Point Me

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vacation Disaster - Redux

2011 was apparently not the year for Paul and I to have a nice relaxing vakay. After our failure to embark on a cruise ship last month, we though it would be nice to have a stay-cation between Christmas and New Years. Here's a little break down of how that turned out.

4 Days Spent Driving to be with Family and Friends/ At Holiday Celebrations
3 Days Spent Fleeing Carbon Monoxide and Stressing

Leaving only 3 Days to really have to ourselves. Our 10 day vacation was reduced to a long weekend peppered between busy-ness and panic.

On Monday Night, our house started to smell like exhaust. Our 3-month old, multiple thousand dollar oil burner was clogged up, and spewing copious amounts of exhaust into our basement. At 4 AM on Tuesday, we fled to Paul's office with the cat, where we sat until 9 waiting to get a hold of somebody to address the problem.

Long story short, the trial of it included climbing on the roof to sweep our own chimney, 2 different technicians coming out to fix the problem, the fire department coming, and lots of stress. We were finally able to get back into our own home on Wednesday night. It was just bad.

I shouldn't complain about the parties and stuff, because it was great to see family and everything. We had a nice Christmas and received many wonderful thoughtful gifts.But we did have to drive far and away a lot, so it didn't feel like vacation.

Ugh, here's to hoping that in 2011, we'll finally get to have a vacation that doesn't get ruined. Maybe that will be my resolution.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Scarf for Mom

I made my mom this scarf from that pretty purple wool I showed off earlier. It was a Christmas present that I hope will keep her warm through the rest of our long northern winter.

It's kind of hard to see in detail (and the other pictures I took were even worse!), but I made the scarf from  this pattern, courtesy of Knittingonthenet's informative stitch library. It's called the "Little Pyramid" stitch.

It's a deceptively easy stitch, with just 3 variations of knitting and purling to remember. It looks fancy though, so it impresses people even though it's not that hard.

The name of the stitch combined with fleecy yarn just made me think of this song the whole time I was working on it.

Clue me in.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Suprise - 1947

Santa brings toys to an improbable number of children on Christmas night, but does anybody stop to think about what Santa gets for Christmas? That's the premise of the mind-boggling holiday cartoon. Children from all around the world stow away on Santa's sleigh, and discover upon arrival at the North Pole that Santa is a lazy, lonely slob. This apparently takes place in a reality where there's no Mrs. Claus, which causes Santa to go crazy with loneliness and sing constantly, talk to himself in mirrors, and let his house get hoarders-level nasty.The international children, led by the horrible "lil' Audrey" band together to give Santa a nice holiday and clean his house.

This cartoon is the most racist thing I've ever seen. The children each "do what they do best" to help Santa, and at that point the stereotypes just careen out of control. The Black kid shines his boots, the Asian kid does his laundry, and the Dutch kid is stupid and terrible at everything. The cumulative effect will blow your mind.

@ 7:00 - I guess the surprise was getting dropped from 10 feet onto his spines! Good Job, Dutchy.

The weirdest part is that this cartoon was probably meant to be PC at the time, and inclusive of all races. Too bad the 40's were just terrible at cultural sensitivity.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Elite Fleet

How awesome is that my favorite web comic ever, Perry Bible Fellowship, is making cartoons now?

Elite Fleet Ep. 2 - The Broken Code from New Picture Agencies on Vimeo.

Very Awesome.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pluto's Christmas Tree - 1952

 This Christmas themed Disney cartoon features Chip and Dale in their feral, pre-Rescue Ranger days. Poor Pluto gets a Wiley Coyote-esque raw deal as he attempts to evict the chipmunks from his beautiful tree.

This one reminds me of a story my dad (a Nursery Manager) told about a customer he had at work, who would always vigorously shake his trees before buying them. Why? One time he bought a tree that turned out to have "monkeys" in it, and the monkeys came out and bit him. The perils of buying live flora!

@2:20 - This has forever fueled my desire to be able to walk around inside a giant Christmas tree

And for the heck of it, here's our Christmas Tree:

Almost as nice as Mickey Mouse's.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania

Patrick Stewart as Oberon in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1977 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Check out that head of hair on him!

