Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Music #2

The 2008 albums I actually bought in 2008:

Black Keys "Attack and Release": Two guys playing dark dirty blues, this might be their best album.

Raconteurs "Consolers of the Lonely": Full of the dark/light grace and roots music of good Zep.

Foxboro Hot Tubs "Stop Drop & Roll": Sharp lyrics and great 50s garage sound from Green Day. Very very repeatable.

TV on the Radio "Dear Science": Yay Brooklyn! Sophisticated quirky sound and vocals, brash and sweet and keeps you engaged. Rolling Stone picked this as album of the year but I like it anyway. TV's earlier album "Cookie Mountain" was great too.

Beck "Modern Guilt": As deep as you need it to be. Quite melodic too. He might be getting old.

Kaiser Chiefs "Off With Their Heads": Loud Brit pop/rock with catchy riffs and singalong lyrics. Their 2 other albums are great too.

Elvis Costello "Momofuku": Press Play and be magically transported back to the late 70s! An entirely pop and rhythm-driven approachable new EC album. My god.

Kings of Leon "Only By the Night": A pretty good kick-ass assortment of songs in southern-rock style.

Mudcrutch "Mudcrutch": Tom Petty in disguise with his 1st band, gone back to blues and country rock stylings he kinda let alone for a while. A repeater.

MGMT "Oracular Spectacular": Boys angst without the emo. I almost wish I didn't feel like a cougar listening to this. These guys kick the Jonas Bro's collective arse.

Switches "Lay Down the Law": More well-crafted Brit pop/rock, reminiscent of Kaiser Chiefs and the Coral and Franz Ferdinand. Every track keeps it moving along.

Wolf Parade "At Mount Zoomer": Very alt, Reminiscent of the Shins and Interpol, with similar twang and depth to the sound. Crunchy.

Moby "Last Night": Pleasant, not spectacular, a bit heavy on the 'ludes.

REM "Accelerator": Middle age sucks. But they can still write melodies that sound like the 80s.

The Pete Best Band "Hayman's Green": Sounds like a "lost Beatles album," a tuneful 60s memoir in music. Reminiscent but not derivative. Sweet and thoughtful.

Black Francis "Svn Fngrs": Pretty much what you'd expect from Frank Black's more Pixie-ated alter ego. Hard sounds, growling/howling vocals and weird lyrics. Fun!!

Nada Surf "Lucky": A pleasant mellow set of semi-memorable pop songs that sound older than 2008. That's all. Not a bad thing.

Fleet Foxes "Fleet Foxes": I didn't expect to like this but I do. Alt folk? Alt choral? Late-night bad dreams music. Listen with the lights on.

Stephen Malkmus "Real Emotional Trash": Moody and strange. Might be dangerous. I like it!

Counting Crows "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings": No surprises, and that's a good thing from this band. Only 1 or 2 cringe-worthy tracks.

Carbon/Silicon "The Last Post": No surprises from Mick Jones' latest project, but a good beat and you can skank to it.

Vampire Weekend "Vampire Weekend": A few great tracks with great hooks, the rest meh. Gotta love the "M79" fave bus!

My Morning Jacket "Evil Urges": I HATE the 2 singles "I'm Amazed" and "Touch Me" so I trashed them, but I like the title track a lot, and a couple of the quirkier other tracks. I liked their old album Z more. Still, I'm glad they're getting lots of attention.

Death Cab for Cutie "Narrow Stairs": A few memorable radio tracks, the rest ain't bad either. A more diverse set of sounds for them. Nice pop hooks.

Snow Patrol "A Hundred Million Suns": see above.

Coldplay "Viva la Vida": see above. Brian Eno must be stopped.

Haven't listened yet:

David Byrne & Brian Eno "Everything that Happens will Happen Today"

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds "Dig Lazarus Dig"

Bob Dylan "Tell Tale Signs - Bootleg Vol 8"

The Stills "Oceans Will Rise"

The Killers "Day and Age"

2008 Music #1

There is obviously no such band as The Chesterfield Kings. "Psychedelic Sunrise" (from Wicked Cool Records) is obviously a collection of unreleased Rolling Stones tracks from 1966 - 1971. "Inside Looking Out" for example was probably going to be the b-side for "Lady Jane." "Yesterday's Sorrows" should have been on "Exile on Main Street." "Up and Down" was an alternative version of "She's a Rainbow." That said, it's a hell of a lot better album than the stuff the Stones released between "Exile" and "Some Girls." Andrew Loog Oldham's album notes are just a tip-off, a wink if you please.

