Archive | June 2013

Digital Dozen – the weekly link roundup!

Happy weekend! Once it’s done, so will the first half of the year be. I’m very much looking forward to July onward. It’s gonna be great! But before all that, here’s my random linkage for this week.

  • You know in the movies when someone ends up in another person’s body (or something like that) & they look in a mirror and kinda wave their hand slowly to figure out it’s them? I feel like that’s what this cat is doing.
  • Subtle Lunacies is my friend Mary’s Etsy store. I have some amazing Dia De Los Muertos-ish earrings and an awesome labyrinth pendant she made, and she’s rocking through some gorgeous stuff right now I’m especially loving the pendants – my favourite:

    Anatomical heart pendant, by Mary.

  • This photoset of ‘Hoarder Barbie’s Trashed Dreamhouse‘ is a fascinating & detailed model. I can’t even imagine the patience it’d take to make this. And even though it’s not a real crazy hoarder house it still gives me ‘I’m-too-tidy’ chills. Uuuugh.

    “The Teenager’s Bedroom” – Carrie M. Becker

  • Hey, did you know that prairie dogs chat? Like, for real – scientists have decoded what they’re saying to each other! “They’re able to describe the colour of clothes the humans are wearing, they’re able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun,” Slobodchikoff said. … “In one 10th of a second, they say ‘Tall thin human wearing blue shirt walking slowly across the colony.'” Not only cute but also smart!
  • In the very first entry on this blog, I posted an image – which just happened to be the board game Terra Mystica, which I have a great fondness for. Although I haven’t gotten it to the table in over a month (sadness!), I can reinvigorate my wish to do so by watching this review by the lads over at Shut Up & Sit Down. I encourage you to check it out. Purple Power!
  • For your weekly dose of Adventure Timethis Ice King (Simon) & Marceline cosplay is so incredibly amazing! If you’ve seen the episodes with Simon & Marceline at all you’ll be super mega impressed.
  • Although tulip season has pretty much passed up here, you can enjoy these aerial photos of the tulip fields in North Holland. How can this even be real? It looks like paint samples have been dropped.

    By Anna Paulowna

  • Did you know that there’s a Banksy parody artist called Hansky, who does Tom Hanks versions of some of Banksy’s more popular works? And did you know that Tom Hanks’ daughter interviewed him? How marvelous. There’s some photos in her article, they’re just wonderfully ridiculous.
  • There’s recently been a kinda creepy happening at the University of Manchester Museum (which, incidentally, is a terrific little University museum!). One of the Egyptian statues that’s been on display for years has started slowly rotating over the course of several days. I was quite chuffed that while watching the video I thought to myself “well, it must be the vibrations of visitors/movement around the case!” just like Prof Brian Cox is quoted saying. *smug* Although if it’s just now doing this after being in the same case for years, there most be another variable at play like humidity/temperature affecting the surface it’s sitting on. /nerds out.
  • I’m pretty certain that i’m going to be the kind of dog parent who will try to wake her napping pooch in this way. I’ll be the “Awwww, muuuuuum!!” kinda dog parent. Hehe.
  • Looking at a bunch of food and making the progression to create neat still life portraits out of it is awesome! I really love these images, and especially the coffee bean owl.
  • Taking old art and vamping it up with neat stuff is not a new idea, but I love the concept of these ‘Alternate Histories‘ prints. If I had a mansion with a lovely library or sitting room, I’d be hanging this stuff up all over the place.

    The Menacing of the East River Bridge – Matthew Buchholz

Waiting for change.

“There is nothing permanent except change.” Heraclitus, quoted in Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius.

It’s pointless to resist change, it happens around us – most often without us even realising – and before we know it things/people/life is just different. As enduring as change is, it’s always been a challenge for me to deal with. Not the incremental stuff, but the big things that loom or are dropped on top of us suddenly. Whether we’re powerless to do something about it, or we’re the ones making the choices that lead to change.. well, that shit can be pretty tough.

