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Q: what do you call a thermometer with no numbers?

thermometer

A: a stick.

This is our jam thermometer. I can read the 100° mark and the 400°, so math and a Sharpie gave me close enough approximations to make yogurt. I hope.

I ordered a few sachets of starter on Saturday, and they came this morning. Sometimes eBay comes through!

First time out, I’m sticking as close as I can to the instructions on the packet, though I don’t really have a good low heat source for the ferment. One recipe suggested putting the hot mixture into a thermos, so I put it in a steel thermos and put that in a saucepan full of hot water. I’ve changed the hot water on the hour, but I have a bad feeling it’s losing temp too fast. I’m at about the three hour mark, so I’ll go check again in a minute.

One site I read said, “don’t worry, the milk can’t spoil – you’ve already spoiled it!

Ha! Little does she know my skill for spoiling the unspoilable!

February 19, 2018 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 9

Woof! Woof!

cabbage

Chinese New Year begins today. ‘Tis the Year of the Dog.

Thanks for your input on the fermentation thing. I knew I’d have pickling and fermentation geeks on the blog!

I’ve had the old, old problem with researching stuff on the web: too much information, some of it contradictory. Some sauerkraut recipes, for example, insist that the shredded cabbage be kneaded vigorously to express the water (this must be the ‘elbow grease’ p2 was talking about). But some people just dump brine over it.

Nobody talks about sterilizing containers first. This makes the jam maker in me cringe. Yeah, I get it — you’re trying to grow bugs. But surely only the right bugs.

Unlike canners and picklers, I get the impression fermenters are a freewheelin’ bunch. It either works, or you’ll know it hasn’t, and it usually works.

I think it’s too cold in the kitchen to start experimenting just yet. We don’t have much heat in that part of the house and, this time of year, it’s hovering in the low sixties (or even high fifties) at night. I think I saw seventy as the recommended temp for getting the cultures going initially.

So I’ve just ordered a couple of different yoghurt cultures to play with while we wait for warmer weather. I love yoghurt, but I will have to work out how to scale down the recipe. I can’t eat a liter every 72 hours!

Pro tip: if you search eBay for “starter culture” you’re going to see a LOT of worms. Have a good weekend, everyone!

February 16, 2018 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 11

I guess I get it.

dunno

I don’t know about this image. It was the header pic for a FaceBook group called “Chicken Keeping for Assholes” that I was invited to join. For some reason.

As you might expect, there are tons of chicken keeping groups on social media. What you may not know is how bloody and acrimonious they can be. The main divide is between those who see chickens as livestock and those who keep them as pets. It usually comes to a head over culling sick birds. I’m going to guess the “Assholes” group is in the pro-culling camp.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about fermenting food. Have you ever?

Sauerkraut? Pickles? Kimchi? Kefir? I’m talking ferment in brine, not pickle with vinegar.

From what I’ve read recently, the vinegar thing is a fairly modern imitation of food that has been fermented naturally — it tastes similarly sour, but is more controllable and consistent for commercial production. Even most of the stuff that has been fermented traditionally in brine is apparently zapped before packaging to kill the bacteria.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m still on my gut bacteria kick.

Don’t get me wrong — I love me a good ol’ kosher dill pickle. But I’m looking to brine stuff at home and eat friendly bugs. The produce season will soon be upon us!

February 15, 2018 — 9:46 pm
Comments: 20

It’s my Blogiversary!

blogiversary

Today is my eleventh blogiversary! In that time, there have been damn few weekdays that I failed to squeeze out something on these pages. Often something extremely lame and bad, but those too are things.

It was easier at first. There was so much new stuff to post about, what with the immigration and the moving and England and all. I fear it’s getting repetitious now. The seasons and events come ’round the same every year. It’s what I love about them, but there’s not much new to say.

But I would miss it if I didn’t have it. It’s been such a part of my daily ritual for so long. Also, I’d miss you guys terribly. So here’s to another year of low effort Summer fete posts and stories of Merry Olde. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

p.s. Oh, and I got married nine years ago today.

February 14, 2018 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 27

Do I even need to say anything?

yeesh

Rejoice! Our 44th president got himself put on a shower curtain this week!

No, seriously, that’s some tacky ugly shit. I tried to find a “contact sheet” of all the presidential portraits so you could see how badly this one stands out, but Wikipedia won’t list the last four in their article. The artists were privately employed so the images are not in the public domain. Who knew?

The best bit is watching snooty snoots like the New York Times try to pass this off as a work of…something other than tasteless eye rape. The cringe!

I know about his two different mock recreations of Judith Beheading Holofernes, substituting black women for Judith and white women for Holofernes. Meh. I went to art school. Nay, thou canst not shock me with irreverence. You’da thunk that would take somebody out of the reckoning for a presidential portrait, though, but oh well.

No, the REAL best bit? Kehinde Wiley — the ‘highest paid artist of his generation’ — may not even have painted it himself. He maintains a studio in China, where four to ten ‘assistants’ do the grunt work. Like paint the pictures.

