mint jelly

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mother Lu's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie:

I’d like to share my great-grandmother’s pumpkin chiffon pie recipe, a Thanksgiving tradition from my maternal grandmother’s mother.

Mother Lu’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie:

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 9” baked pie shell
  • whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Mix gelatin, dark brown sugar, salt and spices thoroughly in saucepan.
  2. Stir in water, milk, egg yolks and pumpkin and mix well.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until starts to bubble and mixture mounds slightly when dropped from spoon. Set aside in refrigerator to cool.
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff.
  5. Beat white sugar into stiff egg whites.
  6. Fold gelatin mixture into stiffly beaten egg whites/sugar mixture.
  7. Turn into baked pie shell and chill until firm.
  8. Serve with whipped cream.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo BloPo

This is my NaNoWriMo blog post. While I and many others have failed to complete the simple task of posting once a day for thirty days, some excellent people are actually meeting the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, and writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

One such writer is Viviane Schwarz, UK-based author and illustrator of children’s books. She’s one of my most favorite twitter friends I’ve not met yet in person. Based on her updates, I know she can install Unix or make herself a dress out of old Marvel comic bedsheets while inking hamsters. Once she said her printer was too shiny so I sent her a bunch of stickers I collected over the years in DC, NYC, and around. In response, she sent me a rachelortas.co.uk bunny postcard, some English-flavored stickers with words like “rotsome” and “slime-wanglers,” and best of all, some hand-inked cutouts of characters from her books!

I love them so much (sorry for the lack of pictures for now, i suck).

Viviane and Frank Brinkley have a great interview in Qype does London about their motivations and impressions doing NaNoWriMo so far. I think many writers can identify with (or aspire to) a lot of things they have to say:

“Viviane Schwarz: The most surprising thing so far was that for the first time I managed to write personal things without being at all bitter. I normally write happy things for small children, and when I write longer texts for myself all the anger and sadness I’m not normally allowed creep in and the whole thing becomes rather nasty. I always worry that I’ll write awful things about real people by accident and it will be unpublishable (because I wouldn’t want to get in trouble with them). But writing at this speed, without thinking about it much beforehand, I don’t have time to get worked up about what I feel. It’s coming out funny and honest rather than obsessive. I based one of the characters on myself and it’s surprising what she’s like - not as nice as I thought in some ways, not as bad as I thought in others. Sometimes when I finished writing for the day I realise I have mellowed towards people who irritated the heck out of me, just because I wrote about it and understood my own part in it better.”

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writers and the First World War

An interesting article on why writers define the first world war. “As well as its other horrific innovations, this was the first occasion when those in the firing line could record their experiences.”

After reading everything I did in grad school, I feel like EVERYTHING harkens back to the influence of writers coming out of WWI and WWII. One of my self-defined categories for books in my bookshelves is for books like these. 

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I am Irregular

Dammit!

I missed posting yesterday. Woke up this morning and that was one of my first thoughts.

It’s not that I forgot. As is typically my way, I remembered a bunch of times, but in each of those moments, I was otherwise occupied or responsible for something that I gave a higher priority: emails, food, configuring the interweb, reading massive amounts.

Still, how lame. What’s that — 10 days in?

I decided to do NaBloPoMo exactly because posting on my blog has almost never been a daily or regular event for me. While I can write on demand (or speak on demand, no performance anxiety here) I’ve always preferred to leave posting to times I’m excited about something, or feel that something is timely enough that I can’t let it pass without mentioning. I have some posts just waiting around in my head, a couple for years that may never get written.

I’m a bad blogger, but I never meant to be a blogger. I don’t really read blogs anymore, not the personal kind, except for a couple exceptions, just the way this isn’t really a personal blog anymore.

Last night, it would certainly have been easy enough to post one line, to post a photo, a link, so why didn’t I do that at some point when I remembered (or when I made a change to something here on the back-end of mintjelly)? Well, because after remembered about 4 times throughout the day, and having it in my to-do list, I forgot. By 6:30pm last night (an arbitrary time for me, but I realize this is when most people are heading home), my mind got taken over by domestic, financial, and unpaid-job responsibilities, and then my brain shut down and I forgot to remember again. This morning, my missing post joined in with the chorus of other terrors that wake me too early, along with this curious pain around my back and sides.