I have changed a lot in the past 15-ish years. I can see it clearly in hindsight, but it wasn’t really obvious to me at the time. The changes that were “Big Things” were always the ones I had to have a very present part in – changing my direction in tertiary studies, changing my life to become vegan, changing from a stable life to uprooting to move overseas to see where that took me, and even more than this. I was so afraid of it all, but none of it turned out for the worse. I wish hindsight had me better prepared for change as it comes up now, heh.

Life this week has been a hovering mess of impending change – I can see all of it will be for the good, but the waiting to see the outcomes has me completely on edge. I’m changing part of my life to move on from a place that’s been very emotionally draining this year. I’m waiting on a change in my status from visitor to permanent resident. Soon we’ll (hopefully!) change from a regular couple to dog parents (yay!). I can’t guarantee when much of it happens, but I look forward to that tipping point where the waiting is behind me and the benefits of change will be reaped.

I feel like bookending this with another quote from a famous philosopher will help sum up where I’m at this morning:

“Ahh, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” – Homer (Simpson)

Digital Dozen – A Roundup of Links

Back in the day of blogs past, I used to go through my saved links in my RSS Reader (once Google Reader, now Feedly) & round up a bunch of cool stuff and post about them all in one place rather than the fleeting sharing I do on FB/Twitter when I come across stuff normally. I have stuff saved in there now from a couple of years ago still (!) so I’m going to start filtering through & cherry picking stuff from the old & new saved things to share once a week. (And oh man, I have to try and work through the dozens of recipes I’ve stowed away, whoa.) I’ll share just a dozen each time to make it feasible & also readable! So, enjoy the first ‘digital dozen’, in no particular order:

Blueberry – image by Caren Alpert

  • I originally saw this linked on Boing Boing: a study on what Canadian English is. It’s fascinating to see the examination of how the waves of settlement throughout Canada’s history have impacted on Canadian English development. And accent-wise, it brings up a point in the start that i’ve always found interesting – “The geographical proximity to the American super power is quite unique to Canadian English and contrasts it with other varieties of English, such as Australian, New Zealand, or UK varieties of English.” As someone who’s got 27 years of Australian English tinged with almost two years of English-English (not to mention all the English telly I watched as a kid), and then all mixed up with 4 years of Torontonian Canadian.. well, let’s just say it’s an interesting read from my perspective of the English language & now being settled here in Canada. It’s so fun to examine what odd remnants there are of certain terms for things, yet how the sounds of language manipulate over time.
  • The High Line is one of my favourite things about New York City. I wish there was a park like this in every city! Gosh. This is from a while back, but still awesome – street view of the High Line.
  • What can you do if you have just one more cup of coffee? Some days I truly do feel like the last one..

    Just one more cup! David Soames & Aaron Jay.

  • When I was a kid, I had a budgie (parakeet) called Sam, and he learnt to say quite a few words/phrases but.. I’ve NEVER seen a budgie with such a wide range. I mean.. the beatboxing! Oh gosh. Birds are strange and amazing.
  • Crochet is a skill I’ve re-learnt in this past year, but I’m still not sure I could quite reach the levels of amazing that would be required to make these throw rugs. Maybe I can work up to it for next winter! This Galaga one is quite fetching..

    Galaga throw by PenelopeandClyde on Etsy

  • Canadian cookbook author Dreena Burton wrote up an amazing guide to buying, storing, preparing & cooking/using greens: Eat your Greens! I have discovered a love of chard, kale & other delicious & nutritious greens thanks to being vegan, and they’re an invaluable addition to your diet, especially when you have great advice like Dreena’s to follow. Nomnom.
  • I dream about the day these Adventure Time footie PJs come back into stock so Adam & I can buy them and dress up and romp about being generally ridiculous and adorable. We already own matching Jake Tees, after all..

    Yeah, we went there.