Beck's "Modern Guilt" came up next in the CD tray. Not a bad segue.

Catasetum Success

So my encouragement post worked, and Catasetum atratum is blooming again! And this time I'm paying much better attention. After being open 2 days the 5 flowers are definitely fragrant, a sweet generic honey-like aroma. Dunno how I missed that before. I wish the flowers were better organized instead of pointing every which way, but with flowers this odd that's like complaining my cat only drives me crazy half the time.

I need to take the plant out of its plastic "pot" and snip away the dead oldest roots, maybe remove the very oldest pseudobulbs too. I'm quite pleased that this season's growth is one of the most robust yet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Believe in You

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying holds up remarkably well. I never noticed before that the executives all speak Westchester-ese, and the secretaries all have broad Bronx-Brooklyn-Queens accents, especially when singing.

Best quote: "I feel sorry for men who don't knit. They lead empty lives."

You have the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet there's that upturned chin
And that grin of impetuous youth.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.
I hear the sound of good, solid judgment
Whenever you talk;
Yet there's the bold, brave spring of the tiger
That quickens your walk.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.
And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I've but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart; I take heart
To see the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet, with the slam-bang tang
Reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Oh, I believe in you. I believe in you.

50 American Wines

This article is a must-read for wine-drinkers. How close have I come to multi-state wine experiences? I regularly drink California, Oregon and Washington State wines, and now and then New York state rieslings and dessert wines from the Finger Lakes region. I've had Long Island wine too, but I won't rush into that. I might've had a bottle of white wine from Virginia once, but with my aging failing memory can't swear to that. (And looky, I took the trouble of looking up Gary V's book and website, as his recommendations tend to rock.)

Beer, now that's another story! I've had local brew in every state I've ever visited other than Kentucky. I've drunk beers from all the favored microbrew regions. As much as I love the idea of expanding America's wine industry past the usual suspects, maybe Kentucky should stick to bourbon and New England should stick with IPAs.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cooking Without a Map

In the process of dumping a couple years of accumulated magazines, I have to page through some of them for tidbits worth saving: a page of photos, a neat diagram, a reference to a book, a sweater with great colors...but mostly it's recipes. When I find a recipe I want, I go to the magazine's website and copy the recipe to a notepad file. Later when I'm in the mood I copy those recipes to larger formatted documents. I have hundreds of pages of saved recipes, from avocado-sour cream dip to elaborate cakes and pastries. Recognizing that I'll never in a lifetime manage to plow through a tenth of these, lately I've been deleting like crazy, and, most importantly, not adding new recipes unless they sound both very different from all others (in a good way) and are brief and simple enough to entice lazy-ass me into trying them.

Some of my all-time favorite dishes come from saved magazine recipes. Cornmeal biscuits. Sweet potato biscuits. Brussels sprouts with pecans and roasted chestnuts. Raspberry jam brownies. But most days, I just decide what I'd like to eat for dinner, and shop accordingly. Sometimes there's leftovers I build a new meal around, not wanting to waste them. I've been known to buy ingredients for soup for dinner just because the LaBrea 3-cheese semolina bread was still warm when I passed it in D'Agostinos and I just had to buy it.

This article by chef Daniel Patterson says very concisely what I experience every day in my tiny kitchen. It's also what I experience teaching inexperienced gardeners about orchid growing. You come to understand that every vegetable and every fish is different, and you have to poke and prod and taste the food as it cooks to know when it's done or how to season it; a recipe gives a hint for doneness, but after that you judge for yourself; the seasoning that caught your eye reading the recipe may need adjusting to your own taste. Likewise, figuring out if a plant wants or needs repotting or just more water or food or light becomes second nature. Recipes, and gardening advice, are very good starting points, but after a while the process should become intuitive.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yay, New Orchids!!!

My "oh noes it's mid-December and my AOS 2-year renewal $30 coupon expires in January so I have to order now before the weather gets worse" orchids from Carter & Holmes arrived today. Soooooo happy! So here's what I got.

Bulbophyllum barbigerum (tiny plant) and Bulbophyllum frostii (bigger plant, bare-root). Whee! I last owned barbigerum years and years ago. Can't wait to see those wiggly little lips again! I'm entirely delighted to encourage seed-grown Bulbos being sold.