I’ve always wished I was a regular type of person. A person who goes to bed and wakes up at the same time, works out on a regular schedule, calls people on Sunday, always goes to the store on Monday, and so forth. But I never have. Any time I try, it lasts from between a week and a month. I do always keep doing whatever I’m doing, just on my own schedule. In most cases it works out fine, in the case of this experiment of NaBloPoMo, I have disappointed, but not surprised myself. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The Disinitermediation Era and the ELO

This is the beginning of The Disintermediation Era, according to Tara Hunt at horsepigcow.com. If your job is based on managing a false scarcity of information, she writes, you’re screwed. Originally, the role of middle man was to facilitate, to introduce and provide, but today “these middle-men are our modern villains — using every desperate trick in the book to hold onto customers while we find creative ways to go around them, go straight to the source and sometimes just do it ourselves.”

We’ve all been wondering what the future will look like, some for longer than others. Michael Hart, former editor and founder of Project Gutenburg has been trying to digitize books since the early 1970’s. The goal is to have digitized 10 million eBooks translated into 100 different languages, one billion ebooks, by 2030.

Hart sound remarkably relaxed for someone who’s been at it for almost four decades:

Well, from 1971 to 1988-89 no one paid any attention so it was just me with tilting at windmills, but I knew eBooks and eLibraries should be two of the great wonders of an entirely new world, so I was never tempted to give up–never. I just had to wait for the world to catch up.

Believe it or not people were still saying eBooks were never going to make it just a few years ago. Look for a quote in the Wall St. Journal: “Ebooks are never going to make it.” Before that the NY Times: look for: “twitchy” screen. However now that it’s obvious they are moving eBooks on their own, but I can’t tell how serious they are. They may just be following the rule of simple reporting: “Follow The Money.” If eBooks fall flat will they all just move on and pretend there was never any interest?

The first goal of PG was just to prove eBooks feasible. My own estimations were that it would take about 10,000, and that seems to have proved correct as Google called me in to advise them ASAP after we hit 10,000, and we went to do just that on December 14, 2003: and they announced they had invented eBooks and eLibraries December 14, 2004. However, they did the opposite, or rather exact opposite of what I said they should do and look what happened. Most of the big legal fray is because they were more money oriented, and as such may have intentionally played the copyright cards that got them in the big legal hassles. If they had started out by emphasizing the public domain it probably would have worked out a lot better for them in the press as the good will they would have built up would have gone a long way.

Personally, I am OK with nearly any eBook format that is compact and search quote friendly.

I am very down with Gutenburg’s goals, and very attuned to Hart’s fears and projections:

The laws will be tested as it becomes more and more obvious that there is no longer any copyright expiration…ever…permanent copyright!

It will cost more than Iraq, more than Wall St. Each 20 years of copyright extension removes a million public domain books, not to mention newspapers, magazines, music, movies, etc., etc., etc. If you count a lifetime of access to one of those million books worth $.01, then think how much it costs 300 million people to lose a million books each, as public domain, for their entire lifetimes.

The powers that be don’t want a very literate well educated public. Did you ever watch Roots? Remember the slave who went to Harvard Law School??

I’m afraid that the following catch phrase will take on ever more meaning:

“The Information Age: For Whom? Only Those Who Can Pay For It?”

The goal of Project Gutenberg has always been to create “An Information Age” not as something on the order of “The Digital Divide,” but something greater in terms of bringing literacy and education to the masses free of all charge and in a way the vast majority can access instantly.

Be sure to read the whole article, especially if, like me, you’ve become a bit obsessed with the question of who owns what pieces of information (publishers? google? authors/musicians/artists?), what happens between creator and audience, and what happens to the creation once it’s out in the world for a while. How can people get paid for their work, and how can they share, gain, or provide some sort of larger benefit through their work?

The answer (or beginnings of an answer) whether this is something we feel as a fluttering in our bellies or as an ache in our bones, exists somewhere near social publishing and crowd-sourcing.

