Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post-Apocalyptic Fashion: Pets Edition

Inasmuch as Google Analytics continues to show that my original Post-Apocalyptic Fashion post continues to be one of the biggest draws for searchers to find on this blog, I thought maybe I'd do a followup. This time with pets!

Having a tough pet with you in a post-apocalyptic world is a good idea for a number of reasons: it can scare away potential harmdoers, sniff out hidden sources of food or hunt for both of you, and it makes you look more badass, which, let's face it, is the very soul of post-apocalyptic fashion. Plus, if these were action figures, you know you'd want the ones with pets because its like getting an extra figure (which is why Croc Master was an awesome GI Joe figure even though, realistically, he's useless in battle).

Concept: Tough Girl with Tiger (Sienna Miller)
Outfit Basics: Knee high boots, knee-length knit dress, partial shirt
Outfit Utility: Well, I suppose the high boots are good for avoiding rattlesnake bites and briars, and allowing her to traverse areas of mud or ecological waste. I'm thinking that the knitwear dress isn't all that practical, as it will get dirty easily and doesn't provide much warmth for weight. Plus, not much in the way of waterproofing. Still, it breathes well, and will provide some cover from the desert sun. And it's a versatile enough garment to curl up into at night or to avoid the worst of a sandstorm. I give it a 4/10 for utility but a 7/10 for fashion.
Pet Choice: Siberian Tiger. Definitely high on the intimidation scale, but only moderate on the utility. Tigers eat a lot of meat, and midway across the desert she's going to start looking pretty appetizing to it. On the other hand, it can hunt independently and (imagining a true woman-beast bond) could probably do most of the food-acquisition for both of them assuming there was prey to be had.
9/10 intimidation
6/10 useful
3/10 practical
9/10 fashion

Concept: Classic Road Warrior with Canine
Outfit Basics: All leather, all black, all tough.
Outfit Utility: Protection from road rash or simple hazards is high, but it isn't very breathable and will likely lead to heatstroke or worse. Shotgun is a useful deterrent but only at short range. Crescent wrench and other tools likely to come in handy. Utility 7/10; Fashion 8/10
Pet Choice: Mutt. Small size means its easy to feed and it can scout in ruins and other places where its difficult for a man to go. It can eat a variety of foods but can't do much providing for its master. However, it can (potentially) aid in tracking prey or locating useful commodities like drugs or explosives.
2/10 intimidation
7/10 useful
8/10 practical
2/10 fashion

Concept: Somalian Warlord with Hyena
Outfit Basics: T-shirt, ragged africanesque skirt, repurposed anklets, sandals
Outfit Utility: Provides some protection from the elements, but little lower leg or foot protection means scrambling through junkyards or briars, but he will do better over fine sandy areas than the boot-wearers.
Pet Choice: Hyena. An excellent scavenger and also quite intimidating. Good sense of smell, moderate hunting ability, good camouflage, but mostly just cool-looking. Which is what we're after, isn't it?
8/10 intimidation
7/10 useful
6/10 practical
9/10 fashion

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Race The Devil

Via Mind Hacks:

"An extraordinary 2006 article from The New York Times profiles ultra-endurance cyclist Jure Robič who apparently regularly loses his sanity during his races - literally becoming psychotic as he pushes himself to the limit.

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback...

In a consideration of Robic, three facts are clear: he is nearly indefatigable, he is occasionally nuts, and the first two facts are somehow connected. The question is, How? Does he lose sanity because he pushes himself too far, or does he push himself too far because he loses sanity? Robic is the latest and perhaps most intriguing embodiment of the old questions: What happens when the human body is pushed to the limits of its endurance? Where does the breaking point lie? And what happens when you cross the line?

It's a wonderfully written article that touches on the man himself, the physiology of fatigue and the psychological strain of intense athletic feats."

In a gearpunk/Cthulhu fiction version of this, you'd have a feedback loop where he pedals himself to an insane state that gives him additional endurance to pedal himself beyond the nightmare Rasputin Cavalry and physically into Hell itself, where as long as he pedals fast enough, nothing can catch him. It can be a version of the Eurydice/Orpheus story, where Robic is the only one able to pass beyond the nightmares and retrieve his (or someone's) true love from hell, as long as he never stops to regain his breath or look to closely at the asphalt-crack messages that spell out forbidden eldritch knowledge that would keep him from ever being sane again. Of course, you'd have to keep the ending of the original, so let's just say there won't be a sequel.

