Each evening as the pets wax needy, the caffeine wears off, and the house creaks as it cools, I think: I should blog. A pin-snip tightening in the solar plexus; I clamp down and I panic lightly and I know, for one, that I don’t have the margins of energy to tell the whole story of what January is or has been. For two, guilt. The longer I go blogless, the heavier the onus. Even this paragraph has made me lose a kilogram or two of psychic weight. So, in compromise, let’s slide narrower the window of recap to encompass only one subject: two presentations I gave this month.
Mr. Pencil and I finally got around to framing some things—Pencilhaven has an epic backlog of framing—and I’d like to share it with you. Mr. P went through a self-professed eBay-cartography binge a few months ago, and, as a result, we have some nifty new specimens. This “Map of Canada and the Arctic Regions of North America” has something new to tell us about the weird history of our own neck of the woods.
A quick look back at how I fared, book-wise, in 2010 before I lose my breath again in the rapid onslaught of 2011. Did I read what I said I was going to read in 2010? Also, what’s in store for this year?
2010 in a nutshell: an emphasis on quality and specific areas over quantity. More longer books, fewer total books overall.
It behooves one to have some food constructs up one’s sleeve that one can pull out at will and riff on: recipes that allow for variations on a theme, often more of a narrative than a list of ingredients and instructions for their combination. Such is the case for what I’ll here call sour cabbage soup.
What I’m going to tell you about here was at one time based on a variant of Schchi, a Russian cabbage soup that, in Cyrillic, only has two letters (yep, there’s a single letter for “shch”). Most Americans likely think that Russian classic soup starts and ends at borscht, but I say, Not so! Not so!
Stockpot image from www.cooksandkitchens.co.uk
There’s a problem. Or perhaps not a problem so much as an absence of anything actively useful. I read a lot. I pursue a lot of interests. I see a lot, I go to a lot of places (more now than before). So much that I have become overawed, and, in turn, passive where I should really be active. I’ve transformed into an absorptive entity. This cannot stand.
What good is pummeling my way through Plato, learning the art of frankincense distillation, taking weak little steps towards astrophotography, sampling weird Austrian wines made from the Zweigelt grape or solving confounding problems in the world of mobile Web development if I keep everything entirely to myself?
Even on a small brochure map, the Loire Valley seems a bit wide-flung, but David and I are well-seasoned road travelers who tend to wipe through a lot of miles in an hour or day. So when we planned out our trip to the Loire Valley this summer, we assumed we’d hit the highlights: salty Muscadet on the coast (maybe some bruised-looking sea clouds for good measure); a dabble of honeyed Vouvray; a dalliance with the sere perfection of Sancerre on the eastern end. As it turned out, we never got more than 20 miles away from our inn near Saumur during our whole wine trip.
We are the meekest of dilettantes. But I think we harbor modest visions of the future, in which, while ruling our intergalactic empire, we might also have ten to twenty thousand important paintings, not to mention the collections of rare manuscripts, pillaged Bronze Age statuettes, ancient codices, amulets/crown jewels, signed first editions of Nabokov’s and Steinbecks great works and Shakespeare’s First Folio. Oh, and maps. O!, the maps. Halls and halls full of maps. Perhaps the maps could go in the wing with all of the Rothkos. Or near the Magrittes and Tanguys and Cornell boxes.
Over the past couple of years, we have made barely-lightly-informed, impulsive purchases by dint of haunting local auctions and art shows. Our acquisitions are a leap of faith: they’re mostly tragically-framed (it is ceaselessly amazing to see the dollar-store frames things end up in), possibly worthless, definitely displaying signs of age and fading. But they make us inspired, as art should, and they make me excited about the future.
David’s 35th birthday was last week. After my first four gift ideas went wholly south, I decided to get him something he’d been asking for. Well, sort of. Our kitchen’s mortar and pestle complement was sorely lacking. Our little guy only held a few ounces and served more to spray bits of things around than to crush or muddle them usefully. David had, for some time, been on the warpath for a new mortar and pestle, a big, manly, indestructible one.
I took it a bit further and found something shaped like a pig. Instead of an outsized marble variant or, even less usefully, a ceramic one, I found a jumbo-sized Mexican molcajete. These three-footed vessels are traditionally made from volcanic rock, tend to shed dust and grit until they’re seasoned, and have been around in some way or another since the Aztecs ruled Tenōchtitlān, awesome calendaring system and all.
The story begins: I once had an Amazon Kindle. I love to read and I love technology. It seemed like a good match. Except I kind of hated it.
Enter the iPad, with its iBooks application, and then re-enter Amazon with a Kindle reader for the iPad. Then there’s Kindle on iPhone and other options on the iPad, and, holy moly, what a morass of possibilities.
Things rarely get me unreservedly excited in my ripe old age. I’m thinking excited in terms of the way I felt about birthday presents when about ten. When I could, I’d stack them in order and slowly open each one and try to stretch out the event as long as possible, coaxing open paper and laboriously untying ribbons. The kind of excitement that actually makes me slow down instead of speeding up, because it’s just that good that I don’t want it to end.
We are building an Orrery, a brass-and-gears wonder of a mechanical thing (and heavy!) that models the planets in the solar system. I can’t stand how much fun I’m having with this. Even cutting the pieces out of their wretched blister pack and setting them out on the table (set screws, gears, axles, planets) is bliss.
From the archive, a few random posts that you might not have seen before.