Tuesday, January 12, 2016

So. Many. Words.

Up close with Robert Browning

A page from the Browning volume, with pencil for scale. Now multiply that by two and a half inches. Wow.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bowie and Bing

For the most part, I am a fan of modern times. I'm not one to get nostalgic for the good old days. Even things I miss from the past, like being able to see the Milky Way from my backyard, I would only want to regain if we can keep our modern medical advances, digital photography, and wi-fi.

One of the most brilliant parts of the internet, and specifically YouTube, is being able to find one-off tidbits from the past that you never expected to see again. The first time I gave YouTube a mental high five was after I Googled "bowie crosby drummer boy".

I grew up watching Bing's hokey Christmas special every year, and when I was in college, I was naturally intrigued when I heard Bowie was going to be a guest. Seriously, Der Bingle and Ziggy Stardust? How was THAT going to work? Beautifully, as it turned out, and for 30+ years I wished I could see that performance again.

Nowadays, I can pull up this video any time I want, which usually means every December, but with David Bowie's passing, I need an encore in January. Thanks, fellas, for taking this chance.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pancakes and Beer Bellies

This caught my eye at the grocery store last week.


Whaaat? How did they make beer-flavored Jelly Bellys? What would that even taste like? I just had to find out.

When I opened the package, there was a definite beeraroma, but it was not so much the scent of a freshly-pulled lager, as the funk of a low-end tavern on Sunday morning. As far as taste, I only noticed the slightest hint any discernable beer taste, but T (not a beer drinker) described the taste as "nasty", so there must have been something to it. They do have a sort of stale-beer aftertaste.

On the plus side, they are gorgeous - shiny and iridescent, like little amber jewels. They are possibly the prettiest Jelly Bellys I've ever seen. Just don't eat them.

Fortunately, these were also on the display.


Forget the pancakes. This is all about the maple syrup, and why wouldn't that be a logical Jelly Belly flavor? They have a solid "candy constructed to taste like pancake syrup" flavor, which T declared "better than those other ones." If you want your sugar to taste like something sugary, this is the way to go.

But don't chase them with a beer.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Browning's Complete Poetical Works

Browning's Complete Poetical Works.

My fabulous coworker Terri returned from an out-of-office excursion the other day, and dropped this book on my desk. She had been to one of our thrift stores, and as an avid reader, she always checks the books to see if there is anything she must have.

On this occasion, she did not so much want the book herself, as she wanted someone to want it. Maybe someone who likes poetry, and can appreciate a 120-year-old book, and the handwritten notes therein.

I know nothing about Browning, except that Elizabeth Barrett fell in love with him and wrote the heck out of sonnets because of it. My first comment after thumbing through the pages was, "There are a LOT of words." In order to pack all of the words into one volume, they used tiny print and two columns, so each page is crammed full of Victorian verse. What little I've read, I've found to be slow going, and not particularly engaging, although there were occasional moments of what appeared to be poetical smart mouth.

So, I consulted with the oracle, Wikipedia, which assured me, "His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humor, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax." I should be able to get behind that. It also noted that even Browning's fans were sometimes vexed when his poems were too long or too dense.

Still, it's lovely having a bit of the 19th century sitting on my desk in a 21st century office.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Wooly worm

Wooly worm.

This little guy was hanging around under our side door earlier this week, when the weather was unseasonably not miserably frigid.

Tonight, after a day of fog, rain, frozen stuff, snow, and now declining temperatures, he is gone. I trust his instinct has led him to a safe place where he can ride out the next few days.

As for me, I will be making a double batch of beef stew tomorrow. Mmm.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Christmas and beyond

Like my parents before us, T and I have pretty much given up on surprising each other at Christmas. This year, we bought both of our presents at Barnes & Noble while we were together. On sale, too! We did have to wait until Christmas to open them, though. In fact, T waited until after Christmas, since his was too big to tote on our trip - and he couldn't have played with it, anyway.

I got a new Nook GlowLight Plus e-reader. I had the previous model, but it was getting tatty. Even though I have a tablet, I find that I read more on the Nook. It's smaller, lighter, and can be dimmed so I can read in bed after lights out.

T got a small 3D printer. Its a da Vinci Jr., and it appears to be the gateway drug of 3D printing. He's had some start-up woes with it. The software isn't working with Linux, and he couldn't even make it work with my half-Windows laptop.

Still, when I came home from work on New Year's Eve, he handed me this pendant.

My man made me jewelry!
Apparently there is an auto-print function that lets you print something without going through all of the set-up. XYZPrinting cagily realized that anyone who got this printer probably had a mom or wife who okayed it, and it would be smart to make your first print something you could give to her.

T thinks I should paint the pendant. I haven't decided. For starters. I need to find out what sort of paint to use. If I have to invest in model car paint or something, I really don't see that happening. But if the $1.50 craft paints from Michael's will do it, I'm game.

Also this week, his telescope finally came back from the repair facility in Mexico. It broke at the star party in July, and has been getting repaired for months. But now it is home. Between the scope and the printer, T has nerdy fun waiting no matter what the weather.

And I have books.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Learn by camping

My family camped when I was a kid. We had a fold-down camper - not one of those fancy pop-ups like we have now, with a roof and all, but basically a big ol' tent covering a trailer base and a couple of bed extensions.

You had to plan ahead for your camp outs back then. The canvas tent top was barely water-resistant, and certainly not waterproof, especially if you touched it during a rain event. To achieve waterproofing, it was necessary to paint the entire canvas with a waterproofing substance, AND give it ample time to dry before allowing rain to fall upon it. When I was about nine, my parents traded up to a new camper shortly before we were planning to go camping, and there was not time to waterproof the tent. No worries! It was July, it was Kansas, and it was hot as a pistol.

You know where this is going, right?

At two o'clock in the morning, I woke up, sweltering, to find Mom covering the bed, and me, with a plastic drop cloth. A storm had blown in out of nowhere, and she and Dad were doing the best they could to keep things dry.

This was also the first trip when I have a distinct memory of campsite shower houses. This particular spot pumped in lake water, which allowed them to have constantly running showers - cold showers. And we took those cold showers, and enjoyed them, after the initial shock. As one of my friends says, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

Now, Knightstar and I have a modern pop-up camper with a roof, leakproof canvas, electric lights and refrigerator, and a gas stove. Still, when we took it out for the first time last week, we had to be prepared to be unprepared. Is it raining when you arrive? Expect to spend a lot of time sitting in the car, and dash out to do a few things whenever the  rain slacks off. No electric sites available? We travel with a battery and a small solar system. The showers cost 25 cents for every minute and a half, so open your soap dish and squeeze out some shampoo before you drop the coins in the slot.

And always, always, expect the unexpected.