Monday, August 16, 2010

Across the Universe

So, how about that superstring theory? Not something you hear around the water cooler, but it’s something I’ve been deep in thought about lately. I think it’s the culmination of some things I’ve read/seen lately, that electrifying moment where all of the separate information floating around finally swirls together in a recognizable shape. Epiphany!

Let’s back up, with a small story. A month ago, Mateo and I were butterfly-swinging on the swing and thinking deep late-afternoon thoughts. He said, “Even if I’m in space, I’m touching everyone on earth,” and further explained, “I touch air in space, and people touch air on Earth, so I’m touching them, too.”

Needless to say, the kid’s a genius. He rudimentarily explained entanglement theory, which is related to superstring theory, and he’s not even five. Mateo moved on in that swing ride to humming tunes to himself, but I’m going to dwell on the science a bit more. Essentially, superstring theory is the notion that there are not three, not four, but ten dimensions of space in our universe. Ten! (Well, 11, counting time). Most too small to see, probably hiding within the deepest, tiniest recesses of atoms. Vibrating within those dimensions are tiny loops (strings) of energy that are tuned to their function—much like a guitar’s different vibrations produce different pitches, the strings’ vibrations make a particle act as it does… like telling a tree molecule to be tree-like. The strings are within all—it’s The Force, if you want to get all Star Wars. It makes much more sense (with visual aids) in this fascinating, concise TED video.

Entanglement theory ties to string theory because it basically states that, like the shared energy powering us all, particles and objects are quantumly connected even if they are spacially separated. Some scientists (like Mateo) even say that space is an illusion of perception, that all particles are still touching and closely entangled. Note: I’m pretty sure I read about this in The Lost Symbol, so blame Dan Brown for any inaccuracies. Citation!

Another (less technical and more emotional) TED video is a MUST WATCH. This neurologist had a stroke in her left cortex, which allowed her the unique perception of right-brain-vision. She explains how the right brain perceives this entanglement and transcendent “one-ness” already (relating how she saw her arm molecules float and mix with the wall molecules). It’s that logical, scolding left brain that sets our boundaries and fools our perception into thinking we are bodily separate from the particles of other things. Isn’t that mind-blowing? That we could be in a totally different reality, one in which the lines are blurred, where the pixels of your image float and blend with everything around you? I wish I could turn off my left brain for a minute, just to experience this… oh, wait. It’s called LSD.

In sum, these are the individual thoughts that converged into my latest epiphany—I call it The Isolation Paradox. You’re thinking, “Iso-what? I’m bored already.” If you’re still reading this lengthy rumination at all, that is. If you are, thanks! The rest won’t be long, I promise.

Theory Nutshell: we’re all touching/breathing the same air, our molecules are entangled and mixing, and everything is operated by a central string force. We’re all One. Therefore, isolation is an illusion. This is great news for all the lonely people (where do they all come from?), but bad news for those who want to be isolated. Which brings me to the theory: when one tries to isolate oneself out of fear, it only exacerbates the problem and causes destruction, because isolation is illusory*. Two examples:

1) Crime. I got this example long ago in college from a book by theologian Parker J. Palmer. He talks about how when people think they’re isolating themselves from crime—gated communities, “white flight” to the suburbs, etc—it actually creates more crime because the divisions between the groups widen, causing a greater rich/poor gap, stronger negative stereotypes (which breed misunderstanding and conflict), and generally more fear as people hunker down into their “protected” bubbles.

2) Germophobes. This is a micro-isolation, but also an illusion; if you’re connected to everything molecularly, I’m sorry, but a bottle of hand sanitizer ain’t gonna protect you from the millions of foreign particles that cycle in and out of your body. It will, however, make you more vulnerable to germs, because you are killing off the body’s natural bacterial defenses while the germs evolve to resist your feeble attempts at sanitation.
Lesson: buying into the isolation illusion only causes destruction and suffering. I’m not talking momentarily “alone time,” mind you, but the sustained separation from the other, motivated by fear. It’s a free ticket to dehumanize, which abets all kinds of evil. Seeking separation from harm paradoxically causes more harm.

The paradox works both ways, though: only when one embraces the connectedness can one reduce fear, reduce vulnerability. Open yourself to make yourself less vulnerable. Interesting, no? Get in touch with that neglected right brain, with the Oneness of the universe, and see that separation, foreign-ness, and safety are all illusions. A terrifying yet comforting thought. Another paradox!

Comforting, too, to young ones with limited power-- the other day, my little genius was playing a game of “be faster than dad’s high five.” When he missed the cat-like reflexes of his dad’s hand, he stated: “I still got you—my had was touching the air, and the air is touching your hand.” He may grasp the infinitely interconnected laws of the universe, but he's not above using it to best his Daddy.

