Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hand it Over, Potato Beetle

Thus Spake Zuska has an interesting post about a conversation with a farmer at a farmer's market. It highlights what hard work farming is, and made me think about some of the choices we have to make, or that we make perhaps without even thinking about them.

For example, do we want perfectly organic veggies that have never been touched by pesticides, or do we want veggies that have not been gnawed on by bugs?

Do we want food that takes a lot of effort to grow, and therefore costs more, or do we want food that's produced largely mechanically and is cheap?

I like cheap! I like perfect-looking, bug-free produce! I also recognize that a few bug nibbles won't hurt me, and that people who do the hard work of producing food should be fairly compensated for it.

Food is one of those things that's kind of just always there (if you're fortunate), you eat all the time and you're always getting and preparing and consuming food, but as soon as you start to think about it even a little it becomes very interestingly complicated.

Fraught, even. You don't not have an opinion about it, if you stop to think.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wordly Musings

Some things stick with you.

Like, I haven't read (or had read to me) Winnie-the-Pooh since I was about, I don't know, 30 years younger than I am now.

It was never my super favorite set of stories anyway. I preferred Kipling's Just-So Stories.

But for some reason I have long remembered this bit from that one story where Pooh eats too much honey and gets stuck in the tunnel trying to get out of Rabbit's house:
"I thought at the time," said Rabbit, "but I didn't want to say anything,"said Rabbit, "that one of us was eating too much," said Rabbit, "and I knew it wasn't me," he said.
OK, that was me writing it down from memory. Thanks to the wonders of books that have gone out of copyright, I shall find an online version and check my work, which we may do here here in Chapter 2.

And I got it pretty close to right, except it's "only I didn't like to say anything," instead of "but I didn't like to say anything" (which I might have known, since it's more English) and the original does not italicize "me."

Also, this version renders the line as "one of us has eating too much," but that doesn't really make sense even as an old-fashioned Britishism, so I'm going to assume it's a typo.

The point is, I kind of love this. I love the way the language keeps looping back with the "said Rabbit," catching the sort of jumpy way he's talking, and the way it finally wraps up by switching to a decisive "he said."

It's stuck in my head for years and years, I suppose because I always kind of liked it, and only now it occurs to me to remember it again and think about why I liked it.

I'm only slightly likely to go re-read the whole book to better appreciate any other bits of fun prose, but I guess I'll always have that nearly-accurate memory of that one deliciously choppy line. I mean, unless I forget it.

On a slightly related topic, I also see here in Chapter 2 a use of quotation marks that you do see in older books, where they put quotes around the idea of what a character is saying, rather than using them to signify the exact words used.

For example, here in chapter 2 of Winnie-the-Pooh we have Pooh asking if there's any more to eat, followed by the line,
Rabbit took the covers off the dishes, and said, "No, there wasn't."
It doesn't actually make sense that he would say "no, there wasn't"--wasn't is past tense, as is the story as a whole, but the question "is there any more?" is present tense, so the answer really ought to match. We would expect Rabbit to say "no, there isn't" instead.

So today we would either leave the quotation marks out of that line and just write,
Rabbit took the covers off the dishes, and said, No, there wasn't.
Or we'd match the tense to that of the question and write,
Rabbit took the covers off the dishes, and said, "No, there isn't."
I just finished Jane Eyre (no, I had never read Jane Eyre before, yes, as a former English major my head was perpetually hanging in shame), and that book is bristling with this kind of "quotes around the general idea of what the person said" usage. (Hmm...what kind of usage were those quotes just there? Never mind that now.)

And either way we know what's going on, so it's really not a concern for readability, but these days we tend to assume that quotes are for setting off the precise words used by a speaking character, or an exact quote from another text.

These are the words that were used! I was taking notes!

I think it's interesting that there was a time when quotation marks apparently had a more general purpose, signaling that a character said something, and this was the main gist of it, but the author isn't going to worry about exactly transcribing the dialogue.

This was basically the information someone wanted to convey, but I wasn't taking notes, so don't expect a script!

It would be a good way to get around writing differentiated character 'voices,' not that I'm saying that's what Milne or Brontë was doing.

Also, if you don't want to write dialect or accents but they would make sense for your story? This could totally save you!

