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malignantdaisy
20 January 2013 @ 06:44 pm


I just realized that Wizard is officially over 20 years old! I got her in early 1993 and she must have hatched sometime in 1992. One more year and I can take her to out to bars.

We're coming into egg-laying season and she's already acting weird. I keep putting her in the box-o-peat, but we may have another vet visit in our future.

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malignantdaisy
05 January 2013 @ 09:10 pm
Fiction

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I wanted to read this before the movie came out. I confess that I had never actually read it before, although it was read to me as a bedtime story when I was little and I had a BBC radio play version on cassette that I used to listen to on long drives back when the tape deck still worked in my old car.* I also saw a stage version once at the Children's Theater in Minneapolis.** Now I have finally read it for myself. This was early in the year and I had almost forgotten I read it at all when I was making this list. I also apparently forgot much of what I’d read in it other than the basic plot outline because when I saw the movie, I was having a hard time remembering what was directly from the book and what was changed. (I also need dwarf flash cards or something, but that's another matter.)

Of course, it’s good. The only reactions of mine that I really remember are 1) the dwarves and Bilbo leave a cache of food in the woods along the lake on their way to the mountain and I’m all, dude, you need to hang that stuff from a tree because BEARS, and 2) I bet Smaug’s carcass really started to stink once spring came. That's all I have for you on The Hobbit. Yes.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

I was in the mood for a straightforward, “classic” sort of scifi and figured Clarke was a good way to go, so I picked this up while browsing at the library. I liked it a lot. As with Neutron Star, I appreciated how much of the story was all BECAUSE OF PHYSICS and whatnot. Gosh golly gee-whiz stories with warp drive and whatever are a lot of fun, but I enjoy it when we can explore how things in space actually function and stuff like what happens if you are at one end of a rotating cylinder and you drop something and so on.

I tried reading the sequel, Rama II, but gave up very early because I just didn’t have the patience and I had checked out The Kalahari Typing School for Men at the same time and was more interested in finishing that one before I had to return both to the library.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Tears of the Girraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

I was mainlining these for a while and plan to jump back into the series after I finish being distracted by A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. I had a monitoring project a few towns over and during a couple hours in which I wasn’t needed, I took a break in the town’s quaint, little downtown and went into a thrift store to look for a book to read to pass the time. I picked up the first in the series and then couldn’t put it down. These books have really short chapters that are often self-contained stories or at least episodic sections of the longer, more involved plot line that spans each book. This makes it really easy to pick one up for brief moments here and there and get through a chapter. It also makes them kind of addictive, as you are never sated after just one chapter and want to at least start the next one immediately.

Non-Fiction

The Ice Finders by Edmund Blair Bolles

I originally started this in the first half of 2011, but got distracted by re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon and didn’t finish until after New Years of 2012. As I stated previously, the book alternates between the tale of how geologists - including Louis Agassiz - came to understand that ice ages happened, and the adventures of the Kane expedition to the northwest coast of Greenland. The latter was the most fascinating story and I eventually just wanted to read those chapters, but forced myself to keep up with Agassiz et al. Elisha Kane was trying for the North Pole, as he believed in the existence of an ice-free polar sea and figured they could pull boats over the sea ice to this open water and then row the rest of the way to the pole. They wound up stuck somewhere on the coast of Greenland (or a nearby island, I don’t remember) through winter, followed by one of the shortest, coldest summers on record during which they never stopped being ice-bound, and then through the next winter. They eventually escaped the following summer by taking two small boats and either pulling them over the ice or rowing them back south.

I can't remember reading any other non-fiction booksmore recently. Not a big year for books that aren't about solving mysteries in Botswana, I guess.

Currently Reading

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird Bishop

I’ve been meaning to read this ever since I finished Six Months in the Sandwich Islands (aka The Hawaiian Archipelago) but never got around to hunting it down a the library. I now have a Nook e-reader and was able to get an epub version of it off of Project Gutenberg. I nabbed a couple of Bird’s other titles there as well.

*I wish the box had included some information on when it was made and by whom because I couldn’t recommend it. All the orcs sounded like Daleks (the BBC has one and only one voice effect, I guess?) and the musical interludes can only be described as “courtesy of the Royal Gondorian Kazoo Ensemble.”

**Which, as I recall, left out Bard entirely and had Bilbo stab Smaug in the soft, squishy spot himself, presumably because they didn’t want to deal with figuring out how to have a flying, fire-breathing dragon get shot down on stage. I also remember that the dwarves and wood elves were cool, but the elves at Rivendell wore body suits that made them look like something out of Tron.


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malignantdaisy
27 December 2012 @ 09:38 pm
There is such a thing as an automatic turtle feeder and it works. I was gone for about five days and Wizard didn't go without food. In fact, only one pellet was left in the drum when I got back. That means she may have actually gotten a little more food than I intended. (I should actually test the number of pellets that fit in the drum against the number I usually feed her during a 5-day period.) This thing might last a full week if I reduced the number of times it dispenses. I also put her basking light on a timer, so we had a Fully Automated Turtle Habitat going on.

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malignantdaisy
15 December 2012 @ 08:56 pm
And it's only recently that I found out that they aren't the same thing as green onions.

Eliminate the cheese, and this recipe is vegan. It can be made gluten free simply by using gluten-free pasta.

Another Way to Eat Wilted Kale

Ingredients:

pasta of your choice
1 shallot (or 1 per person if making this for multiple people)
garlic
marinated artichoke hearts
kale (at least 2 big leaves - you lose a lot of volume in cooking so use lots)
olive oil
Parmesan cheese (optional)
walnuts (optional)


Directions:

Start water boiling for the pasta. Put some olive oil in a frying pan and start it heating.

While those are getting ready, start preparing the other ingredients. Finely dice the shallot. Mince or finely dice the garlic (I use one clove, you can use more if you like garlic or are making this for more than one person). Coarsely chop the artichoke hearts. Wash the kale and rip it up into bite-sized pieces. Use a dish towel to squeeze out the extra water. It's not necessary to get the kale completely dry - some moisture will help it cook fast.

Keeping an eye on the water and oil, add the pasta when the water boils. When the olive oil is hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle, add the shallot and mix it around.

When the shallot starts to turn golden, add the kale, artichoke, and garlic. Mix everything together in the pan and then put a lid on it for a minute or so. This will help the kale cook down quickly. When the kale starts to get wilted, remove the liquid so the excess moisture can boil off. Remove from heat once you feel the kale is wilted enough. You can keep the pan covered and/or on low heat to keep everything warm while you finish with the pasta.

When the pasta is cooked to your preference, drain it and shake out as much excess water as possible. If desired, toss it with a little olive oil (this is recommended if you are packing this as a lunch and it will be sitting in a container for a while - the oil will keep the pasta from turning into one sticky mass). Place the pasta into an individual bowl or plate for each person.

Spoon the kale mixture on top of the pasta. Serve with shredded Parmesan and/or coarsely chopped walnuts on top, if desired.

Variation:

This goes well with sauteed chicken.

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malignantdaisy
11 November 2012 @ 12:57 pm
Papa Murphy's, the place of "take-and-bake" pizza, has a Black Friday special this year. Starting at 8:00 am, you can get a $4 pepperoni pizza. Guess where I'll be lining up the morning after Thanksgiving! Not.

 
 
malignantdaisy
Two insect stories!

  • I've been wearing my awesome sandals* whenever it is both warm enough to do so and I don't need to be wearing work boots, so I only just started wearing socks a few weeks ago for the first time since early last spring. Most of my socks have spent the summer balled up in my top dresser drawer, lying undisturbed. A few days ago, I pulled a pair of socks out of the drawer, pulled them apart, and discovered a patch of white sticky fibers around the toes. It was the remnants of a spider nest. Yup, spiders have been breeding amongst my underwear.

  • Then today, I opened up my jewelry box and dumped the earrings onto the top of my dresser to sort through and choose a pair. As I was poking through them, I discovered a very large bug on the dresser that could have only have been in with the earrings and wound up in the handful I pulled out. I sometimes leave the jewelry box open, but it was closed when I went to it this morning, so who knows how long the bug had been in there.

  • And a technology story:

    I am finally giving up my land line. I found out that TPC** will give me internet and cable TV for the same price as I was paying for internet and a land line that no one ever uses to calls me. The TV service/new internet installation was this morning, and I spent half the afternoon wallowing in it. I have more channels! I have DVR! (I haven't been able to record anything when I'm gone for years and years!) The downside: no Antenna TV or Create, apparently, but I still get MeTV and now the DIY channel, so I'm not entirely without old TV shows and how-to programs.

    I took some pride in the fact that between the land line and the battery-powered, corded second phone I have, I would still have phone service even in a power outage big enough to shut down local cell towers. Then I realized that my phone line came in on an overhead cable - neither the main line on the street nor the branch to my apartment are buried - and so any storm likely to knock out power lines would probably also knock out the phone lines. So, now I will be as unable to call 911 in a major blackout as the next person, but at least I can spend the time up until then watching HGTV and BBC America.

    * The soles actually wore out by the one-year mark and I had to replace them this summer
    ** The Phone Company


     
     
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    malignantdaisy
    30 September 2012 @ 05:48 pm


    I had a project in Minot, North Dakota a couple of weeks ago. Like the last trip to ND, field work didn't take very long, but the entire trip ended up being a long haul with two days of driving on either end and a day spent in Bismarck for the records search.

    Minot itself is COMPLETELY INSANE. It's on the eastern edge of the big oil/natural gas boom going on in the western part of the state, so the place is a modern boomtown layered on top of a mid-century expansion of a late 1800s/early 1900s railroad and farming town. The edges of the city were lousy with construction sites - mostly new motels, it appeared - there was hustle and bustle everywhere, and everybody had "now hiring" signs out. (For those looking for work, I wouldn't necessarily advice packing your bags and heading to Minot, unless a job at Subway for a dollar over minimum wage is really worth moving to the middle of nowhere.)

    Housing was in short supply and expensive: our rooms probably cost about twice as much per night as they would at that motel chain anywhere else. Restaurants were always packed at dinner time, leading me to want to scream "Does no one cook around here?" before I realized that there were an awful lot of people living out of motels like I was and they didn't have any other options.

    Outside of town, the countryside was dotted with little jobsite camps with rows of trailers or storage-container apartments.

    We took a long lunch one day to visit the Scandinavian Heritage ParkCollapse )

    Nothing much exciting back home, although the weather is starting to turn. It's generally pleasant, but it's that time of year where it can get hot during the day but cool down very rapidly in the evening and still be cold when you first get up. I had to be in Dodgeville at 7:00 am on Monday and it was absolutely freezing. There was frost everywhere and even with work boots on, my toes were getting cold. (I switched to my winter boots the next two days but it had warmed up and I was too hot. By the end of the week, I found a happy medium by wearing my summer boots with thicker socks.) This weekend has been very pleasant, though: Sunny and warm but with a cool breeze.

     
     
     
     
    malignantdaisy
    23 August 2012 @ 08:24 pm
    I ran out of soy sauce. How does that happen?

    Okay, I use it often enough that I do run out of it from time to time, but it's one of those things you buy so rarely, you don't ever have to think about whether you're running low and ought to pick up more. That's how you wind up getting to the "add soy sauce" stage of the recipe, opening up the fridge, and then briefly wondering if you are in the wrong apartment because there is no soy sauce.
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    malignantdaisy
    11 August 2012 @ 11:25 pm


  • Things to do when you're bored: make too much jello. (But it comes in all these flavors!)

  • Overheard at the Renaissance Festival: Grandmother: "We'll get you whatever your heart desires." Little Girl: "My heart desires everything!"

  • Thursday was cool and cloudy and dripping rain all day and it was awesome. After all those hot, hot days with no rain, having a day where it just kept raining all the time was a wonderful change. It's also been tolerably cool since then. It was even cool enough to bake on Friday (I had puff pastry in the freezer set to expire later this month. Things you have to bake should not expire in August, that's just inconvenient.) The rain (there's been more) has certainly helped. The lawn is green again and no longer crunchy-dry.
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    malignantdaisy
    15 July 2012 @ 07:45 pm


    Really frickin' dry.

    All of the grass along the highways is completely brown. So is the grass in most parks and the lawns of commercial properties. Residential lawns vary, depending on how much people water and how much shade they get, but most at least have brown spots. Mine is mostly brown and crunchy. A lot of the weeds are wilting a dying and all the corn looks stunted.

    I drove through some rain out between Madison and Spring Green on June 11th. I have no idea if any of that rain made it to Milwaukee, but that's the last time I can remember seeing rain until this last Friday. We had a small, localized thunderstorm that started with hail and ended with water washing down the street in a torrent. It was not enough to completely revitalize everything, though, and certainly not the region-wide, long, soaking rain we need.

    Just because it's been dry doesn't mean it hasn't been humid and hazyCollapse )

    The local classic car show this year was a bit smaller, but simultanrously more interesting. They seemed to have kept out the modern cars and while there were some cars from the 70s, I didn't see any from the 80s, so a higher percentage of the cars there were old enough to actually be different and cool.

    Old CarsCollapse )


    The secret revealed!

    I also went to Bastille Days this weekend and went to an open house. I've been trying to ease myself into the scary world of house shopping by going to at least one open house every weekend I'm home, but I'm reaching the point where I need to move past dipping my toe in the water and I should get serious. I think this will require a buyer's agent, as I'm just not around enough to put a lot of time into this.

     
     
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