Monday, April 30, 2007

Tree Liberation Front

Last night after dinner, my parents and I liberated trees. I live next door to a bank, and when the bank was built, they planted a bunch of trees, carefully supporting each baby tree with wires and stakes. Then they never went near them again.

As babies grow, so did these trees, and now they are quite big. The wires, even shielded by rubber hose, have cut into their tender trunks. In addition, the single old, mighty tree on the property is covered in vines to a height of about 25 feet. It's not looking good for these trees. I've often said that I'd like to rescue them, though I was worried that the bank would be upset by my trespassing. But my father just grabbed some pruners, and he and Andrew cut through as many of the vines as they could without destroying the bark. Then he removed all the wires from younger trees. I hope that we've saved them. One died last week when a fierce wind toppled it, breaking it right where the wire had sufficiently weakened the trunk.

For the love of all that is good, people, think of the humanity, um, arborosity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The promised details

Regarding moving: Andrew and I are moving in together, so at least one of us would have needed to move. We both love my place, but at $1200 plus utilities, this puts it at a bit over fifty percent of our combined monthly incomes, which is a scary place to be. I figured that by getting a one bedroom instead of a two bedroom apartment, we could save money. But this place will be even cheaper than we expected (a huge selling point). Our list of pros and cons were both long, but the pros were definitely longer. The landlord (living below) smokes like a chimney - con. It's in my current neighborhood, where you can walk to dozens of shops and there's decent public transportation - pro. It's tiny - con. But there's loads of storage - pro. I'm allowed to put in a garden - pro. It's decorated in 1960's dark wood paneling and fake brick - figure that one out yourself.

We're moving in late July, so that means there's still a long time to wait before we discover if we chose well or not. But we've chosen, and (except at 4am when I can't sleep and all the world is a scary place) I think we've chosen well. And, for goodness sakes, it's only an apartment.

Regarding the rolls: First off, I don't even know what they're called. Some recipes call them "Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls," some "Summer Rolls," some "Salad Rolls." But here's how you make them.

1. Get thee to an Asian grocery, and buy rice vermicelli and rice paper rounds.
2. Cook the rice vermicelli about 5-8 minutes, until done, and then drain and rinse with cold water.
3. Slice into matchsticks or thin slices the flavoring ingredients. Vegetables should be raw, but meat cooked and cooled. I used red pepper, lots of fresh basil, and fried tofu, but other recipes call for bean sprouts, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, mint, shrimp, or pork.
4. Soak each paper round in warm water for about 30 seconds just until soft. Lay it on the plate, fill with a handful of cooked noodles and a few of each of your flavorings, and then roll like a burrito.
5. I made a dipping sauce of peanut butter, rice vinegar, and chili sauce, but I think you could also try peanut and lime, maybe with some cilantro, with heat to taste.
6. They say that you can prepare them a few hours ahead of time, but I ate the leftovers from the meal two days later and the basil was still crunchy, although the skin tore more easily.

Here's what theylook like. Yum.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

News Flash!

....The parental units are in town for one night tonight. Expect cheap but good Ethiopian food, accompanied by astoundingly bad service... Andrew and I found an apartment we like, across the street from my current digs. After literally hours of debating, we decided to take it. Further updates on the wisdom of this decision as events develop... I secretly cut my hair myself two weeks ago and the few comments I received were positive. This means that either my current haircut is pretty foolproof or that I have some previously undetected haircutting ability. I suspect the former... Those soft rice paper rolls you get at Vietnamese restaurants, filled with rice vermicelli and basil and a protein source and dipped in peanut sauce, are actually quite easy to make. I think they'll become a regular item on my weekday menu rotation...My friend who's going to Europe to do research for eight months was just told by her advisor that there was a misunderstanding: he didn't mean eight months, he meant three years. I'm going to miss her so much... Stay tuned for more details at 10.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Um, can you handle more cute kid photos?

My niece just celebrated her birthday. While I was unable to attend the shindig, my mother sent this photo of a very styling idea for an alternative to boring birthday cake:

Kyla is destined for stardom. Here she practices her coy look for the camera...

... and here she is, wearing shades because her future is so bright.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This and that

My work computer has been in the ER for over a week now. I miss it terribly. It seems to have had a complete nervous breakdown and, as a result, needs extensive therapy and medication. The tech support guy is not yet ready to release it, although I go and visit my computer every day to let it know that someone cares. In the meantime, I'm sort of on pins and needles. I backed up everything a few weeks ago, when the computer was acting a little funny and my little scan disk and defrag routine didn't seem to make it feel any better. But until I get it back, I won't know quite how much I've lost. For example, I back up my grade sheet every few weeks, but not every single time I enter a score. So have I lost some of my students' grades, or not? And if I have, how bad will the fallout from that be?