I'm going to remember this when I start working on a story full of dialects and accents for NaNoWriMo.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things That Inspire Me

A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette, as usual, has some excellent advice. This is especially timely for the beginning of the school year:
All back-to-school library orientation sessions should include video footage of librarians murdering patrons who don’t follow the rules.
I'm going to get right on it.

There's also a link to this amusing 15-minute video documentary showing how this was accomplished at Eastern Kentucky University. I'm sure they have a very obedient, if small, student body.

There's no reason we can't all be producing high-caliber cautionary tales like this! I mean, other than laziness.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vegetable Digression

What is kohlrabi? I got some in my box of local farm veggies this week. I'd heard of it, but not actually owned, prepared or (as I recall) eaten it.

I could have looked it up online to learn more about it, but that would have ruined the joy of discovery, so we just ate it as suggested by a helpfully included recipe (the farm people must suspect that some of us are unfamiliar with this vegetable).

It turns out that, sliced up and roasted in some olive oil, it makes a pleasant dish that's sort of halfway between a turnip and a potato. Not as sweet as turnip, but with a turniplike texture: mild in flavor like a potato, but not quite as starchy.

It would probably go nicely in my favorite fall concoction, a mix of root vegetables all roasted together (although according to this description, it is misclassified if considered a root vegetable, since the edible portion grows above the soil).

The moral is, do not fear the kohlrabi if you happen upon one. It is a mild-mannered vegetable with a pleasing taste. And, once I finally looked it up, a long and distinguished history.

Now to do something useful with those beets lurking in the crisper drawer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Historic Events

I hear it's the 91st anniversary of votes for women in the U.S.

Also, the 40th anniversary of WorldCat.

I'm off to catalog some women's suffrage materials to celebrate.

But only on the street in my mind, because in real life I don't have any women's suffrage materials or cataloging rules with me right at the moment. Also, sitting here with a glass of wine is just as celebratory.

I'll drink to votes and massive catalogs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just a Tiny Speck of Awful

So there was this tiny adorable earthquake on the east coast this week, right? Livened up everyone's afternoon. Startling but harmless. Good times.

I was busy playing Talisman that night, so I didn't bother to write anything about it at the time.

Yes, it's all fun and games unless you live somewhere where it actually did damage. This Ain't Livin' has a guest post from someone in Virginia who reports that it wasn't actually all that tiny and adorable if you were right on top of it.

No one was killed, thankfully, but buildings were damaged to the point that they had to be condemned, which is bound to be inconvenient if you lived in or worked in or had occasion to visit those buildings.

The post suggests that no one is paying attention to the damage that was done in small towns because the damage that wasn't done in big cities is a better story. And certainly disasters in big cities tend to be worse in terms of numbers than disasters in small towns because there are more people around to get hurt, so the fact that there was no disaster in any big city is good news.

It's too bad if that means we can't notice that things happen outside of big cities, though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Go Make Me a Sandwich has a guest post offering a nice introduction to internet anonymity (crucial tip: be extremely paranoid).

It mentions metadata! Not the sort librarians apply to records, though. The type that software and gadgets automatically add to your documents and photographs (autometadata?). The post notes that metadata is not necessarily bad, but can be trouble in the wrong situation:
Pictures, for example, store all kinds of juicy things as EXIF data, including in the case of some phones and cameras, geolocation. Office documents, pdfs, spreadsheets; all sorts of things can hold data that can identify you. This junk is called Metadata. Not a big deal (it can even be personally useful) until you’re posting information, say, about unethical practices about your boss on your anonymous blog and your employer uses metadata from a posted .docx file to find out it was you. Oops. Now you’re fired. Or worse.
Again, this is not librarian metadata, but I'm all for spreading awareness of metadata in general, so cheers to the mention that, if you're not worried about anonymity, it can be useful.

Yes! Use it to organize and manage your data!

Also, be paranoid. Besides the metadata note, which yeah is probably not the interesting part to anyone but me, there are helpful tips on passwords, anonymous browsing, thoroughly erasing files, and more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brandish Once Again the Needles of Victory!

The time has come for another grand Knitting Saga! Another sister is going to be married, so I have dug up my needles and ordered a pile of worsted weight yarn. Many 9x9-inch squares shall be crafted ere this tale is done.

