Point Me

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It grows on you...

In my childhood, I was somewhat of a picky eater. I had kind of unusual tastes for a kid, like loving raw vegetables and shredded cheese for snacks. I also didn't eat sandwiches for several years, because I didn't like when things had too many flavors at once. I guess the best description was that I had was like a taste for simple foods, a restricted palate.

Once I left home for college though, I became much more open to trying new foods. I quickly learned that things that I was afraid of trying, or that I assumed would be gross were actually wicked delicious. One food experience that really stood out for me was when Paul first got me to try Clam Chowder. I was convinced that I hated this soup, because I thought the idea of eating clams was kind of icky. Clam Chowder also has a weird, unique smell to it that can be off putting at times, particularly if you don't know what clams taste like. The minute I tried it though I regretted missing out on all those years of chowder eating, and full heartedly admitted that it was delicious.

Some other foods though, took me multiple tastes to realize how great they were. I guess there are just some flavors that you have to get used to. My acquired tastes include:

Chamomile Tea - I always found the flavor to be too medicinal, and I went through a phase where I couldn't eat or drink anything that reminded me of cough syrup (I'm looking at you, grape popsicles). I've been drinking a lot of bedtime tea lately though, and it really gave me a liking for the flavor. Now it's one of my favorite kinds of tea.

Feta Cheese- Feta and I got off to a bad start. When I worked at the Hatch, I had to restock the feta for the greek food station. I had never really encountered Feta before, so having to handle a giant block of it, submerged in a tub of water, was a little much. I was grossed out. Lately though I've enjoyed this cheese in pasta and sandwiches. I got over our bad first impressions.

IPAs: Almost nobody likes IPAs the first time they try them. They're very bitter, and completely different from Lagers and Ales. I remember quite distinctly saying that I'd never like IPAs. But lo and behold, they are now my favorite type of beer. I think that as you try more and more beers, you start to crave the flavorful taste of Hops in you beverage.

Sushi: I remember gagging the first time I ate sushi. I left the restaurant thinking I'd never eat it again. Strangely enough though, I started craving sushi not too long after that. I think it's a meal that makes you feel fulfilled after eating it. I initially just liked the satisfied feeling I got after eating raw fish, but then I moved on to actually really liking the flavor. Now its just about the only way I eat fish.

Strange how your tastes change!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sounds I Like

So I have a new favorite instrument: The Hang

It's a hollow, donut-shaped, tuned percussion instrument from Switzerland. It's a pretty new innovation in sound, first produced in 2000. It makes a beautiful, ethereal sound scape. It's so cool that new instruments are still being made.

I kind of want one, but they are apparently kind of hard to get. Only the original inventors make them, in a small workshop in Bern. And in 2009, they announced that they will not being selling Hangs for the year, because they were working on advancing the design of the instrument. Man, they look like a lot of fun to play.


Monday, August 23, 2010


Earlier this month, Paul and I went up to Wells for a long weekend. It was really nice. We got some time at the beach, and the water was miraculously warm enough to swim in. We also went on a little adventure to nearby Mount Agamenticus.

The most memorable part of the weekend though was probably the cognitive-dissidence inducing dining experiences I had on Saturday. In the afternoon, Paul's Mom, some family friends, friends of family friends, and I went to a local Bed and Breakfast for a formal tea. In all, we were a party of 7. In all, we were all ladies.

I had already seen one of the women, Bev, earlier on that day. I was reading out on the deck of the trailer, when she came wandering up the row calling out "Betty? Where are you? Betty?" It was like she was calling for a dog. I found out then that Betty was another woman in our party. She was slightly older and a living breathing stereotype of a lady from Queens. She apparently met some folks at another campsite and started hanging out with them.

When we walked through the door of the turret-topped Victorian mansion, we were greeted by an intensely earnest, impish lady in her 60's. She implored us to sit down a beautifully decorated table, dotted with honey pots and sugar bowls and small vases of wild flowers. The place settings were meticulous and violently floral.

