Point Me

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Owl

I figured out what kind of owl was living behind our house by comparing its hoots to online recordings. I'm pretty sure we've got one of these:

A Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus), indigenous to the whole of North America. According to the Reader's Digest Book of Birds, this guy is basically a monster.

"Once described as 'the tiger of the woods'...it is equipped with powerful talons and a sharp hooked beak for tearing flesh from its kill. And thus arrayed, it seems to know no fear. Squirrels, Rabbits, skunks, songbirds, geese, hawks, even porcupines are all fair game for satisfying the horned owls enormous appetite...The ground beneath the roost is characteristically littered with bones, feathers, and other leftovers from the feast."

The emphasis on porcupines was my own. I find that unbelievable and ridiculous! That's a 12-35lb animal coated in razor sharp quills. Amazing.

The book goes on to mention that very occasionally, these guys swoop down on ladies in fur hats because the mistake the pelt for living prey. I hope I don't get swooped!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Caturday XII

Kitty Business Trip!

Up Helly Aa Please!

Pyromaniacs and Viking enthusiasts rejoice! I have found the perfect vacation for you! Up Helly Aa is this ridiculously awesome annual festival that they hold in every January on the Shetland archipelago, north of Scotland. It's all about celebrating the old Norse heritage of the region with badass cosplay and fire. Lots and lots of fire.

It's really cool too how it's a huge part of community life in the region. Dads and Grandpas around here join the Lions Club, men there join the Jarl Squad. Every year, the Jarl Squad votes one member to be that years Guizer Jarl, or head viking. This guy gets to portray the famous historical Viking of his choice and ride on the galley that gets incinerated at the end. He also gets to name the ship and pick the song that Jarl Squad marches in to. A full list of all past Guizers and their choices are here. Most of them make dignified, cool choices, like choosing Ragnar Lodbrok or Gunnar Hamundarson for their characters. But in 2005 Peter Fraser (AKA Earl Sigurd o' Gord, who doesn't exist on wikipedia) inexplicably chose "The Teddy Bears Picnic" as the fearsome viking anthem.

The community aspect of this festival extends into the high school, where students vote for Junior Guizer Jarl like they would a prom king. The Junior Jarl Squad build their own, smaller boat that they burn down seperately, about two hours before the real thing. Like their senior counterparts, the Junior Guizer also gets to name the ship. They picked a lot of formidable sounding names too, until 2001, when they just started naming it after their girlfriends (Alicia? Brenda? I doubt a real viking would name his ship Kylie, but whatever!).

It seems like a lot of manly fun. After they light everything on fire, there's dancing until morning at 12 different hall throughout the town. I'm thinking about getting my ticket for next Jan. Hooray for Europe's Largest Fire Festival!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Beetle Juice- 1988

I've started watching 30 Rock recently. I hadn't really seen it before we got TV back in September. I'm really enjoying though, in spite of Julianne Moore's bad Boston accent. It also always reminds me of how I had a major league crush on Beetlejuice era Alec Baldwin.

I love the overall look of this movie and the awesome 80's fashions, especially Winona Ryder's outfits. Lydia Deetz was the ultimate goth girl.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Perils of Event Planning in the Quaboag Valley

I'm trying to put together the spring fundraiser for my non-profit. We're attempting to do an adult bake sale of sorts, with desserts and a wine tasting. I've spent the last 2 weeks looking for a venue to host it at. Of the three places I've courted so far, one is too expensive, one doesn't meet the requirements for a Charity Pouring license, and one won't return my calls. I just googled "function halls near Ware" to see if there were any other options that I hadn't considered, and this is the image I got:

That big blank area surrounding Ware is the Quaboag Valley. That "A" is the restaurant they held the fundraiser at last time. It's like a big restaurant killing bomb went off with a radius exactly the size of our service area.

Monday, January 25, 2010

He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine

Paul and I finally finished putting together the ping pong table we bought jointly for Christmas. It's been really fun to play with, and we're getting pretty good. We're honing our skills just in time to accept challengers at our lost watching party next week. We set the table up in the basement. It makes the house seem so much bigger when you actually utilize the space down there. We've got a good starting piece to a nice game room of sorts.