At the same time, formally untapped audiences and contributors previously denied access to publishing’s pipeline aren’t just “seizing the tools of production” they’re also reclaiming public speech and communication — the means by which they can create and promote work (which up until recently was dominated by highly groomed and targeted messages, bought and paid for by corporate gatekeepers. Knowing this, marketers have been trying for years to blend their bottom-line messages in info-tainment, edu-tainment, or playing ventriloquist through media channels huge and tiny). There’s no more bulk rate for junk mail and another rate for a civilian’s greeting cards, there’s the broadcast potential of the internet.


I probably shouldn’t write while listening to relatively obscure older punk rock (operation ivy and fifteen) that’s triggering a simultaneous offline conversation about what it meant to rely on one’s social circle and geo-location to find new ideas and culture (for example, being 14 years old in 1989, finding via mixtape and word-of-mouth)... if I can get out of my own way for a sec, I’m trying to eventually point you to Poetryspeaks.

Via Publishers Weekly, I’ve finally checked out Poetryspeaks.com and it sounds like a boon for poets, publishers, and poetry lovers. I think poets will also have a better shot at selling their works when audiences can buy as few or as many as they’d like from a variety of poets. I can see people being very interested in buying poetry “mixtapes.”

The Web site features three different sections—PS Voices, SpokenWord and YourMic—designed to create an online community that will let poets manage their own information page and provide a channel for published and unpublished poets to download material and to sell both print and digital works. “We want to bring poetry to as broad a group of consumers as possible,” said Raccah.

Sites like this, where you can find many poets rather than just an individual poet’s site, will start to serve the whole ecology better. I’ll be able to find poets through serendipity and browsing as well as search,. Meanwhile, more poets and the users benefit from the latest technological innovations that allow them more easily handle things like ecommerce and multimedia and on-demand print distribution.

I have just begun to read and think about contributions to The Electronic Literature Organization but I am their huckleberry, for whatever they want of me. I love a good mission statement, “To facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media.”

Man, Joy Division is so good. Sorry… still with the music playing in the background here. I can’t really write and listen to music at the same time. Apologies for the stilted/patched nature of this post.

And for anyone interested, I uploaded some photos from the Intro to Electronics class at NYC Resistor. Out of nowhere my friend Kosta was there, and I got to hang with Kio and look at her fully functioning board when I got confused. It was so fun, I’ll have to play with the kit Raphael let us take home to practice with, and ask again about taking an old power plug apart before I blow up the house.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Good Stuff

MacHeist is giving away a bundle of free software, including the word processing applications WriteRoom and Mariner Write. WriteRoom is designed to help you block out all the visual noise and distractions of your computer, hiding toolbars and so forth, while Mariner Write is to be an alternative to Microsoft Word. If 500,000 people download the bundle, getting 5 free applications to try no matter what happens, they’ll unlock the license to Mariner Write and everyone will get that for free too.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

NYC Resistor

“Why don’t you come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab?”

Tomorrow, thanks to an invite from Kio Stark, I’m going to take an Intro to Electronics class at NYC Resistor. We’ll learn about motors, light bulbs, resistors, switches, buttons, solenoids, batteries, breadboards, transistors, and power supplies.

For as long as I can remember, it’s annoyed me that I don’t understand how electricity works. I’d love to not be nervous about what’s going on behind the light bulb, and to know exactly how complicated it is to install a new light fixture.

Plus I keep getting inspired by all these conductive-thread and battery-based craft projects, like these adorable LED (light-emitting diode) firefly baby booties, these LED false eyelashes, and definitely these burlesque LED pasties (actually I’m bummed I wasn’t the first person to think these up).

I’m looking forward to the NYC Resistor folks pointing me in the right direction. I fully expect them to blow my mind while also making me feel smarter than I actually am. To be honest, I still don’t even know what dark magicks or possibly hopped-up hamsters are at work inside a MakerBot, but these are people who make machines that make things.

Raphael Abrams, who will be teaching the class tomorrow, has, for example, invented a Barbot — an automated drink-mixing robot. 

I’m excited about learning how to make stuff do stuff. I want to make stuff that does stuff!

