11 August 2008

The View From the Seventh Layer

by Kevin Brockmeir

    A book lent to me.

The book in one sentence.
    A collection of short stories featuring ghosts, aliens, your own death, and so much more.

The Good.
    Beautiful and lyrical with elements of the fantastic and supernatural.

The Bad.
     Lacking in anything solid to hold on to.  Like spun sugar, easily devoured, leaving behind the taste of sweetness and the remembrance of intense enjoyment.  
    And as tends to be my problem with short stories, I feel the need for greater resolution and clarity.  For neatly folded corners and tucked in sheets, that the author leaves us to fill in on our own.

Who would I recommend it to?
    Someone who likes poetry, coloring outside the lines, and doesn't mind unanswered questions.

A quote from the book.

    "What would the sky be like if there was nothing to see but stars?"

    I don't always get or understand this sort of writing.  But I keep coming back for more.  It speaks to the part of my mind I ignore.  The part of my mind that likes shiny things and wants to chase butterflies.  Sometimes you've got to feed the monsters in the basement.

29 July 2008

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Book Nine of the Sookie Stackhouse Novels  


The book in one sentence.
    Sookie and Amalie deal with family and shake off the the lingering baggage of past boyfriends while Bill and Eric come to their senses and all join together to confront powerful forces of change.

The Good.
    Sookie isn't quite as resistant to join in with the supernatural world, which opens her up to more interesting encounters.  Harris has created an incredible world that is always a pleasure to visit.

The Bad.
    The whole book felt like it could have been condensed down and used as the opening to a longer book that actually went somewhere.  Lines were drawn in the sand in the previous book and in this book the lines were just re-emphasised.

Who would I recommend it to?
    Anyone with an interest in vampire fiction series.  Also anyone who likes a good drama.

A quote from the book.
"If I ever invaded a small country, this was the woman I wanted on my side."

It might be possible to skip this book in the series and not miss a beat when the next comes out.  However I did enjoy the book a good deal and am looking forward to the next installment.  Watching Sookie's transformation is delightful and her world vibrant.

03 May 2008


While living in Florida I was working on increasing my bean intake as a transition into vegetarianism.  When I realized my gluten sensitivity my use of beans expanded more.  While living with the Worlds Best Soap Maker I tended to eat whatever was on the menu for the evening.  

Now that I'm responsible once more for my every meal and I'm living with a vegan, I'm diving with renewed energy into the bean goodness.

Take the dive with me.  Beans for every meal of the day!

Tofu scramble: (don't let the dreaded 't' word scare you off)

Garam Masala Tofu Scramble Recipe
As found on 101 Cookbooks.

Cut the onion/fennel thinner than you would for a slaw - extra thin, but not quite whisper thin. You can buy garam masala spice blends, or make your own from spices like cardamom, cloves, cumin, and cinnamon. On the tofu front, I actually like to use a firmer tofu which lends more structure in the end, softer water-packed work as well but lend a looser, and in some cases creamier texture.

    a splash of olive oil
    couple pinches of salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala spice blend
    1 medium onion, halved and cut into thin slices
    1/2 medium bulb fennel, cut into very thin slices
    1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
    12 ounces extra firm organic tofu, crumbled
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

Add the olive oil to a big pot over med-high heat. Stir in the garam masala, and then quickly add the onions and fennel.

Stir in onions and salt and cook until the onions soften, just a minute or two. Now it's up to you in regards to how long you'd like to let the onions cook - it you are in a rush, just cook them for a few minutes until they soften. If you have a bit more time, let them start to caramelized and darken. Stir in the cranberries, cook them for thirty seconds and add the tofu. Stir and stir to combine the tofu with the other ingredients. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and pistachios. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serves 4.'

Bean Sprout Salad
Start with your leafy green of choice.  
Add veggies and dressing.  
Top with Bean Sprouts.  

Fast food, hurrah!

Chickpea Dinner aka: Channa Masala

2 Tablespoons oil/butter
1 Teaspoon Cumin
3 Clove buds
3 medium Bay Leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/2 large onion
2 largish tomatoes
4 Sprigs mint
1 can Chickpeas
Curry powder mix 2 Tablespoons by taste

Heat oil.  Fry cumin, clove, bay.  Then add garlic and onion. Fry until browned.  Add tomatoes.  Cook down with lid until tomatoes are broken down.  Blend mint with some onion. Add to pot.  Add chickpeas and cook 10-15 minutes.  Add Curry powder.  Cook off any extra liquid if needed. Can be eaten on it's own or Served with Basamati Rice and cucumber yogurt.

Vani, Thank you for this recipe and all of your cooking lessons.

Amazing Black Bean Brownie Recipe as found on 101 Cookbooks

For those of you who have a hard time tracking down agave nectar (which is becoming much more readily available) substitute honey 1:1 for the agave nectar. Ania's head notes encourage you to keep these brownies in the refrigerator, they will slice much better if refrigerated several hours or preferably overnight. I used instant coffee this time around, but you can find natural coffee substitute at many natural food stores.

    4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    1 cup unsalted butter
    2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (hs: canned is fine)
    1 cup walnuts, chopped
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    ¼ cup (granulated) natural coffee substitute (or instant coffee, for gluten-sensitive)
    ¼ teaspoon sea salt
    4 large eggs
    1½ cups light agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch (rimmed) baking pan (hs note: or jellyroll pan) with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high. Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely. Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the agave nectar and beat well. Set aside.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Stir until blended well.

Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. (They will be soft until refrigerated.)

Makes 45 (2-inch) brownies.

