial as the cheftestants have been towards each other. So my main question at this point is: Where’s the drama?


These are some of my favorite rides from my travels. Click on lavender words:

Paris metro rides

Ride up the Eiffel Tower

Japanese bullet train (shinkansen) ride from Tokyo to Kyoto, past Mt. Fuji

Train/Gondola ride up Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

Sights along the road on the ride to Kandy, Sri Lanka (missing are the elephants, cattle, and water buffalo)

Maglev Train, 6 minute, 300 mph ride from Shanghai to Pudong Airport

Ride down Lombard Street, San Francisco

Ride on the Chain of Craters Road Through Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Car ride for 12 miles on 90 mile beach, North Island, New Zealand. Here's a 19 second clip of motorcycles. Awesome.

Helicopter ride over Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Balloon ride to watch the sun rise, Virginia

Train ride up Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Glider ride, Vermont
Riding in a sea kayak through a forest of kelp in Monterrey Bay, past rafts of sea otters and curious seals.

We were able to view these active, curious creatures up close.

Disclaimer, except for the first two photos, none of the pix or videos are mine.

Sep 22, 2007

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in New Zealand

Here are five clips of Anthony Bourdain in New Zealand. Together, they comprise one No Reservations episode from Season 1. Caution: The scene of hunting the wild boar, killing it, and preparing it for dinner is rough. I had a hard time watching it. However, if you want a glimpse of New Zealand and Kiwi life, this is a good approximation. Yes. The scenery is THAT fantastic and varied. Total viewing time of all five videos is around one hour. Click here to watch.

Click here for an article about his talk in New Zealand titled Vegetarians are Too Sick to Fight Back, in which he disses vegetarians, Jamie Oliver, and Americans who won't eat local cuisine. Hah!

The photo is of Anthony in Paris, also a Season 1 episode.