    Yeah, we went there.

  • Sometimes I think about doing a blog series on the maddening everyday things that other people do that drive me nuts. Then I feel like a bad person for thinking about complaining about things like that. Then I see comics like this (click below) that remind me why I wanted to write the blog series in the first place.

    This is me, every day by Ross Phillips

  • It pleases me when people do ridiculous things like making squirrels look like they have giant heads.
  • Why do our brains do this to us? I am not gonna lie, this happens to me daily.

    Smartphone Cycle, Loldwell

    Smartphone Cycle, Loldwell

  • One of my favourite things to do is collect postcards – that I’ve bought somewhere I’ve been, or that someone’s sent to me. I love getting them in the mail most of all. I would totally dig having this set of 100 Pantone Postcards to send out across the globe (well, maybe after saving a few to tack up on my wall).

    Gimme!

Adventures in cooking Jackfruit – vegan ‘pulled pork’.

I’ve never ever had pulled pork, and never will. But there’s a couple of great establishments here in Toronto that do a mean Jackfruit pulled pork – Hot Beans & the Hogtown Vegan – that make my mouth water every time I eat their Jackfruit tacos or pulled pork sandwiches respectively.

I always marvelled at the culinary wizardry involved at taking a strange SE Asian fruit & making it into shredded savoury goodness. I figured it’d be too tough to pull at home, and wasn’t convinced I could have success with an ingredient I had no idea about. I Googled around a bit reading various recipes to get an idea of the process one would go through to create the magic, and also the different mixes of ingredients and flavours.

After a while I settled on this “Carolina Pulled ‘Pork’ Sandwich” recipe – I wasn’t going to make sandwiches, but tacos, but the ‘sandwich’ part of this recipe is more of a serving suggestion – and as a bonus, if you ignore the sandwich part, the recipe is automatically gluten-free. There was a good idea in the notes of what to expect of preparing the jackfruit before it even touched any other ingredients, which I liked. But what I was interested in were the flavours – especially mix of spices in the dry rub and how they’d complement the wet sauce mix – and that it also looked like the finished product was of about the right texture that i’d tried in the Hot Beans tacos. Away I went!

Top left is the dry rub step, on the right is after the sauce is cooked through and the jack fruit baked a bit, then on the bottom left in a taco! Boom.

In the end, the process isn’t really that complicated – no more so than  prepping a marinated tofu/tempeh dish, say. It’s pretty easy to get the ‘mise en place’ of your spice mix/dry rub and your wet sauce ingredients ready to go and then zoom through the process – it’s really only the cooking times that draw the jackfruit adventure out. Like the write-up on the page says, this is a pretty spicy recipe naturally – I liked it, but I think I would round it out better next time to not have that be so up-front.  We just had it in simple corn tortillas with whatever green mix we had, plus some rice, tomatoes & chopped avo (sadly too firm for guacamole-ise). Next time I gotta get my sunflower sour cream action on, too.

Would I make this again? Well, I picked up two more cans of young jackfruit in brine while shopping in Chinatown this weekend, so hell yes! (Two cans because next time i’m making a double batch – we mowed through this in one taco sitting.) I think i’d also like to make a more saucy, possibly more BBQ-y type of pulled jackfruit next time too – perhaps something like Sarah Kramer’s BBQ sauce, but try and cut the richness down a little. Now I know what to expect out of the magical ingredient jackfruit texture/process-wise, the vegan pulled ‘pork’ world is my un-oyster!

 

A memory triggered – MTV Unplugged sessions

The other night I had to do some mind-numbing visa application stuff to renew my visitor’s permit (to be in effect while I’m still waiting for permanent residency). After a chain of  watching Soundgarden videos earlier in the night (after chatting with Adam about them post-Rock Banding Spoonman), I decided to fall back to my old grunge favourite Pearl Jam and threw that into the YouTube search bar. One of the first results was “Pearl Jam – MTV Unplugged (Full)” & my eyes went POP. It poked a long-dormant part of my brain.

