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Juli and I have been enlisting tiny acid-excreting friends to make pickles! I wanted to note What I Did and How It All Went So Wrong here, for future planning and improvement.

Perfectly good cucumbers, ruined! )
More successful fermentation experiments, which totally coincidentally happen to be [personal profile] juli 's experiments, not that that means anything, what are you implying:
  • Ukrainian-style kvass, a very mildly alcoholic drink made from water in which stale rye bread has been soaked and apple juice. Sold in parks by vendors who have 50 gallon drums on big carts. Tastes like sunlight and summer. Russian kvass, at least the bottled stuff made by soda manufacturers for export, is made of molasses and tastes like lies.
  • Delicious curry leaf-flavoured carrot pickle
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I saw Sgaawaay K'uuna ("Edge of the knife"), a Haida-language horror film late last year. Here's the trailer (not gory):

I quite enjoyed it. Here are some thoughts that don't quite rise to the level of a formal review:

Sound Design
The sound design is memorable, though it drove me up the wall a couple of times. Every manmade object in the movie (it is set in the 1800s) is made of wood, and they all go clunk. Halibut hooks clunk against floats. Paddles clunk against boats. Box lids clunk. Doors and floors clunk. Movies usually remove these kinds of random environmental noise unless they serve a specific purpose to the plot, like silverware scraping on plates to emphasize how awkward a family meal is or something. The sound designers of Sgaawaay K'uuna left all the clunks in.

On the one hand, it does do a good job of bringing to life the historical setting, which sounds pretty different than the metal and plastic pings and pangs I hear around my home. On the other hand, a scene where people are looking in a bunch of wooden boxes for a missing item, and rifling through other wooden items in the wooden boxes was almost more than I could bear.

The acting ranged from acceptable (Tyler York as Adiit'sii, the main character did pretty well - hammy, but in a reasonable horror movie "nooooooo" sort of way) to ... uh ... distracting. Not surprising: while all the actors were Haida, most were not fluent in the language.The children in particular often recite their lines staring off into space with furrowed brows and looks of intense concentration instead of looking at their conversational partners, and while you feel bad laughing at kids, it's kind of hilarious. Most of the action is carried by York, so the fumbling acting didn't detract from the storyline too much for me.

I loved that all the adults had unique tattoos. The tattoos were interesting formline designs, and also made it easy to tell all the characters apart even though they dressed similarly (often a problem for me in movies).

Beautiful in a BBC documentary sort of way. Crashing waves, woodcarving, sunlight through translucent leaves, winds in the forest. Kilometers of b-roll is an odd addition to a horror movie, but it's hard to object to footage this pretty. I personally appreciated the blunting of the horror elements by shots of crabs walking on a beach or something - descriptions I'd read had not been clear that this is at least somewhat a horror movie, and I was surprised by some intense imagery. At least until my butt went numb. Running length: about two and a half hours.

The horror parts are filmed in a style that is stereotypically "horror movie", with dutch tilts and Hitchcock zooms to make things feel off-balance and paranoid. The legend the movie is based on has some different ideas on what constitutes "scary" than a movie about evil clowns and jumpscares or something, so having the camera go "hey, this thing right here is the scary thing, you can tell because we're filming it weird" was pretty helpful to sell it to me as a cultural outsider.

Interesting story with intriguing ideas about how monsters are made.

minor spoilers )

Overall, I'd recommend this movie. It's beautiful and interesting and scary, even if the pacing is off. And the clunks. Seriously, the clunks were the worst part. I feel like I now know what misophonia is like.


Feb. 4th, 2019 10:25 pm
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Last night, we got our first frozen precipitation of the year, and it was graupel. Graupel is caused when a normal snowflake crystal falls through a region of supercooled water droplets: droplets that are way below freezing temperatures, but have remained liquid. If any of the supercooled water touches a snowflake, it instantly freezes onto the snowflake as a little lumpy drop. So as the snowflakes fall, they collect little ice bits until they're tiny round snowballs. It's different from hail - a solid ball of ice - because it's soft and fluffy. Sometimes called "soft hail."

I think I've seen it once before, but it's not terribly common here. On the other hand, cold temperatures aren't common here either; I don't know how common graupel is in regions that get snow more than once or twice a year.

ten pictures of graupel )
Graupel is a major avalanche cause, because it's basically a layer of ball bearings; they don't lie flat or get hooked on eachother like regular snowflakes. If you get snow on top of the ball bearings, it will very easily slide off down a mountain. Much like our car did this morning. We ... might be stuck here for a bit.

