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Sunday
Jan012012

New Year's Resolutions & Cooking Milestones.

I know the habit is to make resolutions that involve losing weight (which I do want to do) and drinking less (not a chance in hell), but I'm going to be extremely specific: I'm going to challenge myself cooking-wise.

There are some aspects of cooking that terrify me.

1) Cooking with a carcass/the whole beast. This has always seemed extremely fiddly, difficult, and stressful, specifically with chicken or ducks. The idea of having to handle something that size (not like a piece of chicken breast or steak that I can flip about), as well as the work to reward ratio has always been daunting. And there is so much that can go wrong! I could use the wrong parts, I could burn the top while leaving the middle uncooked, it could be RUINED FOREVER.

2) Baking with yeast. I have never made bread. Or rolls. Or scones. Or anything that involves proofing, kneading or yeasting. For a while it was the level of exactness that was requires. Then it was the idea of getting my hands into the dough (I've always been a fastidious person and hate working with things that stick to my hands. I'm not fit to be around when making meatballs or burgers). But now, I suppose, it's that I don't understand the rising process. When I was a kid, we had to walk softly through the kitchen when my mother baked, or we'd 'make the cake/bread fall". Anything that can be destroyed by a sharp step within 10 feet seems prone to heartbreak.

3) I forget the third one.

So yes. This year I will attempt to tackle these milestones. I am encouraged by the amount of baking I see May get away with, broken foot and all, and by the many blogs and sites that I visit.

Wish me luck.
Sunday
Dec252011

Scribblings on Christmas

(bugger, posted on the wrong blog.)
While waiting for my iPad to charge up, I decided to make use of one of my new notebooks. Click to embiggen.










Thursday
Dec222011

A Day Of Creativity And Comic-Making

This was my last day before two and a half weeks of holidays. Needless to say, my mind was not on work.

Even before work started, there was a kerfuffle at the turnstile, so I made this (click to embiggen):



Then later I got caught red-handed reading Twitter on my phone by my boss, so I documented it:



Then there was another thing, but it involved enough stages that I had nowhere to post it but here. So enjoy.












There! Wasn't that fun?

I'm on holidays now.
Monday
Dec122011

Holy plot, Rodimus Prime!

As I was running through Transformers: The Movie (1986) through my head in its entirety (as I do when I’m bored), I came across something I had never noticed before. I was replaying the scenes with the Wreck-Gar & the Junkions (voiced by the amazing Eric Idle), who were my favourite characters as a kid. Here’s the go (spoilers for those who ain’t seen it, but then really, why would you be here?) :

Ultra Magnus & his group of Autobots are on the Planet of Junk (which is not just a clever name) making repairs to their damaged ship. They are ambushed by Galvatron & his Decepticons, and Ultra Magnus makes a heroic last stand to let the others get away. He is killed & blown to pieces & the Matrix of Leadership is taken by Galvatron, who then boasts that he will make Unicron (the planet-eating Big Bad) his bitch with the Matrix, then leaves. As the Autobots find Ultra Magnus’ body, they are attacked by the planet’s natives, the Junkions, led by Wreck-Gar. An awesome battle breaks out, to the strains of Weird Al’s Devo style-parody (Dare To Be Stupid). Wreck Gar has Springer down and is about to finish him off when he is knocked out with a girder. Suddenly, a huge ship passes over. It’s Hot Rod, Kup & the Dinobots, who had been separated from the group & thought dead. They approach the Junkions, use a Universal Greeting, which pacifies the locals, who then dance (yes, really). The Junkions also fix Ultra Magnus, who reveals that he no longer has the Matrix. Hot Rod sagely suggests they go flocking get it back. And by the way, where IS Galvatron? Wreck-Gar pipes up, having overheard that Galvatron was going to Unicron. Hot Rod then states that they have “to destroy Unicron!” The Junkions immediately agree, revealing that they have a ship as well, everyone piles in, and they fly off, attack Unicron just as he’s poised to destroy Cybertron.

Here’s my issue.

How did Hot Rod know who Unicron was?