Stenocoryne vitellina seedling, nice and healthy, at least 1 year from blooming. For a brief glorious few months about 20 years ago, I was the Stenocoryne Queen of the East Coast. I had 4 species. Four! And they all bloomed and thrived until I had a wave of bad luck, and long vacations, that decimated my collection. I'm so pleased a large nursery like C&H is distributing these!

The rest is mini-catts, some are mericlones and some are seedlings:

Lc Tiny Treasure x Slc Angel Face. Ought to be a splash-petal cutie. Nice healthy plant too.

Lc Mini Purple "Tamiami-4n" x Slc Precious Katie. C&H says these are mostly purples, some are red.

Blc Waikiki Gold "Lea" x Laelia briegeri "Star of Brazil." L briegeri hybrids tend to be fantastic free-blooming darlings, so let's hope. It's a tall plant, as expected.

Slc Precious Stones x Slc Barefoot Mailman. These have to be gorgeous red-orange stars.

Potinara Brady Crocker (Pot. Mem. Shirley Moore x Slc. Precious Katie). Sounded good, and described as red, blooming on small plants.

Lctna Flying Colors "Mendenhall". My Otaara and other -tonia hybrids do well, time to try this. I guess I still have a weakness for splash petals.

Eplc Tinker Toy "Sprite." Always wanted one of these little pink & white cuties.

I got two bonus plants too, which totally rocks. One is (C loddigesii x Sc Beaufort), which I'm figuring will be pink and yellow. Heh. The other is a healthy young plant of Cattleya percivaliana. There is no way I can grow that thing to flowering maturity, so once I've potted it and established it some lucky pal of mine will end up with it.

Whole Lotta Ho Ho Ho

I heard on the news that the Post Office has declared this holiday season "cancelled." Nobody's mailing anything. Are they right? I was in two of my local POs twice this week, thanks to brisk ebay sales. Last year at this time, a week before Christmas, the lines were out the door at both locations. This year, not so much. In fact, I only waited in line as long as I do on any reasonably busy day. And only a few people were burdened with parcels, the vast majority had only smaller items or Priority Mail envelopes.

What's up, I think, might be that everyone who is doing gifts this year decided to go for bargains online and had those retailers ship directly. Saves effort, saves $$, what's not to like? And some of us are doing charity donations in lieu of material presents. And e-cards and Facebook hugs instead of paper cards.

All of this is fine with me. Our holiday cheer is in short supply this year. I might buy an evergreen bough for a vase on the table, and I desperately want a bottle of Sams Serious Eggnog (from the Waterfront Ale House), but that's about it. As good as I feel about the new regime in DC, this country is still so seriously f**cked-up that I'll save my cheering for January 20. And hope my friends seeking jobs will find them. And hope someone will buy my book...

I did have a personal Awesome Moment yesterday thanks to ebay: I had the rare privilege of mailing an item to North Pole, Alaska, and enjoyed the look on the clerk's face. We agreed Santa obviously really does buy stuff on ebay to re-gift.

And a Hey Lookit! moment today: 2 fire trucks bearing Santa, elves (rather fat ones) and fire fighters in Santa hats, whirring along at 86th and 3rd Ave. Awww!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Two Reislings

Rudolf Muller 2007 Riesling Pfalz.
Billed as "Rabbit" Reisling, or "The Bunny Wine" thanks to its untraditionally graphically attractive label design of a plump hopping bunny. The label is also untraditionally helpful, being in English. And the price is pretty reasonable too for a pleasant if not especially interesting German Riesling. It's light and fruity though refreshingly semi-dry, with the label-promised peaches and pears rather than more tropical overtones. Recommended dishes of firm cheeses, cream-sauced pastas, light seafood and Asian spices are perfectly suited. I'd also say light chicken and pork dishes would be a good match.