Reprinted with permission from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano. (Ten Speed Press 2008)

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup    Gluten Free Bean Flour Bread Mix
1/2 tsp.     Baking Soda
1/2 cup     Chocolate Chips
2/3 cup    Soft Margarine or Butter
2/3 cup    Granulated Sugar (White or Brown)
1 Egg    
1 tsp.    Vanilla

In bowl, stir together bean flour bread mix, and baking soda.
In mixing bowl, cream together margarine and granulated sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients until blended. Fold in chocolate chips.
Drop by heaping tablespoonful (15ml), about 2 inches apart onto nonstick sheets.
Bake in 350F (180C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 16 cookies.

Web Resources

Botanical info

History of the Legume

27 April 2008

Sporks: Bastardization or useful utensil?

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not like sporks.  I think they're pointless.  I was reminded recently of a clever poem one of my high school classmates had written about the dual nature of the spork.  From there I decided to investigate sporks and determine the origin of such useless yet oddly prevalent implements.

For clarification, we are discussing here the sporks that contain a shallow spoon like bowl and short fork like tines.  And not the utensil that contains a fork on one end and a spoon on the other.

A search on Amazon will lead to a variety of different sorts of sporks: wooden, plastic, and metallic.  People must actually pay money for inefficient utensils.  Crazy, I know.

Who invented it?
Sporks have been in use since the late 1800's.  Wikipedia suggests that there is some confusion on origination; there are have been patents in the past, but indeterminate records at current.  Sporks are Godlike proposes two theories: Divine intervention and evolution.

Alternative uses for the spork.
Give the sporks extreme inability to serve its intended purpose Spork.org has compiled this list of alternative uses:

   1. Pull out all but the edge prongs, rip off the handle, and stick it in your mouth. Instant Dracula!
   2. Invert the spork (turn it into a foon) and load stuff into the depression and fire!
   3. Foon your spork and lay it on the table with the arch up, then press on the high arc and release. Flying Foons!
   4. Foon your spork and then spork your foon in rapid succession, the resulting crack sound is known as a `spack'. This is hours of fun.
   5. Foon your spork and turn the prongs up, you have just created a sporfoontapult, perfect for launchings (see above).
   6. Alternately bend the prongs inward and outward and stand the spork on end. This is a leaning tower of spork. You can then launch foons over it.
   7. Get a bunch of friends together and make a plenty foons. Then start launching them at each other, the objective is to collide foons in mid-air. Note: The more foons in the air the better, try to launch 5-10 at a time for a challenge.
   8. Plant them in your lawn to scare away burglers
   9. Stick them in your backpack to scare away friends
  10. Instead of roses, give your girlfriend sporks in new and interesting ways
  11. Plus much much more...

Can a confirmed Spork hater change her ways?
While contemplating the conundrum that is the spork, it occurred to me that I might well have given the spork short shrift.  To that end I was determined to acquire a 30 day supply of sporks and use them to consume my meals over the next thirty days.

Sporks Are Godlike provides a list of the sporks native habitats. I visited a nearby Taco Bell to pilfer a supply of sporks.  They didn't have any!  They only had forks!

Over the coarse of the weekend I visited, a Dollar Tree, an Acme grocery, a Trader Joe's, and a Whole Foods.  No Sporks.  Could it be that all of these companies are in agreement on the uselessness of the spork, and have removed them from circulation?

I'll keep my eyes open.  If I manage to find some sporks I'll let you know how the 30 day trial goes.

Web resources

Sporks are God like

Literary resources
None. Not for a lack of trying though.  If you know of any books/pamphlets/etc that chronicle sporks and/or other utensils, please forward me the pertinent details.

19 April 2008

Fireflies in Love

I was falling asleep last night and I noticed fireflies were flickering outside my window. It was kind of comforting. They were quite plentiful in the warmer seasons of North Carolina and I haven’t really noticed any fireflies since moving to Florida.

My job had me in my car early this morning.  The early morning sky was still quite dark. Dawn was hours away. On the way to the Silver Bullet (my car) I noticed the fireflies were still flashing. I was amused at they're amorous nature. Funny bugs, seeking mates all through the night.  And then I noticed that it wasn’t fireflies.

It was the sky. The sky was filled with soundless lightening.  Spectacular.

Never before had the sky done something to make my jaw drop.

I had trouble focusing on the drive into work.  The display was more remarkable than fireworks. And soundless; awesome. I was more than a little late for work.

How could I have missed out on observing this phenomenon, previously? Admittedly I'd never lived anywhere previously where I woke so early in the morning. It often rains daily in Florida, which doubtlessly increases the chances of witnessing such a sight.

As it turns out, when lightning is more that 10 miles away the sound waves will dissipate and not reach the observer.  Also if weather conditions permit, the sound of thunder can be funneled upward instead of earthward.

What I saw was an intercloud or intracloud lightning. 'When lightning occurs inside a distant cloud at night, the whole towering storm is illuminated in an eerie and spectacular way.' (Gibilisco).

Internet Resources

Weather Bug 
Weather Underground 
Stormy Weather Blog
Bhakti Roberto's Descriptive Essay

Haven't been able to find a good clip/picture of this phenomenon.  When I do I'll post it here.

Library Resources

Buckley, B., Hopkings, E. J., & Whitaker, R., 2004, Weather: A Visual Guide, Firefly Books Ltd., Buffalo, New York.

Cox, J. D., 2000, Weather for Dummies, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., New York, NY, 212 p.

Gibilisco, S., 2006, Meteorology Demystified, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., New York, NY, 123 p.

Smith, J., 2001, The Facts on File Dictionary of Weather and Climate, Market House Books Ltd., New York, NY, 107 p.