*Greg doesn’t think this is a word. He’s silly like that sometimes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Presto --> Pesto!

Okay, so there may have been a promise to share the witty little tidbits uttered from the mouths of babes during the recent trip... consider that promise broken. Not my fault! I got my tablet reimaged, yada yada yada, that document no longer exists. It sucks, does it not? Thankfully I still have my 500+ pictures as proof that the Kleinhanses Did Black Hills.

So, what to write about... it's on the tip of my tongue, literally: food! Pesto, to be exact. It's that time of year, when the ears of corn grow heavy, the tomatoes swell ruddy and sweet, and the bushes of basil reach the point where it's either cut them down or allow them to take the yard by force. Back off, basil--I'll eat you up, I love you so!

Pesto, like vinaigrette, is stupidly simple and infinitely flexible. The name is a variation on the Italian verb for "pound," or so says Wikipedia. One is supposed to do such pounding with a mortar and pestle (which I do have, because I'm ancient, but don't use, because I'm lazy). I saved myself a sore forearm by using a borrowed Magic Bullet (shout out to Tali!), which is magical indeed when it comes to pounding pesto. Here's my very rough recipe:

-plastic grocery sack full of basil leaves
-4 cloves garlic
-about 1/4 cup parmesean cheese
-however much olive oil makes basil damp enough to puree well (1 cup, maybe?)
-little salt

Blend in small batches in Magic Bullet until soupy in consistency, pour in ice cube trays, freeze, pop out, and store in plastic baggy in freezer. Enjoy all winter long! Note: one cube roughly equals one tablespoon, so the size is ideal for flavoring recipes from pasta to sandwich spreads to this stellar roasted red pepper soup I concocted.

Note #2: most pestos include chopped pine nuts, and I've done this before, but the actual flavor of the nut is somewhat lost in the bodacious basil flavor, so I omit; according to Wikipedia, that means my pesto is actually a "pistou" now. Fancy! Don't get me wrong, I love love love the mild crunch of a pine nut atop a lovely caprese salad (another August favorite!), but I'm not about to drop $12.99 on a jar (seriously, that's their actual cost) for texture alone. Use walnuts, or something, if you feel like a nut. Note #3: this is probably the only time I will ever counsel the use of walnuts. Ick.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


And we're back! Betcha didn't know I was gone, eh? That's because I'm stealthy like that. Cat-like. Has "cat-like reflexes" become a cliche? And didn't it originate in Tommy Boy? If both of these are true, I have a deeper respect for David Spade's influence on our cultural consciousness.
Anyhoodle, we were up in the hills, y'all-- the Black Hills, in the great state of SD. Surprisingly, this was our first whole family vacation; I've taken mini-vacations with the boys, and longer vacations with Greg, and even some trans-atlantic jaunts with my own self, but this was the first four in a car, cooler of bars, nest of brochures, gift-shoppin', fanny-packin', roof-stackin', old fashioned family vacation. It was a blast! The boys did pull the "are we there yet?" card before each (endless) tourist destination, but they got along famously, especially in light of the fact that the cooler took up one of the window seats in back, leaving a small opening for their two excited little butts.

It was a flashback-fest, too, because the Salbergs journeyed to the Hills when I was Kaden's age for one of our best family vacations... and that's probably why I always think of the Hills as being very 1987. Doesn't it seem that way, though? Not in a bad sense, or anything: Flintstone Park hasn't changed since my youth, fanny packs are still omnipresent, and every other apparel shop is itching to deck you out in hair-band regalia for Sturgis. See what I mean?

Some things never change

Okay, so I may have staged that last photo to resemble the 80s version. What of it? We still blazed our own path, even as we stayed in some of the same locales, and amassed a heap of new memories. Including some choice sound bites from the boys, which I would share... if I had my tablet, where they're archived in a word document. Never fear-- I'll get it back Monday, when I will generously share the wit and wisdom of my offspring. In their place, I'll leave you with the most glorious lake in this great nation:

Lake Sylvan, I adore thee!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Attack of the Junebugs

Reprinted with permission of myself from the Ft. Randall journal. The following is based on a true story that occured in June of 2010; no names have been changed, but several insects were justifiably harmed in the making of this story.

They don't bite, or smell, or burrow under skin (like the 90+ chiggers currently taking up residence under my flesh), but there is something about those big, bumbling Junebugs I just loathe. Case in point: June 9, 2010. Kade's baseball game at Beresford necessitated a late departure, and an even later arrival at Fort Randall-- 11 PM. Kade and I fumbled to unlock the door in the inky blackness of the moonless night and proceeded to flip on every light in the South trailer. In the words of Pretty Woman, in one of the most satisfying shopping-revenge scenes in movie history: "Big Mistake. Huge."