(We're fine, the car is fine, it was a very slow slide, ably controlled by [personal profile] juli .)
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Something about the way the otter is looking across the water like a cranky old man cracks me up.

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These images were generated by combining images output by the BigGAN artificial intelligences, using the ganbreeder website. BigGAN is a program that can generate images in various categories; ganbreeder lets you combine categories. The AI is particularly good at combining mechanical and organic forms, but mostly in a really unsettling way.

It's a lot of fun, and I wish I had any use for slightly creepy, dreamlike, machine generated images, like if I was writing a mildly unsettling RPG that needed some illustrations, or a book of poetry about being trapped between the walls of the world, down where the gears are.
Six largeish images )

Here are other people's creations, some of which are really incredible. Like this one.


Jan. 28th, 2019 07:43 pm
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Saw a faint sundog today on the way home, yay! 

Sundogs are caused by ice crystals floating high in the atmosphere. When sunlight enters the crystal on the way to earth, it is bent, so when the light reaches the viewer, it looks like it came from a different point in the sky. If a whole bunch of crystals are the same size and shape, they'll all make the light look like it's coming from the same fake-sun location. To get a fake sun in this location, you need flat, hexagonal crystals, like bathroom tiles, floating horizontally.

They normally show up in matched pairs, one on each side of the sun, but I couldn't spot the other one.

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It has been one month since the worst windstorm to have hit this island in at least a century.
What have we learned?
  1. Peppermint vegan marshmallows roasted over a candle: delicious!
  2. Pumpkin vegan marshmallows roasted over a candle: disgusting!
  3. Although the big island normally protects us from bad weather drifting in from the open sea, if the angle is just right, there are a couple deep fjords on the big island that will funnel the winds straight through the big island and blast us like a cannon.
  4. The ferries have giant searchlights they can use to find their berths when the power is out. When they get near the dock, they can string a giant electrical cable over the water to provide enough power to gates, ramps, and lights from the ferry's engine. This process is cool, but terrifying.
  5. Our ferry capacity is 28 telco trucks and 18 utility trucks.
  6. Eventually, the only clean pants will be the goofy raver pants with d-rings and straps and metal studs everywhere. They're fine except for the part where the straps keep getting caught on random furniture and it's hard to tell what you're hung up on in the dark. Little old ladies will admire them.
  7. Clever technique for rescuing beer if the power goes out in the middle of brewing, as discovered by a local brewery: add lactobacillus, make a sour. They're calling it Sour Outage, of course.
  8. I now know way more about where the undersea cables that carry power between the islands are, which is pretty neat. We're only one branch off the main line, so we got power back after only four days.
  9. Tugboats: surprisingly bad at hauling things on land. Several large and loud tugboats have loudly failed to budge a sailboat that got tossed ashore near my workplace.
  10. Good community idea for celebrating surviving the storm: making giant wreath out of broken branches.
  11. Bad community idea for celebrating surviving the storm: daredevil motorcycle jumps over the shattered pier.
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I don't know what to say about these socks.


Jan. 18th, 2019 08:32 pm
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I kept the world's laziest diary for the second half of 2018: each day I noted what colour the sky was, what colour the sea was, and how I felt (as a colour). I'm pretty happy with the results. It was quick enough to do even on days where something went horribly wrong at work, and the resulting chromatic timelines make sense and convey the rhythm of the year to me.

Large images )

I'd like to do a couple more colour journal questions this year, but I can't think of any I like as much as those three. Any suggestions? An ideal question would be:
  1. Answerable with a colour
  2. Answerable every day
  3. Likely to vary day to day
  4. Likely to show multi-day patterns
  5. Something I'll care about months later.
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In April 2018, we moved to Salt Spring Island. I work on Vancouver Island, so starting in April, every weekday I get up, drive down the mountain, drive along the shore to the ferry, take the boat to work, work, take the boat home, and then drive along the shore and up the mountain home.

I used to see the ocean maybe twice a year on camping trips, but 2018 was the Year of the Sea. It was like suddenly the world had a second sky. Another endless unfathomable vastness you were always aware of. We watched boats cross the trackless blue out the bedroom windows while falling asleep, and the sea began showing up in my dreams. I saw orcas, seals, herons, cormorants, porpoises, and swans on the way to work. I read the poetry of John Masefield unironically.

pictures of the sea )
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[image: image1.jpeg]
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Five chickens and a peacock devour an enormous, smashed pumpkin

Chapter Two: In Which The Chickens, Last True Descendants of the Dinosaurs, Bring Down A Very Large Pumpkin, and There Is Much Ravening and Rending of Flesh.