A blending of men and beasts

Gorgeous Jungle Book Illos (For Katy)

It's Half-Human freak-week over at the Hope Chest: Alligator Children, Half-Coon child, Half-frog boy, and hopefully more to come! If they can manage a post about both half-human freaks AND mince pie, they will reach transendence!

Monday, September 28, 2009

On Social Surplus

Friend Kerry was kind enough to suggest that I offer some thoughts on the following piece (included here in its entirety, so you have to read it or consciously skip past it to get at my meager insights).

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus - Here Comes Everybody: "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus
Clay Shirky

(This is a lightly edited transcription of a speech Mr. Shirky gave at the Web 2.0 conference, April 23, 2008.)

I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing-- there were gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London.

And it wasn't until society woke up from that collective bender that we actually started to get the institutional structures that we associate with the industrial revolution today. Things like public libraries and museums, increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders--a lot of things we like--didn't happen until having all of those people together stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset.

It wasn't until people started thinking of this as a vast civic surplus, one they could design for rather than just dissipate, that we started to get what we think of now as an industrial society.

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time.

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan's Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.

And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.

This hit me in a conversation I had about two months ago. As Jen said in the introduction, I've finished a book called Here Comes Everybody, which has recently come out, and this recognition came out of a conversation I had about the book. I was being interviewed by a TV producer to see whether I should be on their show, and she asked me, 'What are you seeing out there that's interesting?'

I started telling her about the Wikipedia article on Pluto. You may remember that Pluto got kicked out of the planet club a couple of years ago, so all of a sudden there was all of this activity on Wikipedia. The talk pages light up, people are editing the article like mad, and the whole community is in an ruckus--'How should we characterize this change in Pluto's status?' And a little bit at a time they move the article--fighting offstage all the while--from, 'Pluto is the ninth planet,' to 'Pluto is an odd-shaped rock with an odd-shaped orbit at the edge of the solar system.'

So I tell her all this stuff, and I think, 'Okay, we're going to have a conversation about authority or social construction or whatever.' That wasn't her question. She heard this story and she shook her head and said, 'Where do people find the time?' That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, 'No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you've been masking for 50 years.'

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, 'Where do they find the time?' when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn't know what to do with it at first--hence the gin, hence the sitcoms. Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, then it wouldn't be a surplus, would it? It's precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

The early phase for taking advantage of this cognitive surplus, the phase I think we're still in, is all special cases. The physics of participation is much more like the physics of weather than it is like the physics of gravity. We know all the forces that combine to make these kinds of things work: there's an interesting community over here, there's an interesting sharing model over there, those people are collaborating on open source software. But despite knowing the inputs, we can't predict the outputs yet because there's so much complexity.

The way you explore complex ecosystems is you just try lots and lots and lots of things, and you hope that everybody who fails fails informatively so that you can at least find a skull on a pikestaff near where you're going. That's the phase we're in now.

Just to pick one example, one I'm in love with, but it's tiny. A couple of weeks one of my students at ITP forwarded me a a project started by a professor in Brazil, in Fortaleza, named Vasco Furtado. It's a Wiki Map for crime in Brazil. If there's an assault, if there's a burglary, if there's a mugging, a robbery, a rape, a murder, you can go and put a push-pin on a Google Map, and you can characterize the assault, and you start to see a map of where these crimes are occurring.

Now, this already exists as tacit information. Anybody who knows a town has some sense of, 'Don't go there. That street corner is dangerous. Don't go in this neighborhood. Be careful there after dark.' But it's something society knows without society really knowing it, which is to say there's no public source where you can take advantage of it. And the cops, if they have that information, they're certainly not sharing. In fact, one of the things Furtado says in starting the Wiki crime map was, 'This information may or may not exist some place in society, but it's actually easier for me to try to rebuild it from scratch than to try and get it from the authorities who might have it now.'

Maybe this will succeed or maybe it will fail. The normal case of social software is still failure; most of these experiments don't pan out. But the ones that do are quite incredible, and I hope that this one succeeds, obviously. But even if it doesn't, it's illustrated the point already, which is that someone working alone, with really cheap tools, has a reasonable hope of carving out enough of the cognitive surplus, enough of the desire to participate, enough of the collective goodwill of the citizens, to create a resource you couldn't have imagined existing even five years ago.