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,   
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in"- Oberon, Act 2, Scene 1

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays, as I got to be in it in High School. I still know bits of it by heart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Owls in Disguise

Animals that can dramatically change their appearance are amazing and kind of scary. This guy, the Southern White-Faced Owl, hails from South Africa. His name is Popo-chan and he's only a handful of transfigurations away from being the mimic octopus of the sky.

This video is also a reminder that Japanese TV is stranger, but perhaps weirdly better than ours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bark Bark Bark

Growing up at my house, it was practically a tradition to play this song for the family pooch around the holidays. Its a fairly certain method to make your dog go nuts. Particularly in years where we had a new puppy, playing this song was a pretty fun game. Most dogs become delightfully confused and frantic at the disembodied sound of their wassailing kin.

I guess the barking dog jingle bells isn't everybody's cup of tea though. This song (a 1950's Danish recording) was recently found to be "America's least loved Christmas Song," as it came in last place in a survey of 579 recordings. However, the focus group used to create the ranking consisted of "200 women aged 30 to 49, recruited via e-mail, who said that they either liked or loved Christmas music," and that sounds like a cat-lady hot bed to me. I think perhaps there was an anti-pooch prejudice afoot!

I bet if this was in the mix it would have been found to be THE NUMBER ONE XMAS SONG OF ALL TIME!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


It's been a LONG time since I blogged about what I've been cooking. It's too bad, because I've made some pretty yummy stuff this fall/early winter. I really felt like the dish I made last night was exceptional though, and I wanted to share it!


This recipe was one of the best tofu-centric dishes I've ever had. Something about the way you prepare the soy is just so so right. Plus the dish is loaded with fresh veggies to give you an immune system boost going into the wintry illness season. There's a lot of chopping to do though, it's a good recipe to make with a partner or group.

Serves 4, Modified from "The Vegetarian Bible"
 4 Tbsp Flour
1 Tsp Paprika
3 Tsp Chilli Powder
8 oz. Firm Tofu, in 1 inch cubes.
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 Avocado, Peeled, pitted and cut into 1 inch strips
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
8 Flour Tortillas
Sour Cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Mix together the flour, paprika and chilli powder. Bread your tofu cubes with the mixture and fry in oil until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu from the pan and drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

3. Add a little more oil to the pan and saute the onions, garlic, red pepper, and (if you're feeling bold) jalapeno until they are just starting to soften (About 4 minutes). Remove from pan and drain excess oil.

4. Take your avocado pieces and toss them in a bowl with lime juice. Gently mix in your tofu, cooked vegetables, chopped tomatoes and 1/2 your shredded cheese.

5.Put about 1/8th of this filling mixture into each tortilla, and top with a dollop of sour cream. Roll up your enchiladas and place them seam-down in a large baking dish. Cover the entire dish with your favorite salsa and the rest of your shredded cheese.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown. The recipe suggests garnishing with cilantro to serve, but I skipped that.

Oh my goodness, these are so good. They're also surprisingly filling, given that they're mostly vegetables. And the colors in this meal just look so vibrant and fresh, it just plain looks delicious too. Highly recommended for the recently converted or experimenting vegetarian. A+!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Riley vs. Santa

Sometimes special Christmas episodes of TV shows come out overly saccharine and sentimental. The Season 1 Christmas episode of The Boondocks does not have this problem. Instead of our 8-year-old protagonist Riley sitting on Santa's lap, we see him chucking a chair at old Saint Nick.

As "The Santa Stalker," Riley seeks compensation for all the Christmas' he's spent with no gifts from the Jolly old elf. It's a tough reminder that while Santa is a fun holiday icon, his existence is a hard pill to swallow for poor kids who don't have much to open on Christmas morning. These scenes also help you remember that Riley is a kid, who wants to trust and believe in the myth of Santa, even though he is kind of a violent yob.

This is one of my favorite episodes, particularly when the self-hating Uncle Ruckus takes over the Santa gig. It's a got just the right amount of consumerism critique (ala Charlie Brown) cut in with a very honest analysis of the holiday spirit.

Whoa, whoa, hold up...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Corporate Irony

If you needed any more proof that giant brand conglomerates are soulless monsters who will say anything to get your money, keep in mind that the company who made this;

Are the same people who brought you this.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Learn from my mistakes: Hanks.

