Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Storms and Crashes and Grillin' and Marshmallows: What I've Been Up To

I am lame: no typecast, no pencast, no nuffin.  But there are pictures!  Lots of pictures!

The end of last week was rough.  Thursday morning, I was in a car accident on the way to work.  Another driver pulled into me from the side as I was going by, and the whole passenger side of my bitty car is scraped up.  Looks like someone keyed it with a Really Big Key.  Her insurance company and my insurance company are duking it out, and the whole process makes me queasy and uneasy.  I guess I've been really fortunate...aside from a few minor parking lot bumps and the one time I slid partly off the road in the snow and popped a tire, I've never had an accident.  And as accidents go, I guess it's pretty minor.  Still...oof.

And then Friday, I woke to news that there had been a major hail and wind storm back home in Northeastern Vermont, like nothing anyone had ever seen before: roads washed out, vehicles and homes flooded, trees knocked down.  One of the biggest roads near town (Rt. 5, which runs North/South) is closed down due to a major cave-in.

I've driven down this road I don't know how many times...it's hard to fathom this kind of damage.  And many of the smaller roads are at least as bad.

Closer to my own heart, the pond where we used to play growing up is gone--the storm took out the embankment that held it in place, and there's really nothing left but a big muddy hole with a little stream running through it.

The big gap left after the storm rolled through...

Obviously, it wasn't that big or that deep to begin with, but it's still sort of impressive that it disappeared literally overnight.

I actually shed tears, though I realize how silly this is considering that a) this wasn't even our property and b) others suffered far greater things.  Fortunately no one I know was hurt or anything like that.  Still...the pond!  I don't know how many hours I spent down there as a kid, skipping stones, catching bugs and frogs and salamanders, sailing toy boats, coming home muddy and smelly and wet...  Good times.

Apparently one of the neighbors on the road is hoping to start a fund to repair it, since the young man who now owns the land is likely unable to be able to pull it off alone.  Here's hoping it lives again.  Poor little pond!

But this weekend was good, if busy.  Things I did this weekend:

1. Played with inks, including the very pretty new Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses.

(Those of you on my letter writing list should have a chance to see this ink in person soon.  Yes, I'm actually getting caught up on letter writing.  Try not to faint.)

2. Planted a bunch o' flowers and herbs: petunias, alyssum, marigolds, basil, rosemary, dill, and a few random others.

Hopefully at least some of them survive.  I have a tendency to go, "Oooooh, pretty!!" whenever I walk into a greenhouse / garden center, end up purchasing more than I set out for, and then forget to water come July when Washington suddenly becomes high desert.  But for now, everything is doing well except the basil.  I'm batting 0 for about 5 where basil is concerned.  It's starting to feel personal.

3. Went on a nice long walk with thedog, down paths now green and leafy.  These pictures are actually about a week old, but I didn't think to take any this weekend...so you get old footage.

Gratuitous shot of the trees Jeff liked a few posts back.  I'm not quite sure what these are, actually!  They aren't the standard white "paper" birch we have back home, though in certain light, they do look like them.  But they're more silvery, and the bark is pretty solid.

4. Bought a bitty little gas grill, and after a day where I debated using it or taking it back (I sort of had post-purchase sticker shock, I guess)...I broke down, put it together, fired it up and was very pleased with the results.  Best grilled chicken I've ever made, by far!  And it's just big enough to make dinner with leftovers for the week without having to do batches.

I also grilled mangos (they're on sale this week, and ohh, I love mangos!) and avocado.  The avocado in particular was a revelation.  Cut it in half, took out the pit, brushed with olive oil and slapped it down on the grill for maybe six minutes.  It was soft and creamy and subtly smoky.  I put a little salsa and sour cream in the middle and...nom.  So good.  I'll be making those again.

And I didn't torch any major structures!  Yay me!