One of them kept climbing into it and cackling.

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Once upon a time [personal profile] juli and I were traveling in Siberia, with visas that were either about to expire, or had just expired. It was early autumn, with soft warm days and clear cold nights with sharp stars. We were rushing to the border, trying to exist Russia while we were still legal, along the rocky shores of Lake Baikal. It was about two hours after sunset, but the horizon was still aglow with green.

Lake Baikal is a rift lake - a deep crack in the Earth's crust that contains over twenty percent of the earth's fresh water. We could not see, at night, how blue and clear and how deep it was, but it still felt uncanny, this dark quiet space off one side of the car, where everything fell away.

And suddenly there was the apparition of a tree along the rocky shore, broken wind-twisted, with blue prayer scarves tied along the branches. And we sped on toward the awaiting border paperwork nightmare, and it was gone.

That tree haunts me.  At least once a year I make an attempt to depict it. (Here's an earlier one)

Here's the most recent:

A cut paper artwork showing a wind-twisted tree with blue scarves tied to some of the branches

It is a sheet of white paper cut with holes, layered over a sheet of black paper with holes, layered over a solid sheet of blue paper. 

In some ways, this is the perfect artistic motif to be obsessed with. I had only the one glance of it. I have no way to tell whether I'm doing it wrong, no way to obsess over the placement of every sheet of bark. Just the dream-dark memory of the wind-bent arch against the spill of twilight and the dark of the rift lake.

I entered this piece in the island's Fall Fair, and won first place in the hobby arts category. I think I won because the judges had no idea you could do this with paper.  (There were a lot of oil paintings that I'm pretty sure took both more skill and more time.) I've never won an art prize before! I get a trophy!

And then someone at the fair bought it! So now I can make another one without anyone realizing how obsessed with this one tree glimpsed for five seconds and 100 kilometers an hour from a highway in Siberia I am. 
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I take a ferry to work, which has been good for me. It's easy for important-to-the-soul things like longform reading, or creative hobbies to get completely pushed out of my life by work and chores and tiny but urgent nonsense. But an hour each weekday spent on a boat is time I can't actually wash dishes or do taxes with. Oh no, how dreadful, I guess I'll listen to the waves and keep an eye out for goofy seals and read or write or do art or something else wonderful. Woe.

I took a progress photo of this piece at the end of each ferry trip, so each photo represents half an hour of work, or less if I finished a section but didn't feel there was enough time start start the next step, or hadn't brought the next sheet of paper. The finished piece is four layers of paper, each with holes cut to show the next layer down: black over white over red over gold. It took almost a week of ferry trips to go from the sketch to the final piece, plus about two hours of fussing with frames and mattes, which I didn't do on the ferry.

(Warning: It is a picture of a Christian saint made for a church event, so perhaps don't look if you're uninterested in that sort of thing.)

many large photos )

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Wednesday was the first day in months that I did not see the Pacific Ocean. It was not the sort of thing I would have expected to notice, but I did.

These are the people I see every weekday, as they take the same ferry to the big island to work as I do:
  • paramedic in uniform
  • the farrier's truck
  • hippie couple who spend the whole crossing sitting across from each other with their palms pressed together and their eyes closed
  • truck from the farm store
  • car with "relax, you're not on the mainland" bumper sticker
  • woman who's read a dozen books about sourcing and supply in the coffee industry; I had no idea there were any books about this, much less enough that she gets through one a week and has been doing so for months. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next... she has to run out of coffee logistics books eventually, right?
  • very large, still grey dog who never makes a sound and only moves if you aren't looking
  • the sailors of the MV Skeena Queen, of course
  • grouchy heron who fishes from the seawall next to the ferry dock
I've never spoken to any of them, but if I take a different ferry, I kind of miss them. 

Haven't seen orcas in a while, but Thursday there were some porpoises! I recommend the WhaleReport app if you have a life such that you are likely to see cetaceans regularly. The scientists send sincerely gleeful emails in response to any sightings you report, which is wonderful.

I'm pretty happy here.