As a (relatively) new knitter, sometimes you go through projects where you don't really know what the heck you're doing, so you just try and go along and make the best of it. More than once, I've purchased yarn packaged in this manner:
This, my friends, is a hank of yarn. When you buy your yarn directly from the spinner (as I did with this pretty purple wool) they usually opt to sell them by the hank, because it's easier for them to polish up and measure their final product packaging it this way. Hanks are also prettier for displays, because they better showcase the texture and subtle qualities of the yarn. If you buy a hank though, it is NOT ready to be used for projects as is. I learned this the hard way on more than one project, and it was a mistake I wasn't willing to make again. If you try to knit a hank as is, you will spend hours and hours attempting to untie the giant knot that your yarn has become. Seriously, it's the worst.

Before you can go to work with a hank of yarn, you have to ball it. There are countless depictions of how to do this in old movies and pictures, usually involving a loved one standing by with yarn stretched over their arms. 
I've seen characters doing this so many times before but never really got what they were doing. Now I know they were saving themselves the headache of dealing with a un-balled hank.

Even if you don't have a cute dutch child on hand to help you with balling, that's ok. You can use 2 handy kitchen chairs to the same effect.  

I actually found this to be a kind of relaxing process, and it helps you get a feel for the materials you'll be working with. I've also read that it's important not to ball your yarn until you're ready to start your project, because balling stretches your yarn out some. Good to know.
The finished product! And here's a complete tutorial. Seriously, this might have been the most important lesson on knitting I ever had.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Christmas Carol - 1951

This story of the meanest man in town who awakens to the power of kindness is considered a staple of the holiday media diet. When it comes to picking a film adaptation of Dickens 1843 classic, you have a lot of options to choose from. And once somebody picks their chosen rendition of the tale, most people are vehement about defending their film as the one true to their version of the story.

The film I grew up with (and thus the one I consider to be the quintessential, true classic) is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sims as the cold-hearted miser Scrooge.

I think that Sims himself is a huge part about why this version is so wonderful. When Scrooge is reawakened on Christmas Morning, you can really feel his manic joy. In this scene, you believe in Scrooge's transformation, and I don't think any other actor has ever really owned this performance like he did here.

This version is also a fantastic period peice, from top to bottom, and I really think it's the "A Christmas Carol" that stays truest to Dickens' original text. All the witty little 1840's jokes are kept intact, and are still funny and understandable. And this film really delves into the complex relationship between Scrooge, his sister and his nephew, which I think is a key to understanding the miser.

Want more proof this version is awesome? A woman whose name is actually Hermione stars as Bob Cratchet's wife!

But like I said, everybody has their own version of the story that they like best, and this is mine. Which is yours?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nahla's Hat

Nahla is the little baby girl that my good friend is due to have at the end of the year. I made this hat for her from this pattern. I just love how the twin pom poms give a little bald baby the opportunity to have pig tails.

I actually dug this pattern so much that I scaled it up and made one for myself.

Like my other attempts to adjust patterns in the past, this one ended up a little too oversized. But the floppiness of it actually kind of works. I love love love the yarn I used for mine. It's a gorgeous soft alpaca in these very dreamy colors.

This hat actually really reminds me of something that Molly Weasely might make for her kids. It's got a neat bit of whimsy to it that would help you fit in at Diagon Alley, even if you are a Muggle.

In case you were wondering, I still haven't seen the new HP film. But I'm going to (finally) remedy that this week! I have this terrible habit of never seeing the movie I want to see in the theater. I'm determined that Part 1 of Deathly Hallows won't go the same way as "Alice in Wonderland", "Machete" and "Where the Wild Things Are." I will actually see it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Cross my palm with Tuna!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Snowman - 1982

I was going to save this post for the first snow of the season, but I decided I couldn't wait. I want to kick of my month of Christmas themed childhood classics with one of my favorite Christmas films of all time is "The Snowman".

My grandma had a copy of this on VHS, which she had taped off the TV. It's a movie that I associate a lot with being at her house in the winter time. I think that this movie was what cemented my love of narratives without words. I'm always amazed how much can be conveyed without dialogue. The music in this short is great, and sometimes makes me get a little emotional!