Now I have a very, very short work week, and then a brother I haven't seen in awhile and my baby sister will be visiting.  They'll mostly stay with another brother and his family up near Tacoma, but I may kidnap 'em for a day or so to show them the sights.  Next weekend there's a music festival in Winlock, WA, and I'm hoping to drag my brother to that.  It's maybe my favorite local music festival, for a number of reasons: first off, there's a wide variety of acoustic music from bluegrass to Celtic to...whatever.  Also, after the concerts, everyone hangs out to just play music for hours.  Also--and this is important--there's a pavilion with an open fireplace where you can roast marshmallows.  I mean, c'mon--marshmallows!

Speaking of which, I was at Fred Meyer this weekend and they had GINORMOUS marshmallows.  Like...almost-the-size-of-a-small-apple marshmallows.  What is this world coming to?  Aren't regular marshmallows more than enough sugar for the average person?  And yet...giant marshmallows are just awesome, especially if (like me), you're one of those people who toasts marshmallows by burning the outside, peeling it off and eating it, and repeating.  You could go a long time on a marshmallow like that.  Woo-hoo!  If, on the other hand, you're one of those weirdos like my Dad who like to carefully, carefully toast marshmallows to a perfectly even golden brown outside and complete inner gooeyness, I'd guess these'd get very messy.

I didn't buy any, but I keep thinking about that open fireplace deal coming up next weekend.  Hrm.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ode du Spam Folder | The Kindness of Strangers | Microsoft Bob and the Gardens of Time

1. Ode du Spam

Well, I thought it was funny.  Made up of actual lines from my spam folder.  There's something particularly evocative about the second and third lines...or maybe it's just because I'm currently reading Raymond Chandler and my mind is influenced thusly.

In any case, it makes about as much sense as a lot of other modern poetry.

2. The Kindness of Strangers

On a completely different subject (abrupt switches are what I do), I would like to say thank you to MT Coalhopper.  After the recent dip pen post in which I mentioned the Esterbrook 313 Probate nib, he offered to send me some Esterbrook 312 Judges Quills, which are similar in some respects, but a much finer, more manageable point.  I received his package this week, and not only did it contain a generous quantity of the nibs in question, but also a selection of other points and this beautifully handcrafted little box with slots for each.  I'm very much enjoying trying these out.

3. Bob
Another abrupt change in direction: does anyone at all besides me remember the travesty that was Microsoft Bob?  Essentially, it was supposed to be a kinder, gentler Windows-Within-Microsoft-Windows.  You could set up a virtual "house" with various rooms and various images linked to programs.  For example, in your office, you might set it so when you clicked a pad of paper sitting on the desk, it launched your word processor, or clicking the kitchen stove might open a recipe card program.  Really, it was all rather insultingly cartoony and foolish, and it bombed in a big way. (Except that someone smuggled the various "assistants" out the back door and into Microsoft Office.  You know that irritating bouncing paperclip?  Blame Bob.)

Although I never actually used it as a user interface, I wasted I don't know how much time decorating my Microsoft Bob house.  I was incredibly drawn in by the ability to set up rooms, rearrange furniture, change decor, etc. etc. at the click of a button, likely due to my lack of any real-life housekeeping or gardening skills.

The punch line?  This weekend I stumbled into a Facebook game (Garden of Time) with two components, one of which is a rather addicting game with two subsets (find-the-hidden-objects and spot-the-differences, in various historical time periods), and the other has you set out your "garden" on a grid, Visio style.  Both components sucked me in this weekend.  I accomplished pretty much nothing, aside from endlessly shuffling white flowers and park benches (with dreamy music playing in the background) and clicking on hidden playing cards and pineapples.

Well, that, and I did type up some eight or nine thousand words of the last NaNoWriMo.  I'm somewhere past the halfway point on that project.

Oh, and I broke down and ordered some Noodler's "Black Swan in Australian Roses" ink.  For that, I blame Adwoa.

(And tonight, I did actually work in the real garden for an hour or so...though somehow, there are a lot more weeds and bugs in the real world...)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dabbling in Dipping

Esterbrook 313

(Yes, I did a certain amount of smearing.)