I could see the Junkions knowing; they collect information as well as junk. I know Galvatron knows because of his, you know, being created by Unicron & his psychic link. But the Autobots are pretty reactionary & clueless throughout the film. Their city was attacked, their leader killed & they’re cleaning up the wreckage of their pyrrhic victory when they get a message that one of their Cybertronian moonbases is under attack by a “ginormous weird-looking planet”, which rips the first moon to shreds, then a second report that this “monster planet” was attacking the second moonbase as well. Ultra Magnus is understandably concerned, and says this new menace needs to be stopped. About 30 seconds later, they’re attacked by the Decepticons’ new leader, Galvatron (who is the old leader Megatron reborn thanks to Unicron, but again, nobody knows this). Ultra Magnus says bugger this, get to the shuttles, and they flee, with Galvatron in pursuit, which leads to Hot Rod’s ship getting marooned on Quintessa, and Ultra Magnus’ ship getting damaged and going to the Planet of Junk for repairs. When Hot Rod is on Quintessa, he gets picked up by the Quintessons, who put him on trial. In the cells, he meets Kranix, the last survivor of the planet Lithone (which was destroyed by Unicron in the opening credits OHHHHHHHHH WAIT.

Kranix tells Hot Rod his planet was destroyed by Unicron, then explains it’s a “monstrous planet that devours everything in its path.” THAT’S how he knew.

Oh. Well.

So I was wrong.

But that was fun, wasn’t it?
Sunday
Dec112011

Memories vs Maps

Maps are funny things. Google maps triply so.

You can start off over Australia, looking at the population density along the coast, then a few minutes later, end up looking at someone's front garden from a roundabout in suburban London (Brentford, to be exact, home of the Flying Swan, 9 hand-pulled ales on tap).

Today, for instance, Tanja & I were watching How I Met Your Mother, and the characters were traveling back and forth from Minnesota to New York. I realised that while I know Minnesota was somewhere in the Eastern US, I had no clue where. So I pulled up Google Maps on my iPad and punched in New York & Minnesota. I learned that it was about 1300 miles. I switched to Satellite view. Then I looked closed at New York. Zoomed in.



Looks like a flash of red there (ignore the pin, I added that later). Zoom.



It's the only red building in the area.



Zoom.



Maybe I'll drop a pin and see the street view.



Whoa. They have a red door. We have a red door on our house. The idea that I could zoom from the lower atmosphere to their front door struck me so strangely that I created a strange, unfunny comic about it:



I showed Tanja. We zoomed out, and cruised over the US, past the Rockies, up into Canada, over Greenland, and over to Europe. Tanja saw a lake in the Ukraine she thought was Lake Constance in Germany. So we went to Germany until we found Lake Constance. You could see the lake floor from above.

"Here, let me try." said Tanja.

She navigated to Switzerland, to Basel, where she had set part of her novel. I picked a street of houses, near the muddy river.



There was a girl riding a bicycle, a boy standing in a doorway.

I dropped a pin into an intersection and looked at the buildings. "Are those flats?" "No, they're houses."

I turned the view 360 degrees, and across the intersection was a 4-story medieval gate, freestanding on its own. People were walking through it and past it, as I would walk past a corner store, not noticing, uncaring.

Later, as I was writing this post, I tried to find that intersection again, but I could not. Did I imagine it? Was it real? (edit: I found it! It exists!)



"How can that just be in the middle of a street?" I asked.

"It's an old place." she replied.

Tanja wandered off, and I dragged the map to Ottawa, the city where I spent both of my university years. The picture had clearly been snapped in the early evening, with the shadows far off to the side, the buildings looking like headstones.



Tanja came back. I showed her the Parliament buildings.



then panned over down the street.



"That's the Chateau Laurier. That's where the Queen & diplomats stay when the visit the capitol."

This did not have the impact I expected it to, and she wandered off.

I continued scrolling through street view, following my walk home from university, past the National Gallery, when I realized it looked wrong. Te building was too sharp, too clear looking. What was different? Had it been remodeled?



Then it hit me. In my memory, I saw that building through falling snow, at night, as I was walking past. Seeing it in the daylight, in mid-autumn, just seemed off.

I continued along my route until I came to my old building at 110 Rue Dollard Des Ormeaux. And had quite a shock. The building was red brick now, with ivy spidering up the outer wall!



Did I have the wrong building? I checked the address. No, this was it. But I remember the building as off-white stone, with some salmon-colored bricks around the front. Viewing the building again, I entertained a momentary thought that after I had left, they had gutted & rebuilt the place, but that was ridiculous.

Then it hit me: it has been ten years since I lived there. Bricks darken. Plants grow. Memories change. The place you look back on may not be the same place you left.

Huh.

Note: I composed nearly this whole damn post last night, writing feverishly into BlogPress, then (ironically) thought "Gee, I'd better save this." I clicked save... And the app crashed. It crashed so hard that even after two restarts, the app still crashes after the opening screen. The first version might have been more profound. Oh well.