I initially feared I would have to buy new knitting needles as well as piles of yarn, because when I went looking for them I could neither find them nor really think where I would have been likely to have put them.

I found a number of interesting things, however, including:

  • Several tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion from various hotels
  • A tiny bottle of scotch from somewhere
  • A set of false eyelashes
  • About 6 bags from various convention booths
  • A book I got 1/3 of the way into six months ago but never finished
  • A specially designed spoon to aid in pouring Guinness over pale ale to make a Black and Tan
  • A sunglasses holder made to resemble a cicada that clips to your car visor and says Tuscaloosa
  • Large quantities of old Library Journals
  • An eyeliner pencil
  • One of those tiny plastic swords that come in fruit-flavored drinks
  • The knitting needles! Right where I left them, on the table under a pile of scrap paper 

I should probably tidy up around here. Unfortunately, I will soon be too busy knitting to worry about trifling concerns like that.

I plan to store my finished squares in a pile on the table, on top of the scrap paper.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Customs of Different Lands

I was just in Montana for a few hours, and ate at a couple of restaurants, and remembered that in Montana usually you just take your bill and pay it on the way out, whenever you're ready to leave.

In Massachusetts, on the other hand, you usually pay at the table: you give someone a credit card and they take it away and bring you back a receipt to sign. Sometimes it's kind of hard to even find a place to pay if you want to do it yourself, if they don't have a cash register set up at the front.

When I worked at a restaurant in New Mexico, we generally left people to pay on the way out, but if they asked we were happy to take their money or credit cards and bring them the receipt, so it was a sort of mixture.

Paying on the way out can be convenient, since you can just get up and go whenever you want, without waiting for someone to come take your payment. On the other hand, if you needed change to leave a tip, and then have to pick your way back to your former table, that can be a hassle.

Either way, it's not a big deal. Just what you're accustomed to.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Don't I Write You?

Interesting article on the future of the post office, which is desperately short on money and not getting a lot of business.

People just aren't sending mail the way they used to.

It's kind of sad, seeing an institution that's always been part of the way you do business in the world foundering. Sort of the way it's sad to see what's happening to newspapers.

It's the local newspaper! It's the post office! What the heck? How can that not be a major part of town? And yet, more and more I guess it's not.

How would we manage without it? What would our letter-and-package-sending life look like?
I guess we're figuring out ways to manage.

I have fondness for the post office, but I can't send enough mail to keep it alive. I dunno.

Things change, even when it's kind of unnerving.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oh, Goody!

New security procedures at Logan airport. We're always so lucky! Among the first to get the much-beloved body scanners, and now pioneering a program in which

...TSA officers will speak with every passenger passing through the Terminal A security checkpoint, asking each two or three questions, such as “Where are you traveling today?’’ or “How long have you been in town?’’

This is with an eye to seeing whether or not people look unusually twitchy and nervous, or say "oh, I'm just here to blow up a building--oops!"

Apparently they're trying it out for two months to see...I don't know. How much people love it? How many people confess?

And if it doesn't produce awesome results, I'm sure it will nevertheless be continued if someone thinks it's cool enough.

I seriously hate airport security. I mean, love! 

Love, and appreciate how much it does to keep us all safe through the process of continually making flying as unpleasant as possible.

I can't wait for my flight on Friday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check for Traps

I see that the NYT Well blog is highlighting a story about how the most dangerous room in the house is not the knife-stocked kitchen, but the slippery-tubbed bathroom.

There are some interesting statistics about the specific types of injuries that are most common in specific age groups.

Be careful in there. People tend to slip and fall getting into and out of the bath or shower.

Also, I keep all my poisons and loaded bear traps in the bathroom, so this is a good reminder to me to be especially wary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Phenomenal Cosmic Laziness

For lo these many days, I have been impatiently saying to Google Chrome, every time I open a new tab, "no, I do not want Angry Birds!"

I know everyone in the world is playing Angry Birds, and I wish them joy of it, but I find it difficult to get really engaged in a game in which you can't regularly throw fireballs at people.

But Chrome kept recommending it, every single time. There would be this image of some angry birds in a shopping bag on every new tab, just waiting for me to download the game.

There's a "hide this" link to make it go away, but I didn't click it for ever so long because I wondered if Chrome would eventually recommend something else that I might find more intriguing.

