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February 21, 2000

I'm becoming modestly efficient at cooking for one. Since it's been barely a matter of weeks since my first attempts at anything non-nukable, I'll take some satisfaction in what progress I've made. I've tried no more than a half dozen different dishes during that time, and there are only a couple that I do with any regularity.

My specialties are recipes that require little attention. So far, cooking to me is getting something ready to go on the stove or in the oven, then walking away while it cooks. When the bell rings, I know recess is over and it's time to eat. Yes, sometimes I forget and something boils away so that I have to start over. Usually it's just water, but once in a while it's sauce. That's the price I pay for inattention. Okay, laziness, if that's what you want to call it. Whatever.

It's taken some time to develop a sense of quantities and cooking time. I've reached the point where I can prepare a pasta dish that is exactly the amount I'll eat. It's about half of what I really want, but I'm dieting, you know. And through a process of trial and waste I've been able to come up with a way to bake just enough chicken so that I'm not stuffed and nothing is left over.

More than one dish at a time? I don't think so. I'm not nearly well-organized enough to pull that off. I can time a salad well enough, but that's the closest I'd be able to come to a side dish. As for cooking for two or more, forget it. I can barely keep the pasta hot enough from stovetop to table for myself, so I'd be unlikely to have much success catering to guests. I'm so pleased to have come this far that I'm not ready to risk a demoralizing failure by overreaching.

I know I'll never be a gourmet chef. There are too many other ways I like to spend my time, and it already seems as if there aren't enough hours in the day. And while I'm relying on friends and family to answer questions and steer me away from disaster, I never had any instructions. As a child I stayed out of the kitchen, and I don't really recall ever being invited in to help. It just wasn't done in those days, for boys to take part in preparing the family meal.

But maybe it's better this way. I've always thought I learn better from books anyway, and I have two beginners' cookbooks that I refer to. It's like learning a foreign language or taking up painting. As long as no one else has to endure the initial results, it doesn't matter if I take a long time to master the skill. It's the process that matters, as in any artistic endeavor. Writing, even.

Still looking over the primary ballot, I found a few more state propositions that I've been able to check off the list without having to waste any more time on them.

  • Proposition 18, for example, would expand the death penalty. Since I'm against capital punishment under any circumstances, this is an easy no vote for me.

  • Proposition 23 would allow "none of the above" to appear on state ballots. Votes would be counted, but they wouldn't count. Another no vote for me. If you don't like the choices, either find a better candidate or don't vote.

  • Proposition 27 would allow candidates to sign a "non-binding declaration of intention" to limit themselves to three terms in the House or two terms in the Senate if they're elected. I don't like term limits, because they limit the choices voters have. If I like my representative and want to vote for her every two years, I don't want her to have to run against some pious pretender who plays to the public's fear of politicians, and gets to have his useless promise printed on the ballot.

  • And Proposition 28 would repeal the tobacco surtax we passed in 1998. Money used from the tax pays for anti-smoking education, which studies have shown to be effective. I'm voting no on this one, too.

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