"I'll be right back!" called our hostess, "We're just ironing our aprons!"

We were given laminated menus, with a list of teas sold by the pot. We all took a moment to look around and admire the dining room, sun pouring in from the long windows through the sheer drapes. The walls were loaded with floral wall paper, and shelves bursting with extra china and oriental antiques.

Shortly, our hostess returned with our waitress, Millie. She had the face of a 80 year old lady, but the hair of a 30 year old tv weather lady. She seemed sort of tense, and had a noticeable facial twitch when she talked. Three times during the course of our tea, she nearly took out half the dishes. Maneuvering around the room, she jostled a chest high, wall-mounted rack of china with her elbow. The plates and teacups rattled disconcertingly, and a few people in the room gasped. Later, her freshly starched apron got caught on a nearby, unoccupied table, and she nearly dragged everything with her. Everybody at the table started shouting "Whoa Whoa! Watch out!"

Aside from the comical elderliness and froufrou decor, this place was seriously lovely though. The cookies and scones were all fresh baked, and served on a elegant brass pastry tower. It all came with locally made jam and clotted cream. Millie and the Hostess got in a little scuffle at one point over who got to take credit for the lemon curd.

"If you hear shouting back there in the kitchen, you'll know why!" one of them had exclaimed.

The tea was really exceptional, and came with the thinnest slices of lemon I've every seen. 6 of us shared 3 pots, and Betty got Hot Chocolate, because she doesn't like tea. Good thing she was at a tea house, huh?

My favorite part was when Betty told the shaky waitress that she doesn't like Tea, so Hot Chocolate was her only option.

"I'm really much more of a coffee drinker." She said.

"Oh! Well we've also got a variety of European style coffees" Millie stammered.

"No, No Hot Chocolate is fine" she returned, a little louder than necessary.

Later on, as we were slathering our freshly baked scones with jam, she expressed again how much she would have liked a coffee. Somebody mentioned that they had coffee here, and Betty said something like "Oh I wish I had known that." It got a little awkwardly quiet then.

Most of the ladies ordered fruit flavored teas. Paul's mom and I opted to split a pot of "Buckingham Palace Tea Party", which was a blend of Earl Gray and Jasmine. It was very nice, especially with a little honey from a beehive shaped jar, and one of those impossibly small lemon slices. I felt very sophisticated with holding the thin bone china, and keeping my ceramic tea pot on a little candle-fueled warmer.

It was quite luxurious all in all, with the decadent desserts and the fancy dishes. Millie even gave us a porcelain bell to ring if we needed anything. We ended up using it once, even though most of the ladies were very very embarrassed about doing it. Someone wanted to know what one of the types of cookies was called again. I left feeling quite fancy indeed.

Not even 4 hours later, we were getting dinner with the family at Biker-friendly establishment called "Big Daddy's". The walls here were covered by corrugated metal and facetious road signs about rednecks. There were pool tables, and a live music stage where a guitar player was warming up for later that night by playing "Stash" by Phish over and over again.

While waiting to be seated, somebody made a double entendre about somebody liking to eat a lot of nuts, and everybody laughed. This would not have flown back at the B&B. Millie would have been so embarrassed!

Our new waitress was a 40 year old lady with long, candy-apple red dyed hair and gigantic breasts. She wore a trucker hat and a skin tight t-shirt.

Nick, a college-aged family friend who joined us, ordered an appetizer sampler that came in a basket the size of a marimba. The hot sauce for his wings came in flavors like "WTF" and "The ass-burner". When the waitress found out that Nick worked at a chain upscale restaurant, she flirted with him and tried to find out how said chain makes their whipped butter.

Eating in two places that were so profoundly and fundamentally different took me a few days to wrap my head around. It definitely made the weekend interesting!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Time for Pooches!