1:47: I was always bothered by this kid not wearing underwear.

The snowman party is def my favorite part, and the kilted jigging snowman is my favorite part of that!

I think this movie qualifies as pure, concentrated holiday nostalgia. Yeah!

EDIT: since this video seems to be permanently out of order, here's the show on youtube. This version even starts with a weird introduction with David Bowie. Knowing that this was what happened to him as a child explains a lot, actually.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Her heart grew 3 sizes today!

Some of you may have heard me talking about a fairly infamous volunteer at a certain site I go to to distribute groceries. She's a rather old, fragile looking lady named Trudy, who (to quote a seasoned volunteer) "ain't happy if she ain't bitchin'."

Last month, Trudy gave me the business, so to speak, when I attempted to take a finished bag off the assembly line and put it on the table for the completed bags. She blustered over in her signature purple wind pants and got in my face, screaming that I "had to put the bag right back where it was this instant". Basically, Trudy was/is so controlling, that they had to give her one thing to have complete control over, or she'd try to make herself queen of the brown bag. That thing is the monthly newsletters, and when she caught me putting a newsletter in a bag for her, It was like I tried to steal her livelihood.

I found out later that she thought I was a stupid high school-er who didn't know anything, which fueled her lashing out. Weird!

So needless to say, we didn't get off on the best foot. Getting screeched at in the face will do that to a first impression. I also noticed that the other volunteers give Trudy and her newsletters a good 5 foot berth while she works on folding them.

Then today, almost everybody was surprised and impressed when Trudy asked for help with her precious paper work. It turns out that they were putting Christmas cards in with each newsletter, and she needed help folding the cards into the creased "Brown Bag Beats."

The cards were really nice, each one different, blank inside with matching envelopes. It was the gift of being able to wish somebody else a Merry Christmas. I mentioned to the site coordinator how nice I thought it was that they were giving out these cards.

"Oh, you know that was all Trudy's idea. We had been doing it the last five years or so, and I only just found last month that she had been buying all the cards for the Brown Bag out of her own pocket."

I suddenly became aware that the reason Trudy wears those purple wind pants every month wasn't just because they were her signature look, it was also because they were her only pair of pants.

It really made me see another side of this cantankerous old biddie. She bought everybody in town who needed these free groceries a Christmas card. In my eyes, it was like she went through the Grinch's heart x-ray machine.

I guess it was a lesson on open-mindedness and the duality of nature. No doubt Trudy will be back to her newsletter dictatorship in January, but it was nice to see her caring side and Christmas cheer.

I meet such weird people doing this job....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Surely you're fine, Mr. Jokeman

Paul and I like to take turns sometimes reading to each other before bed. Right now, Paul's been reading to me from "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)", an autobiography (of sorts) from the famous physicist. I say "of sorts" because this book is more like a loose collection of anecdotes strung together without much of an overall narrative. The effect is really stunningly similar to hearing your grandpa tell you stories from the good old days for hours and hours.

Feynman is kind of a rock star of the physics world, known for womanizing and playing the bongos.

Reading this book gives you a weird insight into his strange personality, and his self-centered point of view in social interactions. Right now we're at the part of his life where he works at Los Alamos, and constantly breaks into top secret govt. safes to prove that their secrets are not secure.

My favorite story so far is this one about his attempts to enlist in the Army, only to be declared 4F for mental deficiency. The chapter is called "Uncle Sam Doesn't need you!" and you can read it in this handy little e-book here, starting on page 60. The story made me laugh so much, I was too excited to go to sleep! It's a very typical Feynman story, where he's the only one who seems normal and everybody else is kind of painted like idiots. Even though he's being found mentally unstable by army psychiatrists, he comes out looking like the sanest one in the room.

This book has definitely made me wish that we had more scientists like Mr. Feynman, a rock star hipster sort of genius who inspires a sort of iconic legend. Like Einstein. I guess our modern equivalent is Stephen Hawking, who was WAY handsome back in the day.

Having more cool, sexy scientists might help the public mindset that discourages intellect in favor of social popularity. I'm totally down with getting more bad-asses in the lab.