Monday, September 24, 2012

Trials and tribulations at the library

At the end of July I checked three books out of the library. Then I brought them back and checked out three more books. On August 15 I got a notification that the books I had already returned were overdue. So I called the library and said, I did return those books, and they marked them as "Claimed returned."

Shortly afterwards I tried to renew (online) one of my new books, and it said I was not allowed to renew this book because I had three OVERDUE books. Okay. I decided to go back to the library and discuss this with a person.

Then Hurricane Isaac intervened. I had checked all these books out from a branch library, but they actually belonged to the main library. On the Saturday after Isaac, my branch library was still closed but the main library was open, so I went down there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The pronoun problem

Pronouns are little tiny words that, really, carry a much larger weight than seems appropriate for their size. Pronouns mean a lot. In English, we use different pronouns to refer to men and women. Not all languages have gender-specific pronouns (and some languages go overboard with gender and decide that chairs are female and love is male.) But here in English, when we say "he" or "she" we are frequently piling all of our assumptions about gender onto that small word. We look at someone and decide which pronoun to use for them. And if they tell us that we got it wrong . . .

I myself have been struggling with the pronoun problem. I am trying to fit my definitions of gender into one tiny word. It's a pain. But I can't live with the tiny word I was assigned at birth. So I have to change it. I am trying to decide between "he" and "ze." They each have their pros and cons.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lazy Manicotti

Did you know that you don't have to mess around with manicotti (stuffed shells) or lasagna noodles? You can use all the same ingredients to make a much easier dish. This recipe is from the New York Times International Cookbook (1971 edition.)


  • 1 lb. fresh spinach leaves (or 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry)
  • 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb. tubelike pasta such as penne or elbows


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Rinse fresh spinach leaves, put them in a large pot, and steam for just a couple minutes, until wilted. You shouldn't have to add any water - just use the water that clings to the leaves. Once they have started to wilt, stir so that the uncooked leaves go to the bottom.
  3. Pour spinach into a colander and let cool for a while. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much of the water as you can.
  4.  In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, tomato sauce, and eggs. Season with parsley, pepper and salt (if desired.)
  5. Rinse out the spinach cooking pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta for only two minutes (four minutes if using whole-grain pasta.) You want it to be seriously al dente. Drain and add to the ricotta mixture.
  6.  If desired, spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Otherwise, just oil the pan. Pour everything into the pan and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
  7. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until pasta is soft but not mushy.
Notes: the original recipe calls for 3 eggs, additional Parmesan in the filling, and two pounds of spinach (including stems.) I buy spinach leaves and 1 pound seems to be sufficient. I haven't tried it with frozen spinach myself. Also I don't always have parsley on hand.