Endings and Beginnings

November 30, 2007 § 3 Comments

Thirty days, thirty-odd posts, and all I have to show for it is another HTML badge.

So, what have I learned from NaBloPoMo? Not much, I’m afraid. The same lessons again and again.

1) Don’t leave posting until 11:00 or you certainly won’t come up with anything profound. There’s no guarantee of profundity at any time around here— you may have noticed— but if it’s coming, it needs more than an hour.

2) Don’t count on your software to behave the same way from day-to-day. MarsEdit stopped letting me post photos of a certain size, and it decided that I didn’t want comments almost every day.

3) Tena always has something kind to say.

I didn’t get a single hit from NaBloPoMo this year, which is kind of a drag. My blog wasn’t listed on the blogroll for almost two weeks, and now even though it’s there clicking doesn’t link to me, due to an extra ” in the a tags. I could have bugged Eden about it again, but nagging someone about a 40-hour-per-week job they do for free doesn’t seem like good karma.

I think the structure is good for me, though, so I’ll attempt a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for December. I hope for more insight and less drivel, but I can’t promise anything there.

I’ll leave you with this article (from where, you ask? your guess is as good as mine) about sponges that I found in my archives yesterday.

Sponges may conjure visions of the soft and squishy, but some of those living deep beneath the sea build complex glass structures that are marvels of engineering.

The sponge, from the genus Euplectella, uses a host of tricks for turning its brittle, primarily glass skeleton into strong structures, researchers report in the current issue of the journal Science. In fact, scientists are looking to the sponge for new ideas in materials science and engineering.

The sponge first builds strong microscopic fibers by gluing together thin layers of glass. Then it gathers these laminated fibers together for even more strength. It’s like a bundle of sticks tied together — much harder to break than a single twig. The bundles are arranged in a grid that gets embedded into glass cement, so it becomes like reinforced concrete.

People use these kinds of techniques to build structures such as skyscrapers. But Joanna Aizenberg of Bell Laboratories says what’s amazing is that the sponge grows its lattice — and its glasswork doesn’t require the kind of red-hot furnace that human glass makers need.

“I cannot imagine how a structure of this sophistication can be produced,” says Aizenberg, the study’s lead author.

Since I had no memory of saving it, I’m as fascinated with those silent, alien creatures now as when I saved it (I think!).

All Things Bright and Beautiful

November 29, 2007 § 2 Comments

It could be the imminent arrival of young Xing Xing, but I’ve been craving an animal around the house even more than usual this past week. Although the only animal who lived in our house until I was ten was Sunshine, an Amazon Bluefront parrot my father bought her for Christmas just nine months before I was born (hmmm), my brother and I both starting agitating for pets pretty early on.

I thought I’d won the lottery when my Dad gave me a guinea pig on my tenth birthday. I nearly ruined the surprise by bursting in on him during his nap to tell him my friend Jamie Wescott had got the whole bus to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. But I didn’t notice the caged animal in the corner, and was truly surprised when he brought her out after supper.

Honey* and I were a great team. I changed her litter every day, lugging the tray all the way to the compost bin, often in knee-deep snow. My brother and I built her complex Lego mazes and she nibbled on every piece of homework I did at home that year (which made it a rare treat).

But she was just a foot in the door! For Seth’s birthday the next month he got a hamster, and a few months later my grandfather’s wife called to settle a bet: wouldn’t you love to take in a dog who needs a new home?

After that, it was an ever-changing menagerie: we had two more guinea pigs, at least four more hamsters, a tree frog, a turtle, and for a brief period, a Madagascar hissing cockroach. And, of course, Bowser, plus Sunshine who may outlive us all.

Our lease is pretty strict about pets, but there’s no anti-guinea pig clause. So maybe for Christmas Valentine’s Day, a foot in the door…

*Yes, yes, I know, what a ten-year-old-girl thing to name your pet after a food item, but I evened out the karma this week by saving Xing Xing from a lifetime of answering to Sassy *shudder* or Star Dust *shudder shudder*.