I'm surprised by how much fun I've been having with these.  I'd come to think of dip pen nibs as incredibly scratchy things that caught the page at every opportunity, and wondered how on earth people used them routinely back in the day...but now I'm finding that while some (particularly the very fine and flexible sort) *are* fairly scratchy (particularly if used wrong), other points are smooth, and some (which I find myself preferring, actually) are somewhere in between: they "grip" the paper a bit more than your average fountain pen, making my handwriting a bit nicer, but don't snag.  And most nibs hold enough ink for a few sentences or even a paragraph.  

I'll stick with more standard writing instruments when I'm out and about or not in the mood, but dip pens are a lot of fun to use in a journal, when I have the luxury of taking my time, pausing now and then to dip and think.

Some Randomish Linkies: Sumi ink is traditionally used for brush calligraphy styles.  It typically comes in stick form and must be ground on an inkstone and water added to make ink for each use.  I find this very interesting!  The bottled liquid forms are newer and (I believe) somewhat scorned by serious brush calligraphists...but, in my opinion, far more convenient and more practical for pointed pen writing where one submerges the pen in the ink  (you *could* load the pen with a brush, but I'm not that ambitious).  The Moon Palace works great for my purposes.

I bought mine from John Neal Bookseller.  They have all *sorts* of goodies there.  Most are aimed at true calligraphers rather than those who want to play with dip pens for general writing, but still worth a look.  Speculator also recommended Paper Ink Arts as a source for many things pen and ink, and in my dip pen wanderings I see he's by no means the only one to point them out.  Their on-line catalog leaves something to be desired.  I hear their paper catalog is much better.  I plan to request it.

And one of these days I'm going to pick up some Winsor and Newton inks.

I also came across this very nice catalog of Esterbrook nibs with writing samples.  Fascinating!  It isn't all-inclusive, but a nice reference nonetheless.  I wish I could find a similar reference for other common brands, but no such luck so far.

Oh, and finally...though it may be a bit premature of me to make sweeping recommendations of eBay sellers, I had a very positive experience with this seller.   In addition to nibs, he sells beautiful rocker blotters, ink wells, and pen holders of all sorts.  There will probably be another purchase sooner or later.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Long Walk Makes Everything Better. Mostly.

After a very unrestful Sunday, I arrived at work Monday to discover that my monitor had gone kablooey (technical term), and the day pretty much went downhill from there.  And then this morning, I had to be at work at six.  Yes, I got some breaks during the day, and I got to leave early, kinda, but still...  And so I was crabby today.  And I took some of that crabbiness out on one of our own.  For that, I apologize.

However, we had a little sunshine today, and I got home early enough to take full advantage of it.  I grabbed Cisco's leash, waited a moment for him to come back to earth so I could put it on him, and set out.

It's approaching what I consider the most beautiful time of year here in Washington.  We're still a few days or weeks short--spring seems to have arrived late this year.  The deciduous trees are leafing out, but the leaves are still small.  The trees have an oddly unfinished look, like an incomplete painting: the shape and some under strokes are there, but the vital details have yet to arrive.

Spring is apparent in all sorts of different wildflowers, and other interesting plants.

But there are still signs of the winter we have just departed.  Ferns are still brown around the edges, lacking the green of new growth.

And though later in the year, the sides of the path will be overgrown, right now there are still things left exposed.  Bits of bare branches show, winter-bleached to the color of old bone.

And here and there, in the form of segments of rusted iron rails and wooden railroad ties, I come across signs of the trail's original purpose.

In a few weeks, the grass and weeds and brambles will have taken over again, but for the moment, the trail thinks back, and remembers.

And me?  Feeling more relaxed and less crabby...though less so than I'd be if the trash guys would actually take *all* my trash like I pay 'em to do, instead of only *half* emptying the can.  *sigh*  It's always sumpin.