So, I guess I appear a little preferential to cats here on this blog, what with the "cat" category and all the Caturday posts. But I love dogs too! I was raised in a family of Dog people, and never even interacted with a cat that much until I lived with Rabi. I think it's time that the dogs got their day (eh...). So:

Caroline's 6 Favorite Dog GIFs

6. 2nd Place is First Place for Losers, Kid.

5.funny gifs - Is your gardener a Malamute?

4.funny gifs - This is worth at least 3 Scooby Snax

3. funny gifs - Dogs are Awesome

2.funny gifs - Beware of dog, he won't make change on a $100 bill

1. funny gifs - Suddenly Corgis

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's a funny old world

I am currently on the job hunt! My tenure at the Quaboag Valley CDC is officially coming to an end on August 31. I'll miss working there, it was a really positive experience. Too bad crummy Deval Patrick only lets you do Commonwealth Corps for one year.

I've had a fair bit of luck on my search, and have actually had several interviews. But nothing has panned out yet. The competition is fierce, and the bulk of who I am up against out there are far more experienced. I'm sure something will work out for me sooner or later, but I'm starting to lose confidence that I'll be transitioning immediately from one job to another. C'est la vie.

This job search though has gotten me thinking more about the global economy. I recently watched this really interesting episode of Vanguard where they examined the migrant workers of the Philippines. An astonishing large fraction of the nation's people leave the country every year to work in other countries. They send billions of dollars back to their families every year, but this monetary influx isn't improving the economy.

I thought it was really interesting too, how so many of these laborers go to Saudi Arabia for employment. Saudi Arabia is a country that I realized suddenly I know almost nothing about. I know we get our oil from them, and that their moral code is extremely strict. But it's hard for me to imagine moving there and living there and working there. Though it's unlikely that that would happen to me, as women are largely barred from working in the Kingdom.

Being morally obligated to be covered head to toe all the time must be kind of a drag. Check out their bathroom signs. It's a far cry from our triangle-shaped skirt ladies.

As the Original poster said: "The only uncovered woman in Saudi Arabia and she's on the door of a toilet. It's a funny old world."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Iwatani's Sketchbook

I thought this was so neat! These are the original, hand drawn designs for the classic video game, Pac Man. Such a cool peek into the creator Toru Iwatani's journals. What a beautiful intersection of video games and art.

Pac man is 30 this year, as commemorated by the google playable interface:


Monday, August 16, 2010

Dumbo - 1941

Dumbo was a movie I watched somewhat regularly as a little kid. On the surface, it seems like a nice story about an underdog flying elephant who overcomes his tormentors and becomes a star. With it's bright colors and circus setting, it initially seems like a lighthearted tale. But there's a lot of darkness here. I think Disney does a good job of subtly suggesting at the harsh realities of circus life. The cruelty to animals, the backbreaking labor, and the discrepancy between the public face of the show and actuality of the inner workings.

One of the songs I remember liking best from this movie was the "Song of the Roustabout". I think it was the driving rhythm and the spooky minor key that appealed to me. Also, I thought it was really neat to see how circus tents were built, and I liked that the animals helped.

This is one of the songs that people often point to as proof that Dumbo/Disney is racist. The idea of this scene is not inherently racist. It shows the intense, thankless labor that black people were resigned to. However, some lyrics (specifically "when we get our pay, we throw our pay away") are pretty prejudiced seeming. Basically, this song has nothing on the Crows singing "When I see an Elephant Fly."

The weirdest scene in the movie is when Dumbo and Timothy the Mouse get WASTED.

It's got a trippiness to it that was way ahead of it's time. The part that starts at 1:50 is my favorite, I know all those lyrics by heart. And at 2:08, we get a sweet elephant Voltron, neat!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I want to be a mailman in Omashu

I like to share on here what shows I'm watching at the moment. Right now, I'm really into something that's intended for the grammar school crowd. Also, something that's known now for a terrible, racist M. Night Salami adaptation into a feature film. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking about Avatar: The Last Air Bender.