There’s nothing new about artists using assistants—everyone from Michelangelo to Jeff Koons has employed teams of helpers, with varying degrees of irony and pride—but Wiley gets uncomfortable discussing the subject. “I’m sensitive to it,” he says. When I first arrived at his Beijing studio, the assistants had left, and he made me delete the iPhone snapshots I’d taken of the empty space. It’s not that he wants people to believe every brushstroke is his, he says. That they aren’t is public ­knowledge. It’s just a question of boundaries. “I don’t want you to know every aspect of where my hand starts and ends, or how many layers go underneath the skin, or how I got that glow to happen,” he says. “It’s the secret sauce! Get out of my kitchen!”

I assume he once painted his own pictures, in their entirety, in a similar kind of style. For some reason.

Oh, hey, Michelle’s is a corker, too. Not as aggressively tacky, but the likeness is awful.

February 13, 2018 — 9:00 pm
Comments: 31

The Flintstones’ cartoons

cartoon

Moving images, prehistoric style. They’ve found a bunch of these things and the current thinking is that they were toys. The current thinking.

I really liked this article in Science News.

Thousands of objects, some over 20,000 years old, have been traditionally explained as having some nonobvious ritual or religious significance, because they were…weird and inexplicable. More recent analysis of some of the clay objects have shown tiny fingerprints: they were made by children. Others may well have been made by adults for children.

I’m sure our ancestors would seem super religious to us, or at least terribly superstitious, but not EVERYthing was a ritual object, for crying out loud. This buttresses nicely with my personal thesis that the Willendorf Venus (and her sisters) were porno.

Think about carrying that object in the pocket of your…caveman suit. It would be pretty, erm. Tactile.

February 12, 2018 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 6

It sounds worse than it is

caputmortuum

At last, I got my caput mortuum! I didn’t order it specifically, it was part of a package of pigments. Cheapest way I could get my hands on a sample of all the colors I wanted.

But I have found it! The holy grail! The pigment that best matches color of a chicken’s comb with the sun shining through it! It is cadmium vermilion and I am inexpressibly chuffed.

It looks brighter when you mix it up.

Have a good weekend, everyone, and may all your chickens have bright and shiny combs.

February 9, 2018 — 10:32 pm
Comments: 11

Bad elf

elf

Poundland is the British equivalent of the Dollar Store. Not a place that greatly appeals, but they won our undying custom after the 2017 Elf on the Shelf incident.

In the runup to Christmas, they tweeted a series of photographs of an elf on the shelf doing…things. Naughty things. Double entendre things.

And some very sour pusses indeed complained to the ASA – the Advertising Standards Authority. And they have now sent a formal complaint to Poundland, a thing they were not obliged to do. Especially since, as it turned out, it wasn’t 84 people with a credible complaint, it was 23. Poundland’s formal answer is here.

So how naughty was the Poundland elf? Welllll…this is the image that drew the most fire. But he was a pretty naughty elf, indeed.

From the response, it looks like the idea didn’t come from an agency, but from somebody inside the organization. That makes it even better, somehow. I promise you, they made thousands of friends for every enemy. Britons love their smut.

February 8, 2018 — 10:29 pm
Comments: 10

So eager to please!

seamonkeys

I have intensely vivid dreams, sometimes. I did last night. I won’t bore you with them.

My mother, she insisted on telling me her dreams in great detail in the mornings. Oh, this was grim. When I tried to cut her off, she’d say, “no, no — here’s where it gets interesting!”

It never did. Other people’s dreams never do.

I have a theory about dreams. I think your brain rehearses all sorts of arbitrary imagery and rehearses arbitrary emotions simultaneously. So you get random scenarios jammed up with with random (sometimes profound) feelings.

The shovel that makes you feel guilty. The fish that frightens you. We won’t even touch inappropriately lusty dreams. These can feel hugely meaningful, and aren’t. That’s my theory, anyway. Ahem.

seamonkeys5w

Anyway, at the dramatic conclusion of my final dream, I turned to my boss (an actual boss from many years ago) and shouted, “you have the aesthetic sensibilities of a sea monkey!” Which I think is rather good. “Brine shrimp” would probably be better, but hey. I was unconscious.

A friend of mine got taken in by that Sea Monkey ad. A very, very stupid friend. He must have got the temperature wrong or something, because all he got was a sad plastic castle full of smelly water. If you’ve ever wondered, here’s what healthy brine shrimp look like at five weeks old.

February 7, 2018 — 9:23 pm
Comments: 10

O, Canada!

unicorntrudeau

So the image above came up in my Twitter feed. While it is obviously Trudeau entertaining a unicorn hand-puppet, the tweet that went with identified it as the Gender Identity Unicorn.

buttertrudeau

Sadly, it’s not, though I’m suspicious of the rainbow-colored horn. It is Gary of Gary’s Hug Club, a club started by a puppeteer who…solicits hugs. Yes, he hugged it.

As did Margaret Atwood (scroll down), that dessicated old bore (I’m still salty I had to read so much of her feminist shite in High School). She’s been all over British radio this week talking about…I don’t know. Her twat or something.

In the course of my researches, I rediscovered Small Dead Animals — remember? It’s a really splendid Canadian blog that I used to love back in the day. That is, back in the day when I had a corporate gig and read a bajillion blogs every day.

Oh, also I found this butter sculpture of Justin Trudeau hugging two baby pandas. Because of course I did.

February 6, 2018 — 8:20 pm
Comments: 11