Growing up, my town had one radio station, an AM band one that played classics and top 40 (blah blah, the usual). It wasn’t until I was a little older that we got access to the FM national station Triple J (part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Having only had that AM band station and my parents music tastes to go off growing up, Triple J was an outstanding explosion of new music for a 15 year old (or thereabouts) girl like me.

One of the best things about starting to discover new music was getting into a bunch of grunge (well after the fact, but it was better late than never!). Pearl Jam became my fast favourite. Taping live concerts from Triple J, acquiring every piece of their music I could, and best of all taping this MTV special to watch over and over. Listening to it the other night as I typed away, I knew all the beats – exactly how that live performance played out, well over 15 years after first encountering it. The brain is a weird thing, right?

This sent me on a mini YouTube spiral to find some of the other MTV Unplugged performances that I was crazy into back then, too – Stone Temple Pilots, REM, Live, Alice in Chains and – of course – Nirvana. Here they are for your viewing pleasure! Come away with me, readers, on a journey back through time to the sounds of my evenings in mid-to-late high school as I hermited in my room listening. (And thanks to radio & discovering grunge – plus friends with great taste – I’ve come into my adult life with a much better rounded taste in music progressing on from this time in the mid-90s.)

 

 

 

 

It’s tough to find the whole Nirvana one in a big chunk, but this playlist hits a lot!

In Toronto, doin’ stuff.

There’s never nothing to do in Toronto. You have to be trying pretty hard to avoid the festivals, sporting events, theatre, comedy, music, parks, green spaces.. you get the picture. Today Adam & I went to Woofstock down near St Lawrence Market briefly – we love dogs, and it was just a cornucopia of lovely pups everywhere! We were too busy stopping to meet/pat/cuddle dogs to really snap any photos (although I grabbed a quick Vine of some pups playing in a fountain when we were between sections of the festival). We stopped in at some of the rescue organisation’s stalls to chat & even met a lovely sweet dog who we’re considering adopting. I hope come next Woofstock we have our own little dude/lady to visit with!

Lately i’ve also gotten a chance to get out and try some new stuff/visit some new places. My friend Fiona kindly took me to my first baseball game! The Toronto Jays were playing the Atlanta Braves. We had amazing seats in the 100s section near 1st base and we really got involved in the action. I got into the swing of things & understood the basics of the game by the end of the 1st, and we had a fantastic time! Around halfway through we went all the way up to the 500s section and holy moly it was dizzying – but an amazing view right down on everything going on. Back down in our seats we watched the Jays win quite resoundingly, and even had a ball come our way (about a row behind us, and I hid under my arms like a baby). Good times!

A few of my local vegan friends and I wanted to get out into some proper green space so I suggested Rouge Park, not far east in the GTA (you can get there on Toronto’s transit, in fact!). I kinda randomly picked one of the trails for us to go walking on & I think I could’ve done a better job, but it was still nice to wander outdoors. Strange to have reminders of urban settings like power transformers & train lines nearby, but I think we’d have had to go a bit further from TO to avoid that. Afterward we went to see the Scarborough Bluffs, at the base at Bluffer’s Park. It’s so lovely there – a big park, lovely view of the bluffs and also of Lake Ontario. Considering me & a friend were fairly low-energy due to recent sickness, it was a good, easily accessible day out in the outer reaches of Toronto.

(All photos link to my Flickr, where you can see more shots from these outings!)

Spiel des Jahres – Game of the Year (warning: contains umlauts).

This game award – the Spiel des Jahres – is a pretty Big Deal in board gaming. (You can read more of the background of it at the Wiki page for it.) It means a lot for the rep of a game, and even more for the sales of it. It’s broken up into three categories – Game of the Year, Kids game of the year, and the ‘Kennerspiel’ game (kinda like ‘advance game’ award) of the year. Interestingly, they only added the Kennerspiel title back in 2011 which shows what a chunk of the market ‘gamer’s games’ have now; there’s also a list of recommendations in each category which are usually pretty solid. Among them all are a lot of games none of us will have gotten to play here in North America or even the rest of Europe yet due to them being German releases.