Hazlitt Finger Lakes Riesling 2007.
We "discovered" this winery's riesling about 10 years ago, and went through a case a year for several years. The latest vintage is as good as past ones. The wine is light, fresh and tasty. The label boasts peach and tangerine and I agree, there's a clear tropical whiff to the nose and palate. Nice acidity, not over-sweet, not over-assertive. The label recommends grilled trout, soft-shell crab or fruit salad as good food matches. We've drunk this wine with pretty much everything and enjoyed it every time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reading again

Two new old books this week:

The Curse of the Giant Hogweed, by Charlotte MacLeod. I read this book when it was new in 1985, as at the time my father was still hauling all new mystery books home from the library quick as they were stocked. It was delightful, one of the silliest things I'd ever read, a horticultural fantasy romp full of British myth and daunting Welsh names, and I remember absolutely nothing else about it. With a glad cry I pounced upon a copy in my library's book sale room. I shall begin re-reading it immediately.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos. Everyone knows "diamonds are a girl's best friend," and might vaguely remember Marilyn Monroe in the movie. I never finished the book years ago, so I'll be having a new go at it.

A great passage from near the beginning:
And Mr Eisman likes me to have what the French people call a "salo" which
means that people all get together in the evening and improve their minds. So I
invited all of the brainy gentlemen I could think up. So I thought up a gentleman who is the professor of all the economics up at Columbia College, and the editor who is the famous editor of the New York Transcript and another gentleman who is a famous Sam asked if he could bring a gentleman who writes novels from England...and then we all got together...and the gentleman brought their own liquor. So of course the place was a wreck this morning and Lulu and I worked like proverbial dogs to get it cleaned up, but Heaven knows how long it will take to get the chandelier fixed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

I might as well record this for posterity. It's not my original recipe, but based on one from my fave muffin book.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Prep 12-muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Combine in small bowl: 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt. You may substitute white whole wheat flour for part or all of the flour, or substitute up to 1/2 cup graham flour.

Combine in larger bowl: 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick) cooled, 1/2 cup mashed bananas (2 small/medium), 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (not nonfat), 1 tsp vanilla extract (if using plain yogurt), 1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Before the flour is gone add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. Spoon into the muffin tin.

Bake 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be nicely crusty and browned.

These reheat very nicely in a toaster oven at 375 for 5-10 minutes.

I haven't tried substituting brown sugar, or more banana/less yogurt, but I will someday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Woot! After a long dull stretch of inactivity, the orchids are starting up some winter cheer. 4 plants in bud! Woot!

Beallara Lembaba has a nice spike along with a new growth. Mystery Oncidium Hybrid that I got from Silva in March has budded beautifully, allaying my fears that the older slightly twisted growths were typical and would bollocks future blooming. The older speciment of Bulbophyllum curtisii "Pololei" has been flowering wonderfully ever since I boosted its light levels and been more careful about watering.

Phalaenopsis Tsay's Evergreen "Fangtastic" made my mouth water first time I saw it five years ago. I bought one in February, and I've been eagerly awaiting new flowers ever since. The flowers on the old spike lasted two months, with new ones forming every few weeks. Right now it's got 2 healthy spikes and two buds showing on the bigger one. I only wish the plant didn't look so craptastic, the leaves a bit mottled. I know I let it go too dry too often the past couple months. I'm being better now. I even fed it.

And, after disappointing me last year, Catasetum atratum is back on track, with a nice fat spike and five buds only a month late compared to past flowerings. I think I might have to "repot" it next year, trimming old roots and removing the very oldest pseudobulbs before replacing it in its happy home, the CD box. I refuse to mess with success. The older Catasetum on the window got a bit too dry this fall, and I don't think I'm seeing flowers again this year. I need to repot that sucker.

I need to repot like a dozen things. Mostly phals in those crappy flimsy clear plastic containers full of dank rotting sphagnum moss. Ugh. They're all making loads of new roots. Yay!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yarn Riot!!!!

My perfect record continues, of hitting the annual Smileys Manhattan Yarn Riot on the first day. I don't think there's a prize, other than personal satisfaction, and first crack at the few items that are in Limited Quantities. Since Rowan Plaid doesn't float my boat, I settle for satisfaction.

So happy with what I got. I was so restrained. I could afford to be, having gone to Smileys Queens store twice in two months to stock up on baby yarns for my friends' babies. Now I actually have to knit up some of that stuff. I was horrified to realize that of all the dozens of yarns in my Ravelry stash, I have only used up ONE since I joined. That's inexcusable.