It's easy to be skeptical of a series that's intended for kids, but this show is actually really really awesome. It strongly appeals to my kung-fu movie loving side. Not just because of all the action and martial arts, the plot has all the elements of a really fantastic heroic epic. The landscape of this fictional world and the mythology of it is also really rich and interesting. Especially the wildlife: Sabertooth Moose Lions?

Seal Turtles? Rabbi-roos? Platypus Bears? Wolf Bats? Awesome.

All the characters are also so well crafted and dynamic, it's hard to think of one who's entirely flat. Even the animal characters, like Appa, the flying bison, have strong distinct personalities and clear motivations.

My favorite character of the series is Uncle Iroh, the former fire-nation general with the heart of gold. I want him to be my dad, make me tea and teach me fire-bending! I'm actually going to a teahouse this weekend up in Maine. I'm totally going to pretend that I'm hanging out with the Dragon of the West.

Iroh has many really funny, amazing scenes, but the only clip of him I could find on youtube that wasn't dubbed is the excerpt from a very sad episode.

We're about 3/4 of the way through the second season, with one season to go. I'm excited to see just how epic this story can be.

I guess this means I like anime now too? uh-oh!

Monday, August 9, 2010


This is the best beer I've had in a long time:

Trois Mousquetaires Unfiltered Kellerbier
from Quebec. It's been awhile since I've had a beer that I'd declare categorically delicious. Very refreshing, not too sweet or intense, with just the right amount of hoppiness and citrus flavor. The unfiltered-ness gives it a nice slightly earthy quality too. Plus, it sure looks pretty in a glass.

I enjoyed it greatly. Paul and I drank it while playing:

Which is awesome! Allons-y!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On a lighter note...


It's Called the US Constitution

There goes my streak of having all my posts this month start with the letter W. Oh well...

I want to write a little bit about the overturning of Prop 8 brouhaha that's going on right now in the good ol' US of A. It's exciting news for gay people and their allies, and I believe strong, positive step towards the firming of America's promise that "all men are created equal." Our country is so wonderfully diverse, in race and belief and lifestyle, it's hard to imagine that there would be any room to legislate the relationships between two consenting adults.

There's a lot of negative, opposing sentiment towards this judicial move floating around out there though. The most common complaint is of straight up judicial activism. I heard a woman on the radio this morning say "Why should people even bother to vote, if some judge is just going to overturn it and disobey the will of the people?" 53% of Californians agreed, and this lousy judge is going to override the choice of the majority.

It seems that these people forgot their high school history! In our country, we have a wonderful little thing called "judicial review," where decisions made by the legislative or executive parts of our "Three Ring Circus" can be scrutinized (and potentially overturned) by the judiciary.

This law wasn't solely overturned by a power/fame crazy dude with a gavel. Everyday citizens filed a suit in order to have the constitutionality of this ballot initiative examined. And guess what? The judge decided that this law was indeed unconstitutional, on the grounds that it defied the part of our founding document that protects citizens from discrimination. And if they want to try and fight this decision, they can appeal it! Oh...they basically already have.

I heard another person on the radio this morning say "You can read the constitution end to end, and you'll never find anything guaranteeing the right to homosexual marriage." Well, having read the bulk of the constitution this morning, I'm pretty confident that there's nothing in their expressly forbidding it either. In fact, there's very little legal precedent dealing with gay rights at all.

In reading up on the 14th Amendment, I was surprised to see that so few cases of discrimination due to sexual orientation have been considered under the Equal Protection Clause. This makes this court ruling all the more important, because it's working to define laws that are still so malleable.