Living Through the Radio

November 28, 2007 § 2 Comments

Somehow I’ve so far neglected to mention the highlight of my week. Last Sunday was the first half of a two-part interview Eleanor Wachtel did with Philip Pullman last month in Toronto. If I had known he was going to cross the ocean (he vowed never to do so again) I probably would have sold both my kidney and my first-born to get there. Anyway, he was headlining a conference hosted by Trinity College (ingratiating) entitled Particles of Narrative.

According to my own Literary Pantheon, Pullman reigns supreme in the flying buttresses, lawn-bowling with Dahl and Nesbit. I constantly refer to The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife when I’m working on my own novel, and I always come away inspired and awe-struck.

Anyway, you can listen to the interview here, for a few months at least, or if you subscribe to the podcast, you can keep it and listen to it forevermore.

The second half airs on Sunday afternoon.

November 28, 2007 § 2 Comments


And suddenly, my MarsEdit/WordPress photo problems are solved, too! (Though spacing is still an issue, obviously.)

Marshmallow World

November 27, 2007 § 4 Comments

So. I’ve started Christmas cooking.

I try every year to be festive and joyous and really feel the season, but I often feel I get a rather late start. But not so this year! One of my sisters-in-law asked a few weeks ago whether I’d be able to do some candy for the parish Christmas fair, and since I’ve been trying to say yes more often, I said yes.

And you know, it’s kind of fun. I’m planning two kinds of fudge for tomorrow and Thursday so I know the nerve-wracking work (and probably second-degree burns) are ahead of me, but I already managed to produce a whole boatload of these pretzel-chocolate-caramel-pecan thingies I’m calling Nargles. (Can you follow the logic: turtles→Junebugs→December→mistletoe→Nargles? If so, we can be friends.)


Next up was almond bark, but since I was inventing this as I went along, and wasn’t really familiar with the properties of white chocolate (who knew it seized up at the barest addition of alcohol?), it became balls rather than bark. And in the grand tradition of great inventors, I slapped a better name on— in this case, truffles— and voila! They’re just what I was aiming for!

I’m hoping for a Christmas full of traditional treats: sugarplums, glogg, candied pineapple and peel, gingerbread, mulled wine, figgy pudding, mincemeat tarts and the like. It’s exactly the kind of cooking I love, rescuing commercially-produced clichés or nearly-extinct delicacies and recreating them in their original image. Maybe with a modern twist.

But that’s not all that will be handmade this year. I’m well into a shawl that I started knitting for my mother last year but had to frog; there’s a very obvious dropped stitch about 12 rows back, but it will have to wait. Also in the works (or at least the consideration stage): watercolors, wrist warmers, a couple of chutneys and maybe a hat. We shall see. I’d like to do a bunch of bath bombs from Not Martha, but since many of these gifts will be shipped, their fragility may dissuade me.

So far I haven’t dared break out any holiday tunes aside from a couple of Sufjan Stevens anti-Christmas songs, but I do believe that will be a fitting way to end NaBloPoMo.

Only three more days!

Boring Site News

November 27, 2007 § 1 Comment

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly: my comments are fixed! That means they should stay open when I leave them open (they’ve been shutting themselves down behind my back; lying about being open on my computer while they were shut to everyone else). And once again I’m first to know when someone leaves a comment; the email notification was another feature that spontaneously went on strike.

So, please! Leave a message, and I’ll get back to you.

And if the new banner is burning out your eyes, don’t worry. I’m on that, too. It looked much prettier on my screen than on yours, trust me.

Special thanks to Stephen Parrish for bringing the matter to my attention, repeatedly.

Shameless Puppy Photos

November 26, 2007 § 4 Comments


This is Xing Xing, my parents’ new puppy. Since they put Bowser to sleep at the beginning of the month, they’ve missed him terribly. So has Frisco, the dog my mother adopted a few years ago to keep Bowser spry in his old age. Apparently a parrot and a turtle do not a pack make; Frisco has lost some weight and keeps waiting for his old housemate at mealtimes and walks.

And so, someone new, to take the edge off.

She’s just learning to walk and should be home around Christmas. Although I won’t be home, it’s nice knowing there will be two little tyrants running the place again.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for November, 2007 at Tempest in a Teacup.