Despite all the yarny goodness surrounding me everywhere I go in this house, I'm feeling a bit uninspired. WTF? I think I'm burnt out. I made Good Lawd TEN charity sweaters in the past two months. Full child-to-teen-sized wool sweaters. Even the top-down raglan method takes a few days per sweater, even the littler ones. The desired goal, of Giving Back while reducing the redickulus Olde Wool Stash, has mostly been met. Mostly. Because being the freak that I am, I couldn't just knit charity sweaters that are the dull gray colors of the stash yarns (WTF I was thinking buying all that ugly gray yarn I really cannot imagine). No. I had to buy some prettier colors to mix with those gray yarns. Of course I did. Some Knitpicks, some Smileys Chaco Wool...suddenly I have a new bagful of wool to use up. Bleah. At least its prettier wool...

I did finish a couple more baby sweaters too. Now I have to start some holiday gift knitting. Stuff for, uh, six kids and two infants. And finish a few things for myself too. Cos all that other yarn ain't knitting itself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Inkberry Shiraz Cabernet 2006

This blend of 60% Shiraz 40% Cabernet Sauvignon is exactly as advertised. Intense dark color? Yes. Deep rich flavors? Yes.

Like most reds, the wine needs to sit in the glass at least a few minutes to breathe. The aroma remains full and fruity with overtones of leather. The flavor improves, the tannins soften, the fruit comes forward and the spicy notes envelop your tongue. The blend carries the best characteristics of both grapes. Definitely a Drink Again selection, especially at less than $10.

We drank this with massive slices of rare rib roast. There is no easier thing to roast. I coated the 2-bone, 4 pound roast in olive oil mixed with kosher salt, black pepper, thyme and Herbes de Provence. The wee adorable Butterball potatoes sharing the pan were coated in more of the same. 20 minutes at 450, 50 minutes at 400, 15 minutes resting. Carve. I made sides of boiled and buttered brussels sprouts, and some pan-fried white mushrooms. We also had the leftover green beans, turnips and stuffing from yesterday's wonderful meal at Spouse's cousins.

The delicious sweet potatoes with candied pecan-praline topping that another cousin made is, however, dessert instead. Warmed a bit in the microwave, eaten with whipped cream. Nom.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Cheery Ditty and a Chess Game

I just felt like seeing this again. It always makes me smile.

And thanks to my chess playing spouse, we have this too.

And now we shall eat fresh-baked pumpkin muffins. mmmm. I needed new breakfast treats. Banana muffins with coconut & chocolate chips are still nommy but a change is good.

This week is going to be rough...errands, orchid meeting, fridge defrosting, spousal board meeting, spousal chess game, friend's concert, friend coming in from out of town, and my BFF having babies on Friday. Two babies! Two baby boys! Aieee!! We put together the cribs yesterday. I guess it's really happening...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pondering the Election Map...

...McCain won 21 states and Obama 29 plus DC...of the 21 Red states, only 5 have double-digit Electoral Votes. Texas has 34, Georgia 15, Tennessee and Missouri each have 11, Arizona 10.

Is the Republican base becoming confined to mostly low-population states with low numbers of both college grads and minorities?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Denial is Just a River in Egypt

I forgot to blog about the Rhinebeck 2008 Sheep and Wool festival. Well, I didn't so much forget as put it off. Cos I've been knitting like a madwoman ever since I got back.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this. I knew there were sheep and alpacas and other cuddy smelly fiber-bearing critters, I knew there were autumn leaves and crafts and probably some yarn for sale. I thought of it as a state fair lite.
For the record, I became utterly overwhelmed in just the first building of yarn vendors. By the time I got to the seventh or eighth WALL OF YARN, in the fourth building, I was dragging two bags and my credit card was smoldering. I stood and stared at the wall of yarn, at the shimmering colors of the handpaint wool/mohair blends, stroked the soft soft yarn, and I felt paralyzed. I wanted desperately to buy armloads of this yarn, but I couldn't decide. I couldn't decide what to buy. I stood and stared, and took pictures of it. The autumn sunlight played on the fiber rainbow...and finally two more skeins went into the bags.

I made a hat already, and started two scarves. I wound up a few skeins into balls for inspiration. The enormous skein of bright orangy handpaint is destined to be a hat and scarf souvenir of a perfect autumn day; the rest shall be shawls, scarves, hats and cardigans. Perhaps by 2010 I will have made a dent in this year's supply, so that by 2011 I can make a dent in next year's purchases...