Angry Wizards, perhaps.

Finally, giving up, I did say "hide this," and now it just shows me the adorable tiny images of my eight most frequently visited sites that were long Chrome's habitual new-tab fare. They're very helpful.

The crucial point I wish to make here is this: inertia is a powerful, powerful thing.

I have never been inclined to actually download Angry Birds, and all I had to do to make the ad go away was click a link, yet I could not be bothered to do so for...I don't know, I think it's been a couple of weeks.

It's somehow easier to think, every time I open a new tab, "no, I do not want Angry Birds!" than it is to move the mouse an inch and click. Irritable thinking is free! Mouse-moving requires precious, precious effort.

Also, of course, there's my general uneasiness at ruling things out. What if I were to click that link and Angry Birds were to go away and then minutes later I suddenly wanted it?

I would obviously never be able to find it on the internet without that helpful link. There's no way to locate things on the internet! Angry Birds will be lost to me forever!

Just at the point where you start being able to throw fireballs at people!

The mind is a strange place.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

To the Bold Goes the Spoiled

In the spirit of my new belief that you should all be eating your rotten food, I took on a cantaloupe with some slightly scary-looking white mold lines on the rind.

The inside looked fine, if a little soft for my tastes, and it tasted OK. Again, a bit squishy, and I really should have eaten it a couple of days ago, but eating it now seemed like a good alternative to wasting it.

Stay tuned to see if I survive the purportedly harmless spoilage bacteria.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Food in Context

GruntDoc relates a sad story about how he loved In-N-Out Burger, cherishing it as a crucial part of every vacation trip to southern California, and thus eagerly awaited the opening of a franchise in his hometown, only to find that it just wasn't the same.

It seems that In-N-Out Burger was only that special, wonderful, perfect burger experience when it was enjoyed in the larger context of a vacation in a specific place.

I wonder if that's what happened to Krispy Kreme when it opened here in Massachusetts? Because people rave about Krispy Kreme, there were excited news stories when it came to a few locations in the Boston area, crowds gathered to enjoy the first heavenly donuts...and then a few years later it closed.

First of all, you're fighting a hard battle here against Dunkin Donuts, which owns large amounts of pastry-and-coffee-related real estate and brand loyalty in this area, but also, was it that Krispy Kreme in Boston, away from whatever connotations it had for people who loved it back home or on much-anticipated vacations, just wasn't the same?

I dunno. I had never had Krispy Kreme before, and we went once after it opened just to see what the fuss was about, and I found it to be a perfectly fine but not mind-blowing donut, plus the location was not particularly convenient to us, so we never bothered to go back.

I don't care that much about donuts anyway, so I'm probably the wrong person to be speculating. I'm trying to think if there's some other food I enjoy in a specific context that just wouldn't be the same elsewhere, but maybe I don't take enough vacations. I'm going to get right on that.

Holiday meals, I guess, are probably like that for a lot of people. You make specific traditional dishes that you always have at that holiday meal, but that you don't really make, and might not even particularly enjoy, at other times.

Context is important.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Leaving the Windows Open

On second thought, those "crickets" might actually be frogs. Calling out from over in the marshy ditch behind the building.

Hey, I haven't lived outdoors for a long time. Whatever facility I may have ever had with the identification of chirping things in the night has faded.

Anyway, it's kind of nice.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Open Windows

Oh, hey, crickets.

That's a soothing late-summer-evening sound.

And because I'm comfortably indoors, the other insect noise that frequently accompanies a late-summer evening, a mosquito whining around my ears, is gloriously absent.

Indoors is nice.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Let It All Go Bad

Good news everyone! You should feel free to go ahead and eat that spoiled food in the back of the fridge, because it's probably fine. On the other hand, if it seems fine, it may still be lethal, so you should probably let it spoil.

This Slate article helpfully explains the difference in the two types of bacteria that may be encountered in food, noting that spoilage bacteria, which makes things decompose in a repellent fashion, is generally harmless because it can't survive inside our warm, acidic stomachs, while pathogenic bacteria, which lives comfortably inside the guts of animals, may make us violently ill without causing any change in the taste, odor or texture of the food.