I was thinking that it would be awesome to get a pinball machine as our next addition. Looking around, I managed to find some pretty spectacular ones for sale here. I recommend clicking through to see the other larger pictures and the art.

First off, Star Trek TNG. I'm not going to lie, I really really want this. It did not take the fantastic "Pinball at Warp Factor 9" slogan to convince me. This table has a hefty $2,995 price tag, which basically means I could get this or we could get a used second car. I find myself thinking "Carpooling with Paul isn't so bad..."

Arabian Nights. This table has really neat, almost Mucha-like art style to it that really caught my eye. I also like that the whole concept is an obviously re-stylized rip off of Aladdin. What? No, this is a completely unrelated blue genie!

Who Dunnit? This table is cool because it really runs with the whole dark noir, seedy underbelly concept. There's actually a slot machine and roulette wheel built into it, courting the arcade kid and gambling population alike.

Johnny Mnemonic. All the fun of the 1995 cyberpunk cult film, but with flippers and balls instead of lasers and Yakuza. Hooray! Ya know, you never would guess that this machine was based on a Keanu Reeves movie just by looking at the table art. But maybe that was the point.

Last but certainly not least, Red+ Ted's Road Show. At a glance, there's nothing too weird about this. Then you notice horrible gaping maws of Red and Ted, inviting you to shoot hard metal balls into their teeth. The weirdness of this machine is only improved upon by watching this crazy 1994 promotional video for it.

Overall, the video isn't too exciting, mostly because the game designer gets all esoteric and is boring beyond all reason. I really recommend watching it though for the WTF moments (2:43 and 3:47 especially!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Get outta bed, there'll be no more napping.

The other day I watched this clip of Peewee Herman on the now defunct Conan O'Brien Tonight Show, acting out Coco's legal battle with stuffed animals and robot action figures. I had kind of forgotten how much I love Peewee Herman and his crazy awesome playhouse (BTW, Paul Reubens is looking amazing!). I really wish that I could go see the live stage show that he's doing in LA right now. This article from the Hollywood reporter makes it sound so fun. I'm a little sad that Laurence Fishburne didn't want to play Cowboy Curtis again, they got the guy who does the voice of Hermes on Futurama to play him instead. What, is Larry too cool now from doing the Matrix to rock the jerry curl and chaps?

The show was always such a good combination of surreal weirdness and surprisingly wholesome moments. Like this clip. Beyond the weirdness of a cowboy getting dating advice from a cow, it's actually a pretty helpful primer of what to do on your first date. Plus, you've gotta love the secret word.

When I was little, I would always get stressed out by the resident playhouse asshole, Randy. He was seriously such a dick. Why did they even let him hang out there?

Peewee is the best eternal man child ever. There are some full eps up on Youtube. I'm looking forward to watching them!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Arrow Station Hat

I made this earflap hat for Kevin as a prize for being the first to spot the blackface. I was more than excited to do a Lost-centric project. (Spoilers)

The Arrow station is first seen in season 2 as an abandoned storage bunker. The tail section survivors hide in it after the crash of Oceanic 815. There are big letters that say "Quarantine" on the door. Inside, they find a hollowed out bible with pieces of film in it, and a glass eye.

We later learn that the Arrow was the 2nd Dharma Initiative Station, used to develop and carry out Defensive Strategies against "The Others".

(Spoilers Over)

I got the basic pattern for the earflap hat here. I didn't do this guy in the round though, I did it on straight needles and then seamed it up. Why? Because the 2-color technique that I use doesn't work well in the round.

I looked far and wide for Dharma Initiative logo charts. Other than this really cool double knit scarf I found, there was no evidence of them anywhere. Good thing there are free and awesome knitting chart generators on the Internet! I used this one. You can put in any picture you want, but I would recommend using something with a sharp outline.