A Foodie Experience

I'm not big on the celebrity chef thing, I don't own a lot of "chef" cookbooks or make efforts to eat at the latest "chef" restaurant. I wouldn't turn down a free meal at any Thomas Keller establishment, mind you; I enjoyed Charlie Palmer's Aureole, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill does a lovely lunch, I went to a taping of Emeril Live when opportunity knocked, I think Mario Batali's food is pretty good, and if someone offered me a table at Red Cat, Grayz, Le Bernadin or BLT Prime and picked up the tab I'd dimple with glee. But effort? I'd just as soon hit our neighborhood French bistro for steak frites, with a morning-of reservation, and be happy.

So when our friends in Montreal suggested Au Pied De Cochon for a special dinner together during our recent visit, we looked at the pdf menu and I said YES! HELL YES! MAKE A RESERVATION! The unhealthiest restaurant in the Western Hemisphere? AWESOME!

See, I grew up with Northern European peasant food: pork shoulder stewed in onions and sauerkraut, pig trotters cooked in their own aspic, lamb shanks, smoked tongue, oxtails, blutwurst, liverwurst...I happily eat calf liver, chicken liver, calf brains, veal kidneys, pork intestine, beef heart, pig jowls, chicken's tails...I learned early on not to be all skeered of the quivery bits inside an animal. If I'm willing to eat the steak, I'll eat the tripe too. It's less wasteful overall. Delicate sensibilities need not apply at my dinner table.

PDC is everything advertised and more. On a chilly Saturday night, the atmosphere is warm and relaxed, the noise level far less obnoxious than most restaurants its size. The chef was spotted in the open kitchen, looking just as muss-haired and unshaven as in his "album" and DVD. The aroma, the deeply delicious smell of many pots bubbling, made us eager as we waited for our seats and sipped St-Ambroise beers. Our waiter's close resemblance to a 20-years younger Neil Gaiman, including being dressed all in black, added greatly to the joys of the female members of our party...elegant technique handling the wine bottles, monsieur! *sigh*

We HAD to order the Foie-Gras Poutine. We did. It came...we stared...we dove in...I sliced the slab of foie-gras into four quarters...we ate...we wiped the plate clean with bread. It might have been the most delicious gravy I've ever eaten. I swear I detected porcini mushroom notes. It made this humble dish of french fries, cheese curds and gravy an Experience far beyond the usual Canadian bar food.

The rest of the meal was nearly overwhelming. The dishes ordered were Cassoulet (superb, rich, perfectly tender meat and beans), Duck in a Can (more foie gras, also lovely red cabbage and rare chewy maigret), Boudin Tart (slices of blood sausage and sauteed onions strewn over delicate buttery puff pastry OMG I'm drooling again), and, of course, my own choice, the Pied de Cochon! Which was enormous. I was actually expecting trotter, but I got an enormous pork shank/hock, the delicious stewed meat nestled in a lake of melted onions, cabbage and pork fat lapping against a firm shoreline of mashed potatoes. A square deep-fried "crouton" of pork fat, marrow and knuckle topped things off. The potatoes were the only disappointment: they were heavy and gluey as if made in a food processor, and resisted soaking up the juices. Boo. But the pork was delicious, reminding me of my mom's cooking as I chewed shreds of meat and fat together...pork fat rules. Yes it does.

We ate, and ate, and ate, and drank beer, and ate. We stared at each other in the glow of contentment and camaraderie. We sighed and ate more. And more. Our eyes began to bulge. We ate some more. At last we could not eat more, or else plates were empty. And then two of us split a dessert, an almond-cranberry tart, because we desperately wanted something tart and refreshing but non-alcoholic to help our groaning stomachs, and everything else on the dessert menu looked just as rich as the entrees. So that would be my only suggestion for change...add some fruitier desserts please! Cranberry sorbet, something like that!

I look forward to return trips next year, to try the bison & venison and other pork offerings, to have the boudin tart again, to perhaps have a green salad with the lot...and yeah, that foie-gras poutine. Maybe each of us our own helping.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Summer in a Bowl

The Greenmarket is at that summer/autumn transition stage where tomatoes are piled beside apples, cauliflowers beside corn. Tonight I made our favorite easy easy soup for dinner, to sort of kiss summer's produce goodbye, even if there's still both main ingredients aplenty next week.