So that's the answer to the question, 'Where do they find the time?' Or, rather, that's the numerical answer. But beneath that question was another thought, this one not a question but an observation. In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: 'Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.'

At least they're doing something.

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

And I'm willing to raise that to a general principle. It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, 'If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too.' And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

And what's astonished people who were committed to the structure of the previous society, prior to trying to take this surplus and do something interesting, is that they're discovering that when you offer people the opportunity to produce and to share, they'll take you up on that offer. It doesn't mean that we'll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we'll do it less.

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that's going to be a big deal. Don't you?

Well, the TV producer did not think this was going to be a big deal; she was not digging this line of thought. And her final question to me was essentially, 'Isn't this all just a fad?' You know, sort of the flagpole-sitting of the early early 21st century? It's fun to go out and produce and share a little bit, but then people are going to eventually realize, 'This isn't as good as doing what I was doing before,' and settle down. And I made a spirited argument that no, this wasn't the case, that this was in fact a big one-time shift, more analogous to the industrial revolution than to flagpole-sitting.

I was arguing that this isn't the sort of thing society grows out of. It's the sort of thing that society grows into. But I'm not sure she believed me, in part because she didn't want to believe me, but also in part because I didn't have the right story yet. And now I do.

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, 'What you doing?' And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, 'Looking for the mouse.'

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

It's also become my motto, when people ask me what we're doing--and when I say 'we' I mean the larger society trying to figure out how to deploy this cognitive surplus, but I also mean we, especially, the people in this room, the people who are working hammer and tongs at figuring out the next good idea. From now on, that's what I'm going to tell them: We're looking for the mouse. We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, 'If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?' And I'm betting the answer is yes.

Thank you very much."

First off, I know this isn't the first time I've read this, but this is definitely one of those pieces that I'm liable to feel ought to be reread periodically. I don't know whether he's right on all accounts, but I can see the comparison he's making between gin and sitcoms, and I can hope he's right about the shift in the use of social surplus.

It's been less than 18 months since the speech was given, and already it seems outdated. What about all the effort people put into YouTube (which is _directly_ a television producing/sharing effort)? What about all the time 300 million people spend on FaceBook? 300 Million! That's 5% of world population. How long ago was it that 5% of world households had a TV?

Then, look at the shift in how the internet is being accessed. It was once the purview of a very few with expensive desktop computers. Then it was a whole lot of people with desktops and some laptops. Now it's tilting towards majority of users with mobile devices and a bunch of laptops. The trend is towards huge percentages of the world population accessing the internet primarily through mobile phones and other devices that they will carry with them all the time. Which means any downtime they get, if they are within range of infrastructure, they can be interacting with the internet. Often, this will mean consuming content. Increasingly, it will mean creating it. This is part of Twitter's big appeal - it can be done quickly, from a mobile device.

So I think there's little reason to doubt Mr. Shirky's trend analysis. And many reasons to stop drinking from the boob-tube's gin and do something constructive (some of the time). I won't begrudge you some television (granted there's SOME genuine value to it - a discussion for another time), but I think everyone benefits from content creation. Even if nobody reads your content.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Network Without Me

Nexus has a certain Gibsonesque appeal to it:
My Network without me: Nexus

In Touchgraph I can drag some of the Singletons over towards networks I associate them with:
My Network without me: Touchgraph

Generally speaking, people cluster about how I'd expect, neatly into the subgroups I'd put them in mentally. All the Story Games people together, all the Blackbird people, all the people at the various churches I've attended, and links mainly where a person is known to associate with more than one group (which is why of course Michelle is the biggest hub on both graphs). But these graphs raise a few questions, too. How does Matt C know Steven B? How does Angie B know Amy F? No doubt there are other links unknown to me I haven't noticed on the graph.

Pruned: Yellow Fog

Pruned: Yellow Fog: "Yellow Fog
Olafur Eliasson
(Less sinister, at least we think so, than Artigas' vapor is Olafur Eliasson's Yellow Fog. In this permanent installation, fog rises up the sides of the Sammlung Verbund in the center of Vienna, Austria, shrouding it from street level to the roof. Fluorescent tubes embedded in the pavement emit a yellow light, which illuminates and substantiates something that's barely visible. Obviously related: Diller + Scofidio's Blur Building. Photo by Rupert Steiner.)