I was going to wait and give this to Kevin at the Lost Premiere next month, but I decided I could not wait. It's cold out now and I wanted him to get the most of it. I gave it to him today when Paul and I helped him move into Van Meter.

Visiting Paul's old building was kind of neat. It didn't make me miss the dorm lifestyle though. I'd have a really hard time adapting to that again.

Kevin lives up on the 6th Floor, and his building is at the top of big hill. He's probably the highest up you can be on campus.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie Book and Grater

Tonight Paul and I went and saw "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." I really enjoyed it a lot. It was very Terry Gilliam; visually stunning and not entirely conventional storywise. It was a really rich movie, it gave you the feeling that there was so much more going on that you could know about. As Paul put it, "It left a lot to your Imagination", which is a good thing. You really do feel like your catching a glimpse of a larger fantastical world. It was also kind of cool and eerie to see Heath Ledger in his final role. They really did a fantastic job of making his other faces (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell) seem natural and unobtrusive.

The story deals with making bargains with the devil. It's strange and coincidental that I just started reading "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which centers around the doings of demons in the years leading up to Armaggedon. I like it so far, it's a good dark comedy. I am getting a lot of divinity in my media diet though. Om nom nom.

At any rate, I recommend both. The Imaginarium was a lot of fun. The theater lobby was absolutely packed when Paul and I got there, there was a line out the door. Weirdly though, everybody was lined up to see "Avatar". The movie that came out almost a whole month ago. I still can't get over it, really. The 4 o'clock show was completely sold out. Weird.

On the way out of the mall, Paul and I swung into Target to get a new cheese grater. You remember that Pecarino Romano I wrote about? The cheese was actually so hard that it snapped the handle off of our nice shredder. Our other one was actually starting to take on the appearance of a medieval torture device, so I guess we were due.

This new one we got is so cool though, I'm really excited about it. It's by Oxo Softworks, who make a lot of neat, smart kitchen gadgets. Check it out, it catches all the cheese in a box in the bottom, and measures it all out too!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trekkin' to the Island

The premiere of Lost is less than 3 weeks away! I can really start to get excited too, now that we've officially been reassured that Big Bad Barry-O won't interrupt it with some lousy speech about stupid ol' America.

I'm mostly hoping that this final season will tell me where Claire has been for the last eon. That and more Daniel Faraday (please?).

To help gear up for this momentous occasion, here's John Locke playing one of William Riker's former commanders on an ep of Star Trek TNG. Skip Ahead to 2:40 and 5:10 to see him in action, only marginally more baby-faced. This episode also features one of the best openings ever. Boy, that Jean-Luc just despises children and all their enthusiasm. I think we ought to start celebrating "Captain Picard Day" though.

It's kind of hard to tell from part 1 alone, but this character also turns out to be kind of an angry yeller. I just kept expecting him to go "Don't tell me what I can't do!" and blow up the enterprise like a submarine. And a Hatch. And then a Hatch again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Dinner #13- Cacio e Pepe

My mom bought me a copy of Cooks Illustrated magazine for Christmas. It's awesome! I made some killer red beans and rice on Monday with a recipe from it. SO good. Maybe someday I'll share the recipe for that...but today I'm talking about something totally different.

This issue had a great article about this special kind of Romano cheese. Pecorino Romano. It's a hard salty sheep milk cheese that's usually imported from Italy (hence the Roman-o). The article made the cheese and the spaghetti recipe that went with it sound so awesome. So when I happened to see a special on this very particular cheese at Whole Foods, I had no choice, I felt, but to snatch it up.

This cheese has a real spicy aspect to it, which makes it go especially well with this spaghetti dish's number 2 ingredient: Pepper!

Kevin got Paul and I this beautiful mortar and pestle as a Christmas gift. I used it to ground up the whole black peppercorns I had in my cupboard to give this dish a fresh ground deliciousness.

The whole ingredient list goes as follows:
(serves 4 to 6)

1 lb Spaghetti
6 ounces of cheese, 4 ounces finely grated, 2 grated coarsely
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 cup reserved pasta water

So continuing on with my theme of "spaghetti with stuff on it"....