Tomato Corn Soup
Per person: 1/2 onion, 1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, 1 ear of corn.
Chop onion, saute in olive oil til translucent. Add chopped tomatoes. Add generous sprigs of fresh thyme, basil and rosemary. After tomatoes are heated and simmering, add corn that has been cut from the cob. Add salt and pepper, and about 1/2 cup water per tomato. Stir. Cover. Cook over low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook.

Serve with:
Diced sharp white cheddar cheese; it melts into the soup and becomes pure yum.
Fresh baked sourdough or other crusty bread.
Lemonade or Vinho Verde.

I like to include 1 yellow beefsteak tomato in each batch, as the soup turns a most beautiful golden color. I prefer white or bicolor corn, they're sweeter. I don't include garlic, it overwhelms the delicate flavors. The only possible other veggie to include would be yellow zucchini, finely diced, but that's only if you have tons of zucchini to use and have become desperate.

Needless to say, this recipe should NEVER be attempted with canned tomatoes, frozen corn and dried herbs. This would result only in a cruel parody of the fresh version. But it does reheat pretty well, so make lots and eat it day after day til summer is over.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Megapanos Savatiano 2006

Regional wine of Spata. "Renowned grape variety of Mesoghea." "All dishes of Mediterranean cuisine."
Greek wines rock. This one is new to me, a cut above the usual fairly bland Demestica and Botari offerings. The color in the glass is a rich honey-gold. The bouquet, and the taste, reminds me strongly of the strong syrupy dessert wine served in thimble glasses by my fave Med UWS restaurant. This is far drier, but just as luscious and yummy. The scent is leather, honey, a hint of strong bitter apple cider, nearly like a really good aged mead. The taste builds on that impression. The finish is floral and spicy.
This would be my choice to replace the ubiquitous chardonnay in aperitif glasses. Love.

Three White Wines

Gaujal de Saint Bon Picpoul Cuvee Dames 2006, Coteaux du Languedoc
The bottle is pretty, first of all, deep green of shape reminiscent of reisling, with elegant ring at the base and ocean waves around the neck, a celtic cross embossed above the label. I'll admit the bottle was one reason I picked up this wine in the first place, that and the price ($11 at Best Cellars), and the store's enticing description.
The wine is delicious, fresh, summery, crisp. I really don't test the temperature when I serve chilled wine, either it's cold or not, but this wine does want to be cold. Per the recommendation in the links I found, next time we'll try it after it's breathed a bit.
We've had it with fish, chicken, vegetables, and it's always appropriate.
I have to confess I like the wine's story too. Wine making ladies!

Espiral Vinho Verde
Is vinho verde worth contemplating? Heck yes. Some of it is just grape-juicy water, and insipid. This stuff is not. It is dirt cheap, a Trader Joe special, and so we were excited to try it just for the price. It is in fact very tasty, bubbly, fresh, light, and exactly what one wants of this type of wine. The only other VV we like as much is the blue-lace label one who's name escapes me, but for some reason this summer it was not stocked in my local UES wine shops. Boo.

Santa Julia Chardonnay Organica 2008 Familia Zuccardi
I dislike oaky chardonnay. It's more an endurance feat than an enjoyable glass of wine. So I'm always hunting fresher chardonnays to pair with roast chicken and sometimes salmon, as the richness of those foods just cries for a rich wine complement.
This Argentine offering emphasizes the tropical fruitiness of good chardonnay, instead of burying it in an oak coffin. And it's organic! Woot! The label suggests seafood, grilled mushrooms, chicken or salads as partners. I'd agree with that.

More Book List

The unread book pile has grown, dagnabbit. I realized I left off a few from an earlier list, and now somehow more books have sneaked into the house when I was trying not to look.

The newer list:
  • The Welsh Girl > Peter Ho Davies
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union > Michael Chabon
  • Empires of the Word, a Language History of the World > Nicholas Ostler
  • The Crow Road > Iain Banks
  • Something Rotten > Jasper Fforde
There are also of course all those terrible terrible accusing SF and fantasy books looming on the shelves unread, unread. Too many books. Sarah Canary, Passage, Jack Faust, Iron Council, things from years ago still unread...

Heads or tails

I'm sitting here seriously arguing with myself over whether to go to a huge YARN SALE today, and I'm still not sure who's winning. This is less fun than it sounds like. As addictions go, yarn is less dangerous than food or alcohol, it's prettier than most tattoos (unless you buy Red Heart acrylic or you're one of these tasty people), it's not fragile like vintage teacups, but it takes up a helluva lot more space than stamps. At least it weighs less than books.