In completely other news, this morning I was reminded once again of how clueless physicists can be. I was walking down the street towards campus, and passed a man I've often seen in the physics building, whom I assume is a professor. I smiled at him, and he smiled back, but muttered, "Trash!" angrily under his breath. I was rather taken aback, especially as I looked down at the emminently respectable black pantsuit ensemble that I was wearing today. Having reassured myself that I did not deserve that comment in any way, I turned around and looked at him. He had gone a few steps beyond me, then stooped down to pick up some garbage on the ground.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

About comments

Every blogger loves comments, because they remind us that we're not just shouting into the wind. Not that I need affirmation to continue doing this, oh no, not me. After all, I clearly have so much to say every day that I can't manage to fit it all into daily conversations but must let it spill onto the blog.

However, you may occasionally find that you simply must respond to something that I say. "Four tablespoons of olive oil per tablespoon of vinegar," you splutter, "Only a heathen would make a vinegrette that way!" Well, if you are not blog-savvy enough to comment, you may have nowhere to direct this excess emotion. I am here to help, with this handy how-to-comment post.

When you've read a post that has really got your dander up, click on the "# comments" link at the bottom. Then you'll be directed to a page where you can type in your comment in the right hand box. After you enter the magic no-spam random letters, you're left with only one more task: to "Choose your identity." If you already have an account, you hardly need these instructions, so I won't worry about you. However, if you don't have an account, you can either choose other and then type in whatever name you'd like to use, or you can choose anonymous and then you won't have to identify who you are. In that case I'll be up nights wondering who's stalking me, so don't choose that option.

That's it. You've now opened the door to a world where you can tell everyone exactly what you think. And clearly they want to know, or they wouldn't have put the comments link so handily right there, right?

(Inspiration for this post goes to a friend who emailed me to tell me that she was frustrated by how many questions she had to answer just to comment, and then later discovered she had accidentally signed up to be a blogger.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Killing a few minutes of your day

This video was screened at our Star Trek group last night. If you have a minute and 37 seconds, treat yourself to a viewing. In 1960, Leonard Nimoy, apparently saddened by the lack of success of his brief TV series Star Trek, recorded a music video. Now the good news is that, unlike William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy can actually carry a tune. But the song choice and choreography, are, well... I have no words to describe what they are. You simply must watch it and see for yourself.

The Most Amazing Music Video You'll Ever See

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

At my brother's house, they put the kids to work at a young age.

Kyla helps put away the dishes.

Kyla helps by cuddling the cat.

(What can I say? I'm a doting aunt.)

Feline Spring Break

While we were away in Savannah, my cat stayed with some friends of ours, who have three cats of their own. Apparently the cat spring break was as wild as many in Daytona, because Phi came back naked as, well, a cat sans collar.

We got a new one for her last week, and it has fish printed on it. No one besides me seems to think this is odd. Would you find it peculiar if a man was wearing a shirt printed with pork shops? Or deviled eggs?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Everything tastes better fried

A few days ago I made sauerkraut cakes. I had received fresh sauerkraut from our vegetable share. A recipe on epicurious told me to just add flour and eggs and fry, and they were delicious. Slightly sour, slightly salty, soft in the middle and crispy and fattening on the outside. Yum.

This afternoon I had the leftovers for lunch, with sour cream, while I read an article on heart attacks. I'm going to die. But I guess I'm going to die happily.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Garlic soup

It's cold and rainy today, dashing my hopes that the warm weather of the past week was here to stay. The warm days did give me a chance to weed half of the flower/shrub beds surrounding my house. My decision to move in August has really put a crimp in my gardening plans this year. It won't be hard to keep the shrubs and lawn looking acceptable, but I don't plan to put in any flowers this year. It would break my heart to have to leave them, and if I planted them in containers, I think they would too quickly succumb to the Washington summer.

In happier news, I discovered a new soup that I like which uses only ingredients that I always have. So it can be included in that short list of yummy but easily made emergency dinners. The recipe that I found for garlic soup has you saute about two or three heads of garlic on very low heat for about twenty or thirty minutes. Then you add broth and your choice of spices, and cook for the same time again. When you're ready to serve, poach a few eggs in the broth, and ladle the soup over some bread. It was filling and not overwhelmingly garlic-y. And if you avoid poaching the yolk too much, you can break the yolk and make the soup wonderfully rich.