Basically, you cook the pasta, and reserve the cooking water.
Take 1 cup of that reserved water and mix it with the finely grated cheese. The reason you use the cooking water is the starch in it is supposed to prevent the cheese from clumping up. In fact, a great portion of the article on this dish was devoted to cooking it without making the cheese clump. They go into these very sciencey explanations about lipoproteins and fats and such. I followed the directions to a t though, and my sauce still clumped up. It didn't stop it from being delicious though, so I have no complaints.
After mixing the water and cheese, you add the pepper, cream and oil. Voila, you've got a sauce. You use the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved water to adjust the consistency.

My version certainly didn't come out as "a light perfectly smooth sauce", as the boast in the magazine. But like I said, that didn't stop it from being delicious. This Romano was very flavorful and tasty, cheese fans everywhere should give it a try. :)

I guess since I gave that previous spaghetti dish a grade, I'll give this one too. I give it an A. It might have gotten that plus if the article hadn't spent so much time telling me there would "not be a clump in sight". Liars!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best thing I bought today.

When I was grocery shopping today, I picked up a special fruit.

I was too excited to get some Tamarinds. They are a delicious fruit that come in a hard seed pod. They are somewhat reminiscent of dates. Their flesh is sticky and kind of tart, and surrounds a hard shiny pit. They are especially delicious rolled in sugar.

They are native to African jungles, and were first brought to South/Central America in the 16th century. Paul and I first tried them in Mexico, when we did that nature expedition through the mountain villages. The ones we had there were significantly smaller than these ones we ate tonight, and also much tarter. These must have been a more mature crop, the difference between eating them in October and January. Eating them really reminded me of how nice that day was, and the pleasant tropic breezes that I'm missing out here in the frigid north.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Similarity ensued

I realized the other day that the blue and white mice I made bear a striking resemblance to some medical study mice who got popular over the summer.

They are blue because they were treated with "Brilliant Blue G." This compound has been shown to reduce the severity of spinal cord injuries. It has also been used to make your M&M's and Gatorade look pretty. The temporary change in skin color seems to be the only negative side effect.

After being injected with it, the broke backed mice were able to walk again! Yay!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Caturday XI

Its hard to believe that in just a few weeks, I'll be done with my Higgins internship. It's been really cool to see the behind the scenes aspects of a museum I had enjoyed as a patron. I have decided that being on the curatorial end of things seems a lot more satisfying and interesting than being on the educational side, doing the same tours and demonstrations over and over. I've really enjoyed seeing how exhibits are designed and how objects are preserved and analyzed.

This week, the museum has picking a staging company to redo the Quest gallery. It was pretty cool looking at the proposals. One company brought these really sweet samples of artificial materials they had created for theater companies. They made blocks of wood look just like flagstone and sand. I'm looking forward to going back in a year to see the changes. The quest gallery is the most popular place in the museum with the 10 and under crowd, and right now there isn't even really that much in it. The redo is going to make it awesome in there.

I'm looking forward to the commuting being over though. After not having to go for two weeks over the holidays, the drive suddenly seemed tortuous.

In honor of the armory, here's some armor for cats. Hooray!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday Dinner #12- Sesame Hot Noodles

Christmas has supplied me with a few shiny new cookbooks, which has renewed my enthusiasm for cooking. I'm particularly excited about making stuff from "The Vegetarian Bible." It's got lots of little guides in it on how to handle different types of food, and really beautiful photographs. Best of all, there isn't that much overlap between it and my other vegetarian recipe book.

Since I work on Wednesdays now, it's become imperative to have dinners that are fast and easy. This noodle recipe totally qualifies. I wasn't totally thrilled with how the Sauce came out, but I think a few quick changes could really improve it. It could also be really great as a salad dressing.

What got me really excited to try this one was the fact that it used peanut butter. I like Thai food, and they tend to use peanuts a lot. The combination of that, spiciness and delicious sesame really lured me in. This serves 4.