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Brain Candy

Today I had a productive workday, including a long but invigorating meeting in Manhattan that got me out of the house, which is a nice change especially on a brisk, sunny day. I’m again wearing the light, loosely knitted lavender/mauve sweater purchased to go over last night’s sleeveless dress, that just so happens to perfectly match the streak of color in my hair. The streaks were initially bright blue, but whether I dye strands magenta or blue, they always wind up pale purple, which is fine with me. It just means my hair winds up matching a third of everything I own.

A half hour ago I was lying down on the air mattress we’d set up for our guest Brett and hanging out with my bookshelf, listening to the rare quiet. The computer in the living room, the one we call tv.local, went to sleep, and a moment later my desk computer here in the common room fell asleep as well.

When I don’t have pets or other people at home, I become very aware of the hum and breath of the computers. I like the words we use to talk about what they — the physical things — do. They sleep, they wake up, they crash and kernel panic and sometimes die, but usually come back. At night, they make new constellations and night lights. I thought about all the years I’ve lived alone in studio apartments with only my machines. I liked life then, but life is nicer now.

Between the radiators and my new corduroy pants, I was feeling cozy and peaceful and didn’t want to get up from the air mattress. I like feeling like I’m floating on a raft.

Zoning out at the books on the shelves, I remembered one I recently bought at the Brooklyn Book Festival, called “The Good Fairies of New York” by Martin Millar. I had never heard of this guy, and tend to shy away from anything that seems to weird and fanciful, until I remembered how I do actually like weird and fanciful, provided it’s done well. Neil Gaiman wrote the introduction for this book, and most of the jacket copy.

Gaiman writes, “Millar writes like Kurt Vonnegut might have written, if he’d been born fifty years later in a different country and hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people.”

If you read enough good books, or even enough book jackets, you start to realize that reviewers and authors are fond of comparing writers to Vonnegut (gah, would that I ever earned such a comparison) and this comparison can start to feel too eager or easily doled out, but I don’t think it’s true in this case (nor in the case of Nick Harkaway, who also gets compared to Vonnegut sometimes).

I wonder if the way I feel about Vonnegut is something normal for book lovers and publishers alike, and I might deserve to go to literary hell for saying this, as I love Kurt Vonnegut, think he’s a beautiful, amazing writer whose words and ideas were, and will always be, a gift to the world.... I just wish that he wrote about (I feel like such a jerk for what I’m about to say, really)... I just wish he wrote more that… wasn’t painfully to do with World War II. I have a family full of vets. Every holiday is Memorial Day.  I must always remember I love his writing, pick it up, or read something new, then remember, oh right, I’m also going to have to absorb the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man, and all the horrors of war, if I’m to read Vonnegut’s funny, insightful, and highly entertaining prose.

Reading Vonnegut-like authors means I get to enjoy the spirit, the humor, the cleverness and warmth, with some, of course, but fewer encounters of man’s inhumanity to man. For this I am both grateful, and a shallow, fuzzy-sweater-wearing, purple-haired fluff-head jerk.

So yeah, anyway, The Good Fairies of New York is, “a story that starts when Morag and Heather, two eighteen-inch fairies with swords and green kilts and badly-dyed hair fly through the window of the worst violinist in New York… and vomit on his carpet.”

It’s going to be some delicious, delicious brain candy. And you know what? I’m super excited to read it.

According to Gaiman, Martin Millar is much better known and loved in the UK and just hasn’t made it to our American radar for whatever reason, most likely because we don’t know what to do with Scottish fairies who like to eat magic mushrooms, or violinists who realize that the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” is what folk music is all about.

Now, back to floating on my raft with my brain candy at the beginning of the first real weekend I’ve had in months.

[update]

LOL, mini-excerpt, page 3:

“What the hell are you?” demanded the squirrel.
“We are fairies,” answered Brannoc, and the squirrel fell on the grass laughing, because the New York squirrels are cynical creatures and do not believe in fairies.

Meanwhile, back on Fourth Street, Dinnie swallowed a mouthful of Mexican beer, scratched his plump chin and strode confidently into his room, convinced he had imagined the whole thing.
Two fairies were sleeping peacefully on his bed. Dinnie was immediately depressed. He knew that he did not have enough money to see a therapist.

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