I found this part particularly interesting, about how these 14th amendment cases get considered:

"The Supreme Court has defined these levels of scrutiny in the following way:

  • Strict scrutiny (if the law categorizes on the basis of race or national origin or infringes a fundamental right): the law is unconstitutional unless it is "narrowly tailored" to serve a "compelling" government interest. In addition, there cannot be a "less restrictive" alternative available to achieve that compelling interest.
  • Intermediate scrutiny (if the law categorizes on the basis of sex): the law is unconstitutional unless it is "substantially related" to an "important" government interest.[20]
  • Rational-basis test (if the law categorizes on some other basis): the law is constitutional so long as it is "reasonably related" to a "legitimate" government interest."
So basically, the prop 8 opponents have to prove that defining who can receive full marriage rights is not a beneficial to our larger government and society. That the reasoning behind such a ban would be faulty, and not reasonably connected to the good of the whole.

I also hope that this case will help bring sexual preference out from under the blanket label of "some other basis", jeez.

I feel like Judge Walker,the former Reagan appointee who decided the case, summed up the unconstitutionality quite simply and brilliantly, strongly relating his ruling to the demands of the Rational-basis test:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

And there you have it! But still we get the moral outrage, and the melodrama, and all the ignorance.

What really galls me is that the people who largely oppose the overturn are the same people who scream and cry about socialist-communist-dictator obama coming down their chimney at night to take control of their lives. Always complaining about how the democrats are shredding the constitution with their razor sharp demon teeth. All people should be free to live life unimpinged from the demands of the federal government! In other words: "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

Unless people are building a scary mosque...then tell them they can't build it. And ban this reading material because it offends me, and therefore nobody else would like it. And while you're at it, let's just ignore parts of our constitution that are 240 years old.

Hey, it's ok when they do it!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wheels at Warp Factor 9

We're thinking about getting a second car here at the Barba household. It's kind of the end of an era. Paul and I have been ride sharing every morning and afternoon since graduation. I'll miss having the morning ride together. But it's seeming more and more likely that whatever my next job may be, it won't be feasible to carpool. It will be the first time we both have our own cars.

Maybe I'll put this sweet Trek Fish on whichever car becomes primarily mine.

May our new vehicle live long and prosper.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend of Mayhem

Over the weekend, Paul and I went to the Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival in Bridgeport CT. It was an absolutely amazing fun time. For 3 days, we camped out by the beach and heard some fantastic live music. My favorite sets were Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Caravan of Thieves, Deep Banana Blackout and Primus.

Wavy Gravy was the master of ceremonies, and sang a depressing song about how the children of tomorrow are screwed, to the children of tomorrow (As one t-shirt vendor said, "How 'bout that, Wavy Gravy's still alive and kickin'. Even after all those years of pot smoking, and the pounds and pounds of LSD he took...."). There were a surprising number of kids there, all dressed up in tie dye and greatful dead bear onesies. Weirdly enough though, the festival really did have a family friendly vibe. That is, if you're comfortable with your family being around people smoking a lot of weed, all the live long day.

By the way, hippie children are an unstoppable force. When they're not trying to sell you flashlights and tie dye t-shirts tent-to-tent, or hula hooping constantly for hours on end, they're running around like crazy people.

Here's some video I took, walking around during the festival. I wish that I had gotten more of it, and better quality. When I was actually at most of the concerts, I was too excited and dancing too much to tape.

I really do think I'm going to try and go again next year. It was a really outstanding experience.

Water Babies - 1935

August is here! It's the perfect time for naked, 2-inch tall, genderless babies to frolic lakeside with their animal friends.

This cartoon was part of the "Silly Symphony" series that Disney put out between 1929 and 1939. In 10 years, they made 75 of these short movies, all based around a dynamic musical score, and usually featuring unique characters that are not considered part of the "Mickey Mouse/ Princess" character canon that the studio is known for today. These movies were the stepping stone to the long form animated feature films that Disney started making in 1937.

My favorite part is the Bullfight Serquence at 4:43. I love how old cartoons made blood sport seem so kid friendly. I think I was about 13 before I realized the point of bullfighting was to kill the bull...