1 lb pasta
3Tbsp sunflower oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed (though I like things garlicky, I added another 2)
1 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 small green chilli, seeded and chopped
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp cilantro

1. Cook the pasta
2. Mix the oils, garlic and peanut butter until smooth
3. Add the chilli, sesame seeds, and soy sauce.
4. Add lime juice.
5. Season w/ salt and pepper to taste.

6. Drain pasta and toss with the dressing and the cilantro.
7. Eat.

My main complaint with this sauce it that it wasn't spicy enough for me. I think there are a few ways to remedy this. You could use a bigger green chilli, or a stronger variety of pepper. Or, you could heat up the sauce a little to try and bring out the flavors. I did notice, eating my leftovers at work the next day, that microwaving did seem to make tastier.

Overall, I give this guy a B+. A+ for easiness. B- for taste. Plus extra credit points for the peanut butter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From the Higgins Archives: The 60's were Fun

Worcester Pressed Steel went out of business in 1975. Before it did though, a great deal of company sponsored fun was had by all. Quite a large portion of the pictures that are dated from 1959 - 1969 are from parties and picnics.

Gotta love the old school typography, and this awkward photo-op.

Tater Sack race. The ladies in this picture have great hairdos. I also like the woman on the far left's strategy.
As you can see in this picture, and from the first picture above, the theme this year was "Cowboy Hats." This picture is also kind of terrifying because it takes way too long to realize there's a clown in it.
I have to assume that this was from sort of Halloween party. The signs around their necks got kind of washed out w/ the scanning process. They say "Once a Knight..." and "Is enough."

And then this went down.

Next Time: Melrose Rare Diamond 12

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Toy

My mom got us this cool little video camera for Christmas. It holds two hours of video and plugs right into my USB port. It also comes with editing software that downloads right away when you plug it in. It's so cute and small.

It's called a "Flip Video", which just makes me think of this:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alice in Wonderland- 1951

Going home for the family New Years party gave me a great opportunity to raid the VHS cabinet for some childhood classics. One of my acquisitions was the animated "Alice in Wonderland".

The book "Through the Looking Glass" was a favorite of mine when I was younger. I have a really beautiful illustrated copy. It was really my first introduction to British Literature, as well as absurdism. I always liked how when nonsensical and unusual things happened, Alice just sort of accepted it and rolled with it, as if there was nothing weird about it at all. The movie did a great job of playing that up too.

One thing that the movie didn't do so well was the music. Most of the songs are boring and forgettable, and the opening credit music is really shrill. It really is the worst of that 1950's style movie chorus music.

It is an interesting movie to watch, when you keep in mind that it was made about 15 years before the drug culture became part of public consciousness. You realize that the somewhat psychedelic aspects, the trippy imagery and all the chasing the white rabbit stuff, was done completely unironically. It's just good old fashioned innocent imagination. It does make me wonder though how the new version Tim Burton is making will interpret it all, now that the story itself is basically a euphemism for hallucinating. I don't think he's going to hold back at all, it's going to be a visual explosion!

I had a really hard time deciding which clip to put up for this. My favorite part of the movie is probably when the white rabbit thinks Alice is his maid "Mary ann" and makes her go find his gloves, just because it cracks me up. Mary Ann! Sadly, there weren't any clips of that part on the youtube. This reenactment was as close as I could get.

I also considered putting up the caterpillar scene. I always especially liked the part where he talks about the crocodile. But I also find the parts where he looses his shit at Alice kind of annoying.

So I picked this song, which I remembered the video for much better than the actual song itself. Again, its got that whole bland 1950's chorus thing going on. I really love the idea of doggerpillars and rocking horse flies though.

The weirdest part of it is at 2:15 when Alice messes up the high note in the song. I'm not really sure why they did it that way. I also really like Alice's parting shot to the flowers. "You can learn a lot of things from the flowers...Psha, They could learn some manners."

The only thing I know for sure though about the new Tim Burton version is that Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter. I'm pretty confident that he's going to make the character seem cooler than this guy did: