Saturday, June 20, 2009

minisculey more brave on the internets

So, I have very limited presence on the internets (other than Facebook, on which I am prolific), mostly because I spend a bunch of time sowing my own garden instead of reaching out into other folks' spaces. For instance, I follow all the big players on Twitter - John Hodgman, Wil Weaton, Neil Gaiman, etc. - but I almost never try to have any conversations with them. I hardly ever comment on other people's blogs if I don't know them in real life. I don't even comment on people's photography on Flickr.

This has almost nothing to do with having my own head in my butt, and everything to do with my crippling self-consciousness in possibly having *anything* positive to contribute to these folks' lives. I mean, what can I add to Maggie Mason's life that she doesn't already have? Pretty much nothing.

However, on Friday, Gina Tripani posted this tweet:

...and I thought to myself, hey, that seems to be a safe question, and Gina seems to be a very nice person who would not shun me on the entire world wide web for thinking that I could add to this conversation. So I tweeted a response back.

Today, she posted the results on her blog, and not only was my response one of her selected replies, but she also characterized it as being something clever!

I do realize how transparently fangirl I'm acting, but really, I don't care, because no one made fun of me for stretching out of my comfort zone, so suck it, Trebek.

In case you're interested, this was my response:

John Hodgman at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner

Is Barack Obama's presidency the "triumph of the nerds" that John Hodgman has been so breathlessly awaiting? You be the judge.

putting up jam: the olallieberry edition

Last Saturday, I used my friends and mother-in-law as free labor to pick berries.

Whit showing off his wares

Kidding! That wasn't the original intent, but we collectively picked about 10 quarts of berries (I think. My math skills are notoriously poor. We got 40 cups; isn't that 10 quarts? It's 40 divided by 4, right? Bueller? Bueller?)

Anyways, since everyone except Whit and me had to fly home on Monday, we decided that I would put up a ton of jam, and give it to all involved parties later on. I actually love making jam. When I first started doing preserves last year, I was super anxious; my chemistry education basically shrieked "you have to have everything measured correctly because otherwise chemistry laws will sneak into the jars and leave not-fun presents like C. botulinum!" Gradually, I realized that since I boiling the crap out of the jars, things should probably be fine.

Picked and washed olallieberries

Berry jam is especially easy, because you just have to boil together sugar and berries. That's it. No fussing with powdered versus liquid pectin, no addition of other spices, no addition of extra acid. It's totally simple and rewarding.

I use recipes from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving for all my preserving, but since I don't have a steam-pressure canner, I stick with the high-acid recipes.

Berry Jam (from Ball Blue Book of Preserving)
9 cups of berries
6 cups of sugar

Note: you'll want to wash and prep your jars, lids, and bands before starting. After washing, transfer the jars and lids (but not bands) to either a pot of simmering water, or a oven a little over 180° F. Remove the jars and lids as you need them to fill.
  1. Combine berries and sugar in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to gelling point.* As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Skim foam in necessary.

  2. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

* the gelling point can either by assessed by a thermometer (target is 8° F over the boiling point of water) or by the "sheeting test":
Using the sheet test, dip a cool, metal spoon into the boiling jelly. Lift out a spoonful of the mixture; moving the spoon away from the steam. Tip the spoon over a dish so the juice will drop off. When the jelly mixture first begins to boil, the drops will be light and syrupy. After continued cooking, the drops will become larger and will drop off the spoon in a sheet or flake. The gelling point has been reached when the jelly sheets off the spoon.

putting up olallieberry jam

you know you're a band geek...

...when every time you listen to Muse, you think about how much radder the music would be if arranged for a marching band.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stanford Commencement 2009

The Stanford Commencement was today, along with the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department ceremony. I haven't been to a Stanford graduation since my own master's one in 2004. Not a lot has changed. Sandra Day O'Connor spoke in 2004; Anthony Kennedy spoke in 2009. I was simultaneous amused and annoyed with the undergrads' "Wacky Walk" in 2004, just as I was today. There did seem to be an overabundance of howling children (each time a child screeches, my uterus shrivels just a bit).

The ME ceremony was pretty long; there were about 400 people graduating from this department (kids, if you want to get lost in the crowd and have the people with whom you graduate have no idea who you are, ME is the department for you). I'm joking; the high numbers mostly have to do with the diversity of the topics in ME. It also relates to the general definition of "engineer"; when someone says "I'm an engineer" to a layperson, they mean "mechanical engineer." When someone says things like "I'm an aero-astro engineer," they really mean "rocket scientist."

Since Kos had passed in March, Whit and Sun both were hooded by Ken Waldron.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Damion Berger, In the Deep End

NPR Picture Show (which is a fantastic photography blog, BTW), had a post on Damion Berger's photography, highlighting his participation in an exhibit at Bonni Berubi Gallery in NYC. From the blog post:
Remember those hot summer days at the pool, when your idea of fun was to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater? Photographer Damion Berger certainly does -- and that's because for him, those days were rather recent. By submerging his camera, holding his breath as long as he possibly could, and stealthily swimming around public Mediterranean pools, Berger produced this whimsical series called In The Deep End.

They have a great selection of his images on their blog; this is my favorite of the group:

photo by Damion Berger

Sunday, June 7, 2009

vertical garden in Sunset Magazine

How amazing is this vertical garden? I'm not quite sure how it stays sufficiently watered, but I'm assuming that since they're primarily using succulents, the garden only needs to be misted every week or so. Via Sunset Magazine (photography by E. Spencer Toy).

UPDATE (6.17.09)
Lowe's has instructions on how to construct your very own vertical garden (via Apartment Therapy).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Maker Faire 2009

W and I went to the Maker Faire this past Sunday. This is our first time back since the second one in 2007. Let me tell you: it is a lot more organized than it was back then, although my fear of things randomly catching on fire hasn't abated.

I'm not sure if this was a steady evolution or an all-at-once change, but this year's fair seemed to lean more heavily into Burning Man/steampunk elements than before. They still had lots of great robot demos. W kept getting exasperated with me, I think, because I have a very pedestrian idea of robotics, and he has an engineer's understanding of them (which is to say, "realistic"). We had about 5 conversations like these:
Me: (watching a robot catch a ball thrown at it) You can build that, right?
W: Um, not really.
Me: But you built a robot that can follow a black line across the floor.
W: Yeah, but that like one sensor that look for and track a binary signal, whereas this robot needs to not only track in 3D, but also predict the velocity of a moving object and other reasonable things.
Me: (silently judging Stanford Engineering for substandard robot curriculum)

So yeah, more organization, more corsets, equal amount of firepower, more precocious children (one wearily corrected another child over a misidentified Coke: "It's a PELLEGRINO...can't you read?")