I think the smell and consistency of spoiled food might me violently ill, but I guess it's all what you're accustomed to and how desperate you are. This probably explains delicacies like rotten shark, and pretty much all cheeses when you get right down to it, but especially the more pungent ones.

I have eaten pungent cheeses with great enjoyment, but found the cured shark fairly disgusting and had to wash down with a hearty swig of vodka. Again, it's all what you're accustomed to.

Not stated in the article, but obviously implied to the extent that, logically, we must all base our future dietary practices upon it, is that we should not eat any normal-looking foods ever again because they could easily be harboring pathogenic bacteria.

Only food riddled with spoilage bacteria, which signal safety with their revolting presence, should be consumed by anyone who wishes to survive another day without ceaseless vomiting.

Hey, I'm just drawing conclusions here.

It is interesting, though, that the traditional test of whether or not something is still good (sniff it, examine it for unusual coloration or texture, maybe taste a tiny bit) is not really going to tell you much.

I mean, it will still tell you whether or not you personally want to eat a thing, which certainly means something for anyone with the luxury of discarding food they don't want to eat in favor of food they find less objectionable, but it apparently doesn't reliably tell you whether or not it's safe to eat it.

I guess this does explain why my cavalier attitude regarding the age of leftovers has yet to lay me low. I always figure if it's still recognizably the thing I put in the refrigerator, and doesn't stagger me with a rank odor when I open the container, then it's probably fine.

Now I know that even if it's turned into some unrecognizable, blotchy mass that fells me to the floor with its nostril-searing bouquet, it's probably fine.

I think I still won't eat it at that point, though. Because that's not what I'm accustomed to.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Philosophical Musing

Working on some catalog records, correcting one thing, I stumble across a lot of other strange errors. Misspellings, words jumbled together, etc.

It just reminded me that anytime you do something over and over and over, like typing "Electronic resources" or "Digitized and made available by Springer," you both get really good at it, so that your fingers can just whip out those words without your really even noticing, and get to where you inevitably mess up from time to time without noticing that either.

Like typing "Digitized andmade available by Springer," or "Electornic resources."

This is why I try to type this sort of thing as little as possible. Well, this and the attempt to stave off mind-numbing boredom.

'Copy and paste,' or automatic substitution phrases, can do a world of good. As long as you get it right the first time, of course.

But in general, this just reminds me that human error is ever with us. I might once have harbored idealistic dreams of having a perfect and error-free catalog, but in reality this is pretty much impossible.

We try to make it accurate, obviously, but there will always be many and various imperfections in its multitudinous records. You can't catch them all.

We fix them when we notice, but for the most part, we can't afford to fret about it. In cataloging, as in life, you do the best you can and accept that it won't be without quirks and flaws.


Monday, August 8, 2011


It's too hot. And humid. And there's too much depressing news.

It did rain buckets on my walk to the train home from work. I might as well have taken a brief dip while wearing my clothes. It was somewhat refreshing.

And there's something about getting truly drenched that just makes you shrug and say "what the heck." No point hurrying to get out of the rain now!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

On This Quite Other Hand

Reports From a Resident Alien has a fascinating post on what neurotypical people (NTs) are like, from the point of view of a neuroatypical person.

It looks at the "natural social focus" and "big picture" vision of a person with more typical brain wiring, comparing it to the way the author, who is autistic, relates to others and perceives the world.

In the way that it's interesting to read a guidebook to your own city or country, to see what the place you know looks like to someone from outside it, it's interesting to me to read this perspective on a more "factory standard" neural setup, and how it looks to someone with a different one.

I suppose my finding this interesting kind of proves the author's point, that "For NTs, a lot of the value they get out of life has to do with what other people think of them."

Why yes, I do like to know what others think of me! Do go on telling me about myself.

It's kind of wonderful that there are such different ways to approach the basic work of being a human.


Friday, August 5, 2011

I Can Keep Silent No Longer

Speaking of health, and words, and games, all of which I have spoken of at various points in the past, I have a minor gripe with the term used for healing medication in the video game Dragon Age.

It has long troubled me, and now, after months of brooding, I can no longer keep my uneasiness to myself.

See, they call their main healing effect a "poultice," and a poultice is a sort of salve or mush that you smear on yourself. This is well and good, but their visual for the use of a "poultice" is that of a character raising a vial to the mouth and drinking.