I think a lot more could be done with installations like this - displaying information using lasers in the fog; making the lights into LEDs that change to indicate things, and so forth. The world needs more glowing fog.


So, at present, I produce content in the following places:

  • On this here blog. I like it when people comment, but few of you do, probably because I post so seldom that anyone who isn't using Google Reader or another feed aggregator probably stopped checking long ago or stops by very occasionally.

  • My google reader shared items, which is probably my most prolific place at present. I do like the way the "Comment View" acts as a vibrant area for me and a few close friends to comment on what the others are posting, and since its where I do 95% of my internet reading, its a good place for me to be publishing. But those who don't use Google Reader are blind to this content. Although that's not really true - Facebook picks up the links themselves, but not whatever commentary I may have made on them. This is a very easy way for me to create content, using the 'Note in Reader' button, and it would be hard to give up that ease of sharing.

  • Facebook statuses, and, occasionally, notes. Facebook is extremely good at what it does, and therefore this is probably where my content has the largest audience of people whose opinions I might care about. Blog posts (like this one) get auto-reposted there as notes at present. As noted above, FB also picks up my GR shared items, but only forwards people to the content, not the commentary.

  • twitter. Most of my tweets are actually just repostings of my google shared items, blog posts, and listens channeled through and twitterfeed. And sometimes I copy over a facebook status. Very little original content happens there, but it is one flawed version of an aggregation of these sources.

Which seems a bit much for someone who produces as little content as I do. Likewise, if I want to interact with friends and others, there are at least 4 places I have to go to read that content (not really; it all goes to Google Reader, but to respond I have to track conversations in multiple places). Google Wave may address some of this, but it seems like it'll benefit other Wave users exclusively.

Some of you will remember a time when this space was my only content publishing platform, and I actually devoted time to it. We had fun together on the Plane of Knowledge and I liked that it was a place where people I appreciate would gather and discuss things.

With that in mind, I think I'd like to try a little experiment. For a week, I'm going to try to create content (almost) exclusively on this blog. I'll still comment on others' shared items in Google reader, and will still post the occasional Facebook status, but I'm going to try to put items I normally would share in GR onto the blog instead, and my thoughts with them. Twitter and FB will still mirror/link to these posts, so I may not truly be consolidating the conversation. Anyway, its something I want to try. So watch this space.

PS: Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Augmented Reality

In 1994 I discovered cyberpunk. I first read Neuromancer, then everything else I could get my hands on by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and their contemporaries. Virtual Light was but a shadow of the book that Neuromancer was, but my teenage mind still soaked it up. What I remember most about the book is the technologically advanced sunglasses that the plot revolves around. Among other things, they have the property that when you look through them, information is displayed about the things you're looking at. Whose car is that? What brand of shoes are those? Who is that man?

At the time this was firmly science fiction. Now, the beginnings of that capability are being introduced on mobile phones. The current leading example is Layar (see also here), which provides the capability to overlay data sets realtime onto the phone's screen based on what is seen by its camera. This has been termed 'Augmented Reality' because it brings features of our now well-known virtual realities back into the physical one. A good overview article from the Economist is already familiar to those who subscribe to my Google Reader shared items.

So what's it good for? Here's a short list of ways AR might change a few things:
  1. See it, Shop it: Like those shoes the lady in front of you is wearing? Not only might your phone tell you what they are, it can tell you where the best price or nearest location is to buy them, and it can draw an AR pheremone trail only you can see to show you how to get there.

  2. AR Gaming. This is a broad one, so heres a few examples: Take a look at this blend of tabletop wargame, video game, and virtual world:
    Now imagine taking that to the streets of your city, in multiplayer, with teams, AR destruction drawn on buildings, the works. At that point it becomes Alternate Reality.

  3. Likewise imagine the ways that virtual communities or games can spill over into AR, and vice versa. World of Warcraft players with a particular layar on could look into their phones and see other WoW players replaced in the video with their game avatars, who move like the person, and functions of the game that once happened only in-game in-basement could now happen on the streets, at gaming conventions, or in your local Starbucks.