Last year I hadn’t played a lot of the nominated or recommended games – I have in hindsight, and i’m still fairly “meh” over the winner of the main award and the Kennerspiel winner, Kingdom Builder & the Village respectively. Although Adam did pick up the fantastic “Eselsbrücke” which didn’t end up winning in its category, but we have had so much fun with. (It’s a memory game with storytelling – really bloody fun.)

I looked at the nominees & recommendations this year and was pleasantly surprised to see many games I’ve already played and enjoyed, and if not at least know of or am anticipating playing! Out of the 3 nominees for the main game, I’ve tried Hanabi & Augustus.

Hanabi
What it’s about: You and your team are helping each other to play fireworks cards in appropriate sequences of number and colour
Why it’s great: Because you can’t see your own cards, and it’s only through clues given, deduction, memory and very good timing  that each person can try to figure out what their cards are and what to play.
What isn’t so great: It’s really tough to hone in on the types of clues to give that can be helpful in this game, so it can really vary between the groups of people you play with – just like any game that relies heavily on communication I suppose! Also I have to take notes in this, because my brain doesn’t work in the right way to remember stuff from round to round. Boo.

Augustus
What it’s about: Bingo for gamers! Well, more interesting and spruced up bingo. Play out your objectives by covering over the symbols on them as they’re drawn from a bag. First to 7 complete wins!
Why it’s great: A couple of aspects go beyond that simplicity – extra points for strategically playing types of objectives, and objectives that cause setbacks to other players. Also it’s streamlined, easy to learn and plays up to 6, which is tough to find!
What isn’t so great: I found it almost too quick to really get into, and I don’t think it’d live up to multiple plays very well.

It’s tough to pick between the two because they bring very different things to the table, but I’d say Hanabi has the edge due to its innovative way to use cooperative play and that it brings you back time and time again to see if you can do better than the last play.

I’m a bit patchier for the recommendations under the main award. I’ve tried Escape: The Curse of the Temple, Divinare, La Boca, & Libertalia.  Escape is great real-time fun – dice-rolling to cooperatively run through a Temple & escape before your 10 mins are up. Divinare is a great card/bluffing game with awesome art (although it really makes a difference how many people you have playing). La Boca is a real time, race against the clock puzzle/pattern building game, where you’re working with a partner to stack coloured blocks to meet the pattern both of you have, without knowing what’s on your partner’s card. So much awesome fun, I really want to get my hands on my own copy! Lastly, Libertalia was one of the most miserable gaming experiences I’ve ever had; I got so mad at how random the game was that in one round I played cards totally randomly and it made no difference to my points outcome. Worst ever. (I don’t mind random – see above for Escape – but Libertalia was just going through the motions kind of random. Ugh.)

For the Kennerspiel, i’m a bit backwards. I haven’t played any of the nominees – much to my sadness, as i’m super looking forward to trying both Legends of Andor & Brügge and didn’t get a chance to play either when I was at the Gathering of Friends. I have, however, played both of the recommendations! Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar wasn’t too bad – I enjoyed the variation on worker placement with introduction the timing of worker retraction, and the wonderful interlaced cogs determining rounds & time of play, but overall was left feeling wanting after a couple of plays. Terra Mystica, on the other hand, is one of the best new games I’ve played this year! Variable fantasy race powers, area control/territory building, and the delicate balance of what actions you’re taking to make the best of each round make for a rich experience that is worth coming back to over & over again. I can’t wait to see what they do with the expansion for this. Sad it didn’t make it into the nominees!

I’ll be interested to see the winners – and really must catch up on some playing so I can see what the rest of the games are all about!