We heard a few ominious raps on the trailer, which soon became a full-on Night of the Living Dead scenario as every beastly Junebug and moth from miles around began head-butting the screen, glass, and metal, creating a hailstorm of 'clinks' as they mindlessly slammed themselves toward the light. Kaden and I valiantly slipped though the door to fetch our luggage, swatting our buzzy attackers (valiant but stupid-- we left the wood door open and the outdoor light on, creating a perfect spotlight on our path).

Three buggy trips later, there was only one load left: a sleeping Mateo. I dashed to car, threw open the door, and pulled a bewildered Mateo toward me. As I struggled to lift the limp 4-year-old into my arms, the light from the car's interior was drawing the Junebugs (which I keep capitalizing for some inexplicable reason) ever closer...

This is the part where, if this were a movie, everything would go all slo-mo as the muddy soldier lifts his wounded budy into his arms and musters all of his ass-kicking mojo to can to drag him to safety. This was my moment of glory, of valor. As I hoisted Mateo into my arms, a kamikazee bug came for my head; shouting "You Bastards!" I slapped the dumb bug toward the car window, killing it on impact. I cradled my child over both arms, sprinted screaming through the whirling cloud of insects into the trailer, and leaned panting against the closed door.

But the horror had not yet ended, friends. Three nasty Junebugs had slipped behind the door and were now knocking themselves senseless against the track-lighting (this is what my large brother-in-law and junebugs have in common, apparently). "Kill them, Kaden!" I desperately ordered my gentle 6-year-old. Unable to locate the swatter, we grabbed a broom and began blindly smacking the slow insects with even slower slams of bristles in a cloud of trailer dust. We finally corned one, and I flipped the broom to the more deadly plastic edge, pounding it on the doomed bug until death was 100% certain. We located and executed the rest in a similar fashion, leaving their carcasses in full view as a warning to would-be intruders: you mess with us, we will crush your crusty little asses.

This post dedicated to Kaden, who is today no longer a gentle 6-year-old but a manly 7-year-old. Happy Birthday, soldier!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I feel that I live my life in the service of food. (I'm eating cake batter as I type this, as my keyboard will attest). But food also lives in the service of me, doesn't it? Let's just say that it's a glorious symbiotic relationship that has colored my most cherished memories and informs most life decisions. I make this comment because I've noticed that in the short life of this blog, most of the posts have been food-related. The topic scoreboard so far:

Food = 3 (including today's post)
Kids = 1
Exhibitionism = 1

Is this bad? Should I be concerned that I haven't yet posted about my firstborn, yet managed to glorify my favorite grocery store twice?

*Moment of Guilt*

Okay, moment over-- today we're talking about herbs, folks!

Glorious, glorious herbs-- these babies were a Mother's Day gift from my babies. They know that I A) love plants B) love food, and C) directly asked for an indoor herb garden. R to L: basil, rosemary, sage, and lemon thyme (I don't like parsley, which kind of ruins the Garfunkel love... but I like basil enough not to care). How neat is it to have them, fresh on my windowsill, ready to snip whenever I'm feeling the whimsical urge to add, oh, sage to my scrambled eggs? VERY neat, is the answer to that question. And just how whimsical have I gotten, you ask?

Enough for food puns! Tea thyme, anyone? Eh? Anyone? Well, it tasted good at least. I've heard that there are medicinal qualities to thyme, but I mostly just enjoyed the lemony qualities it added.

Rosemary's turn to be the star, and as you can see, this girl is a diva. The recipe for these rolls can be found here (with a less anemic-looking photograph) at Pioneer Woman Cooks (see also link love on right), one of the best food blogs EVAH! It's gorgeously photographed, scrumptious, and saucy, much like these buns. And finally, my heart swells with pride:

Let the record show that this is my first whole bird ever attempted and successfully roasted--woot! The vegetables weren't done (let's call them "crisp-tender," heavy on the crisp part), but the chicken, with the help of Betty Crocker and my herbal helpers, was perfect.

I just noticed that I don't show any use-of-basil pics, but I think it's because it's my go-to-- I use it so much that it's just not remarkable enough to compel a photo, I guess. Just you wait until August, though; I've got three more basil plants in the outdoor garden sprouting their leaves to feed my (substantial) pesto addiction throughout the cold months... I'll post my pesto methodology and give basil its spotlight in due time.

And, speaking of my outdoor herbs: I have a giant fennel bush outside that I have absolutely no idea how to use. Ideas, anyone? I mostly picked it out because they use it on Top Chef all the time, and I fancy myself at that level. Which I clearly am not.

But my herbs let me pretend to be :)

Beware the Fanged Geranium,
Professor Sprout

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mini Nugget: Midnight Snack

I usually wait until something of substance comes along, so I can post something more, uh, substantial (is it the teacher in me, that compels me to write essays?), but this is a breaking newsflash: new favorite midnight snack. This is major, people! I keep pretty nocturnal hours, so I find it necessary to refuel around 12:00 to 1 AM, usually by melting down a bunch of chocolate chips and eating them with a spoon. This works 97% of the time. But sometimes I want a salty snack, ya know?

So tonight I seized upon the french loaf on the counter (Hy-Vee bakery, 2 for $1.99, what what!), sliced off some hunks, and drizzled them with olive oil. I popped them under the broiler on low, fully preparing to later top them with whatever fun ingredients (like cheeeese) I could find in the fridge. But oh, the smell from the oven-- how can just bread and oil smell so heavenly? I love dipping crusty bread in oil/vinegar, but something about the toasting process brings them to another level. A toasty level. Of goodness. So I ditched the toppings and sprinkled on a little salt--and THAT'S IT--simple and divine. I ate 97% of the loaf.

Try it, tonight! Or if you sleep in the night time, like a normal human, then tomorrow.

Tastefully Yours,

Olive Oyl

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Million Dollar Idea: Grocery Lottery

I consider myself a bit of an armchair millionaire. I’m coming up with ideas all the time that would make me millions, if only I could set them in motion. (Ask Greg—he would roll his eyes and say “yep.”) Some ideas wouldn’t make me any money, per se… they’re just so utterly awesome that they still deserve the “million dollar” tag. Intrigued? I know. Calm down already.

To understand the idea, one must first be familiar with the NuVal system:

NuVal and I have become fast friends. It’s basically a magical scoring system that factors in the good stuff, subtracts for the bad stuff, divides by three, and multiplies by the square root of the number you’re thinking of right now to arrive at a simple score between 1-100 that shows how nutritionally sound a product is.

A sampling of scores (listed on the shelf by the price):
fresh tomatoes = 96
Fruity Pebbles = 12
chicken breast = 39
Wonder Bread = 23
1% milk = 81
Teddy Grahams = 24
shrimp = 75
raspberries = 100 (woot!)
Mac ‘n Cheese = 5 (sorry Tali)

Anything that makes bringing greater nutritional clarity and objectivity to the masses amid all the misleading commercial clutter is wonderful, in my view. Plus I like that I don’t have to physically take things off the shelf to check the nutrition facts. Laziness!

Anyhow, back to this here idea. Hy-Vee recently started featuring NuVal, which is exciting, but do you know what would be more exciting?? Being rewarded for the nutritional value of your cart! This could be as simple as providing a final points total. Hy-Vee could needs to realize what Safeway and Gordman’s already know: people love to hear how awesome they are when checking out. That’s why a cheerful voice always recites “You saved $___ today!” while tearing off your receipt at these places; it leaves the customer feeling accomplished, and maybe even compels them to come back and beat their old score.

But wait, there’s more! A total score is fun, but why not sweeten the deal? If Hy-Vee could somehow figure out a system where your NuVal points could earn entries in a lottery, then more people would intentionally “trade up” (substituting wheat for white pasta, for example) before they hit the register.

I know what you’re thinking: “This woman is a freaking genius.” You’re also thinking: “I thought this was supposed to be a million dollar idea, not cost a million dollars. I’m confused.” Fear not, little one, for I have two words: government subsidies. Think about it—preventative care is infinitely cheaper than after-the-fact treatment of obesity and heart disease, so it would actually save us money to incentivize nutrition in this way.

The fact that it’s a lottery also cleverly targets the group that needs this program the most: the poor. These are proven facts:
1) The poorest individuals in the US are also the unhealthiest, with an especially high link between poverty and obesity. This is in part due to the fact that junk food is just cheaper—you could buy three cheeseburgers on the dollar menu at McDonald’s for what you would pay for a handful of raspberries.
2) Poor people love to play the lottery. True story. If they give you a chance at big bucks, maybe those raspberries will start to look more cost effective, and fun! (Although I think they are fun no matter what prize is attached... I heart you, raspberries).

And though everyone won’t win, everyone eventually will win: the unhealthiest Americans will be incentivized to trade up to better nutrition, customers overall will be more intentional about eating better, and everyone will choose Hy-Vee over Wal-Mart, which will die the slow and agonizing death it so very much deserves. Yay!