Jun. 2nd, 2018 10:14 pm
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A redbow

Two days ago at sunset we saw a vertical red streak glowing in the sky at sunset, jutting up from the horizon. It was almost due east, approximately the opposite side of the sky from the sun, and was rather more dramatic against the darkening sky than this grainy cellphone photo suggests.

I think this is a "redbow" - the degenerate red-only rainbow created when sunlight has to travel a bunch of extra distance through the lower atmosphere due to the angle of sunset to get to rainbowville. The extra atmosphere scatters the shorter colours more until only red is left. I'm not entirely sure, because most of the available pictures of redbows online look like unusually reddish rainbows, not just, "a red line in the sky," but this photo looks quite a bit like ours.

So that was neat! I'd never seen one before; I hope I get to again sometime.
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I have finally concluded my decades-long research into work-related tardiness. After arriving late at work hundreds of times for various reasons, repeating each several times (SCIENCE!), I can finally say, p < .0001, that I have conclusively determined the single best reason to be late to work:

The Best Reason is that the ferry had to turn off its motors and coast for a long while, due to orcas being too close to it. And also it was in the soft blue and gold predawn, with the light-that-would-be filtering around the islands and clouds. And also orcas are sleek and gleaming and curved and they reflect every part of the scene and you could see golden dawn-that-would-be and the blue slate clouds and the ferry's running lights and the dark shadows of the islands gleaming on their flanks, every one an entire dawn sky surging out of the blue-black sea and vanishing again.

(Perhaps this is what Lisa Frank was trying to show us all along.)
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  1. Pizza with bamboo shoots
    Not unpleasant, but not actually an improvement over cheese pizza, which seems like the minimum standard required of pizza toppings. Much better "only one place does this" pizzas I've had:
    • cashews and green chiles (Dirty Dave's in Olympia)
    • pickles and peas (Oregano's in Victoria)
    • apples and arugula (the late and much-mourned Al Forno in Olympia)
    Recommend bamboo pizza only for radical pizza-eating pandas and really dedicated pizza completists. Pizza completists probably aren't a thing, since you could always top a pizza with other smaller pizzas with their own toppings; I think Godel had something to say about that.

  2. Pecan-flavoured sunflower seeds
    Nuts, flavoured to taste like ... different nuts. They are sort of piney/woody and vanilla-y. Quite nice, except for the random pieces of shell in the bag. It's not pecan shell; I think it's something else in the Carya genus without a good English translation.

  3. Baobab juice
    Tastes like watermelon juice with tamarind in it. Nice flavour, but hard to drink an entire cup, it gets kind of chalky

  4. Cactus burritos
    Always eat cactus burrito. Especially at Javier's in Portland.

  5. the C U B E
    I recently attended a conference where the meal choices were:
    • Pan Roasted Steelhead (wild mushroom pesto, topped with shaved fennel and artichoke salad, creamy potato leek cassoulet).
    • Blackened Flank Steak (with a pan jus reduction, sauteed crimini mushrooms, shredded potato, green been and roasted corn cake)
    • Vegetarian option
    "Vegetarian option" turned out to be a cube made of about two dozen layers of thinly sliced pumpkin, provolone cheese, and spinach. Topped with mushroom sauce. I ... don't even know what to call that, and I guess neither did they.
    I like pumpkin. And cubes. I'm not sure this dish will ever again appear on this planet, and I was the only one who ordered it, so my recommendation or lack thereof is kind of moot. Wish I'd taken a photo.

  6. Groundcherries
    I'm guessing this is for historical reasons, like maybe Canada, unlike the US, has never embargoed Colombia, so there's a history of importing Colombia fruit? Groundcherries are available in every grocery store in Victoria, even on lowest common denominator things like premade fruit trays. People eat them a lot. It's one of those things that makes you feel like you've somehow moved to a parallel reality; everyone treats as Totally Normal And Not At All Interesting a fruit you've never seen before.
    I do recommend groundcherries, for all the good it does. Either you can't buy them where you live, or I just said the equivalent of "hey, have you ever heard of "apples"? Maybe you should eat one."

Homework question: is there a particular pizza topping unique to your local pizza parlour?
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I'm not sure I'll ever again feel as much instant kinship with anyone as I do with "Ryan T," who joined [personal profile] juli and I to watch a pale greenish meteor explode over the Pacific Ocean in the wee hours of a clear morning in early August. Insomniacs Watching A Burning Space Rock Together is a way better sense of belonging and connection than I've ever gotten from any cultural, vocational, internet, or political groups of which I am a member. Whee!


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