This suggests that what they actually have is a healing "potion." A potion, as you may know, is a liquid, commonly consumed by drinking. It's a perfectly good word for a classic magical healing concept.

Poultice, on the other hand, is a perfectly good word for a less-commonly-used healing concept. If you want to give some love to a less-common word, I'm all for it, but be aware of what it actually means.

And if you mean people to be using a potion, just call it a potion. There's nothing wrong with potions.

That is all.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

License! License!

Good news everyone! It doesn't matter if you try to live a healthy lifestyle or not!

The NYT Well blog reports that a study of centenarians found they were no more likely to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, or avoid smoking than were people who did not live to be 100 years old.

This, good people, is serious license for extremes of behavior. Go wild! Smoke, drink and carry on! If you have a combination of genes that supports a long life, you may live to be 100 regardless.

Of course, if you don't have that combination of genes you may not live to be 60, but whatever. Don't let that stand between you and your license.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Library Games

Remember the game where 500 people got to spend the night hunting for artifacts in the New York Public Library?

It took place on May 20, and Library Journal has a nice write-up of it. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

I think we should definitely get a similar game underway at my library soon. We're bound to have equal success, given that we are at least as renowned as the NYPL, and have at least as many cool things.

Oh, wait, actually we totally aren't and don't. We're scrappy, though.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Whine Whine

Don't you hate it when you're supposed to go to a friend's wedding celebration this weekend, but you lost the invitation, so you can neither remember nor find out when you're supposed to show up?

At least we have Facebook. The information is probably on there somewhere.

Don't you also hate it when you get a coupon for some product you wouldn't mind trying, but then you find out it doesn't exist?

I got this coupon for almond milk, and figured what the heck, I enjoy a non-dairy beverage from time to time, I'll give this particular brand and product a shot.

Then at the store, on looking more closely, I find that the coupon is for $1 off 86 ounces of almond milk. What kind of bizarrely sized container is that?

A half gallon is 64 ounces, and that is the largest container of this product that I could see on the shelf. Am I supposed to get a half gallon and then add a 22-ounce container and buy them together? Because I didn't see any 22-ounce containers either.

Look, company: if you want me to be enticed by your coupons into buying your product, you're going to have to actually sell the thing you give me a coupon for. Otherwise I'll just walk away and complain about it later to the internet.

I'm not sure Facebook can help out with this one...although the brand may have a page that I could go complain on. I should check.

Perhaps Facebook is indeed the solution to all problems!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Unamusing Movie Review: The Devil's Double

This evening we saw a preview screening of The Devil's Double.

This movie is about a guy with huge, brooding eyes who has the dubious fortune, with some minor plastic surgery and false buckteeth, of being a near perfect double for Saddam Hussein's son Uday.

He is forcibly recruited for this position, and spends his days filling in for Uday in boring meetings and generally hanging out with him and his guards, drugs, and women. In the course of these duties, he witnesses a wide variety of atrocities, because Uday Hussein is a horrible person with few limits on his ability to do whatever he wants.

That's kind of what there is to this movie.

Takeaway messages I felt the film conveyed:

Uday Hussein was terrible and we're not sorry he's dead. Power corrupts. Dictatorship is a form of government that serves very few of its citizens, although the elite will always find a way to have fabulously debauched parties while others get by as best they can. Being close to a horrible person, even if they don't always treat you horribly, basically sucks.

Valid points, if not striking ones.

It's an interesting story, based on someone's certainly very interesting actual life. I don't know that it's one that struck me personally with many deep insights, but others may have another take on it.

Another thing I couldn't help but notice is that, as often happens in movies, the lead roles are played by people who, as best I can tell (and I could be making an unwarranted assumption), are white.

No insult to Dominic Cooper, who plays Latif Yahia and Uday Hussein, or to Ludivine Sagnier, who plays the main female role, Sarrab, but you just wonder if there were no people of Arab descent in existence who could have played these parts.

Dominic Cooper resembles a dark-haired Karl Urban. His giant eyes are truly magnificent. Only Ludivine Sagnier's are more enormous and tormented. They each did a totally fine job.

I just thought that an actor who perhaps was actually from Iraq might also have been able to do a good job. But I guess we shall never know.