  4. For an excellent example of how AR might make life difficult for celebrities who value privacy and easy for stalkers who don't, refer to the recent video of a Dutch camera crew using Layar to find Brad Pitt's home in Amsterdam. On the other hand, there will emerge AR celebrities in the same way that when webcams first became affordable there were webcam celebrities. Which leads us to:

  5. Of course, this being the internet, there will be porn. It may be as simple as applications that take in video of girls walking on the street and output a virtually generated declothed version (which is sure to spark an interesting privacy debate), or it may allow for imaginary 'companions' only you can see through your own phone, like Baltar and Number Six on Battlestar Galactica. Who knows? But be sure of it, the adult entertainment industry will stay on the leading edge (because there's money to be made).

  6. Then theres the many commercial applications: How much is that house appraised for? Where's the nearest restaurant or movie theatre? This is old-hat, location-aware stuff that the iPhone is already doing, but it will be viewed through the lens of the mobile device itself.

  7. Virtual geocaching.

  8. Mix with facial recognition software and web-photo tag-mining and figuring out how to approach that cute girl at the end of the bar (or, swindle her out of her money) becomes easier.

Doubtless, there are loads of other ways in which AR might or might not be a game-changer. What do you imagine?

Extra Sources:
* Bruce Sterling's AR blog posts at Wired
*AR Sci-fi reading list

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crabapple-Lime Jelly!


A whole bunch of crabapples, with maybe some quinces, hard pears, or normal apples thrown in; at least 4 lbs (but as much as 9)
lemons or limes (1 per 4 lb of crabapples)

Big pot
jelly bag or fine mesh strainer over large bowl

Wash the fruit, cut crabapples into quarters, removing any big blemishes and some of the seeds and stems. Cut any other fruit you're using into pieces the same size as your crabapple bits. Throw it all in the pot. Add cold water until the fruit is just covered.

Bring to a boil and simmer until it's all mush (several hours), stirring occasionally and (towards the end) smearing anything that hasn't turned to mush, like pears, against the sides of the pot with your spoon. Pour into your jelly bag or fine strainer suspended above a bowl (ideally a big bowl with measuring marks). Leave for several hours to overnight, until it basically stops dripping.

Start your jars sterilizing. Preheat the oven to 375. Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water, then rinse in hot water. Don't dry them, but put them on a baking sheet. Once your jelly is boiling in the next step, put the jars in the oven and leave there for at least 10 minutes.

Pour your juice into another big pot, measuring as you do. For every pint of liquid, add 1 lb. granulated sugar. For every 2 pints, add the rind and juice of one lemon or lime. Bring to a boil slowly, stirring well as you do to dissolve the sugar, then boil as rapidly as you can without it rising up and overboiling. Skim off any foam that forms (it looks different than just the boiling liquid). When it has started to thicken (at least 10-20 minutes of good boiling), test it for setting. Put a plate into the fridge for a few minutes, then spoon a little jelly onto the plate. If it wrinkles when pushed with your finger, you're there.

Take the jelly off heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Take your jars out of the oven if you haven't already. Either remove your citrus peel from the jelly or put a little piece of rind in each jar as decoration. Pour the jelly into the jars. Cover with a waxed paper disc, and seal the lids while still hot. Allow to cool for 12-24 hours before labelling and storing in a cool dark place. Good on toast, pork loin, and all sorts of things!

Adapted from "A Year of Family Recipes", by Lesley Wild

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loot of the day

Here're the lots I won at our local auction (by proxy, I went and looked last night and then called in my bids this morning:

Old photos, the one on the left of some Victorians on camels in front of the Pyramids

A pair of nice oak serving trays

A nice looking set of weights for my desktop/alchemy lab area

A peridot ring I bid on sight unseen for my daughter whose birthstone is apparently peridot and who will lovingly cherish and eventually lose it.

Space heaters for the possibly drafty nursery or wherever else we want them this winter.

And then I also got the following off eBay - I had seen this set of interchangeable tile-playmats at E's kindergarten classroom and looked around for them online.

I bought two sets for more road possibilities.

All considered I was quite proud of today's acquisitions!

New Slang Cover

Remember Friend Davey? He doesn't blog much anymore (for that matter, neither do I), but occasionally he sends nuggets my way. Here is one such:

Do you know the Shins song New Slang? Sure you do, it's in Garden State.

Do you like it? Hell, even if you don't you should totally check out this cover.

There, didn't that make your day?

Loved it! Thanks, Davey.