I've been awfully proud of myself for hitting the olde stash wools that I have no personal use for, and making charity sweaters at the clip of 1 every 4-5 days for the past couple weeks; I was quite determined that I would NOT immediately fill up the vacated space with new yarn. I really was quite determined. Quite quite determined. But there's this yarn sale. And another one in November. And I'm going to the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival in a couple of weeks, where, I am told, quite a lot of nice yarn is available for retail purchase by enthusiastic attendees.

BTW Some of those stash wools are 30 or more years old and came with me to 4 different apartments. At no time did I consider getting rid of them, apparently believing that I would find a Good Use for them someday. Well I did, but really it took too long. Why so much gray wool? Why? Yes it's a safe color and can be paired with nearly any other color (except maybe beige), but why so much of it? I will likely ten years from now look back and say Why so much purple cotton? but that is ten years from now, not today.

Aw fuck it. I'll go to the yarn sale.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brains and Tails

Internet awesomeness knows no boundaries.

And here's a picture of lemurs in the Bronx Zoo. I love the Bronx Zoo. I actually didn't realize how easy it is to get there by train. My childhood memories were colored with very very long hikes in hot weather, which now appears to be an exaggeration. The Madagascar exhibit is very worthwhile, as it contains lemurs. Yay, lemurs!

Also, I like to encourage a positive attitude whenever possible. Boom da yada!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome, Angry Bear Readers

I promise, no more economics, politics or ascerbic commentary here. Well, maybe a little bit.

And Happy Belated Talk Like a Pirate Day:
Arrr! Nationalize the banks, ye scurvy dogs! Hoist the stockprrrices! Aye, we'll be makin' the shorrt sellers walk the plank!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Finished "The Singing Sands," Josephine Tey. Love. Need to read/reread all other Tey.

Finished "Lud-in-the-Mist," Hope Mirrlees. What an odd little fantasy novel! The writing is wonderfully approachable, even when it goes off into wild flights of descriptive fancy of the weather or flowers or the characters. The style very much follows convention of the time of Tell Don't Show, but I found it delightful nevertheless. I have little to add to Michael Swanwick's excellent analysis, but that I wish more modern fantasists would take heed of her lesson and follow unconventional models in world building.

Finished "Soon I Will Be Invincible," Austin Grossman. This book is prominently displayed in many B&N and Borders. BUY IT. The casual asides that tear asunder the tropes of comic book villainy and after page that demand to be read does not matter whether you know or even like comic books. If you've ever seen a Superman or Batman or Spider-Man movie, you will love this book. Seriously.

Finished "Black Powder War" and "Empire of Ivory" by Naomi Novik. Nice dragons, babe. I do like Temeraire. He's like a large precocious child challenging everything his human companions hold dear, and yet they learn nothing at all. And will Laurence for heaven's sake please finally quit acting on his pre-judgements as they are always wrong? He's always wrong but so damned pleasant about it that Temeraire still hasn't eaten him. Maybe in book 5???

Currently reading: The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Spouse found this book used, and because it involves chess he had to have it. On his recommendation I began it. I am hooked. Hook-ed, like a fish. It's extremely Euro in style, and I have no idea if the translation is any good but I really like the descriptions of art and the way the characters interact. The author's other novels sound interesting but I doubt I'll get to them any time soon.

Besides, I have lots and lots of knitting to do. Lots and lots. Before Christmas. Gotta go.

Rheingau 2005 Pinot Noir Edition Maximillian

Our friends poured us this wine, and after we sipped and said "Nice! Very nice!" they said they bought it at Trader Joes for about $6, and oh by the way it's German. As one of these friends grew up with a family Rhiesling vineyard in Germany, he knows a thing or two. Not only is this pinot noir very nice to drink compared to most red wines in this price range, as he said, "for a German red wine it's amazing you can drink it at all!"

While it's not successful as a pinot noir compared to highfalutin' pinot noirs that go for $25 or more, it certainly beats every other bottle I've had in the $15 or less range. There is nothing complicated about this wine. It has no tannins whatsoever. It's rich, sweet, grapey and at 11.5% alcohol very very easy to drink. Very very very easy. Yum.

Channeling Fafblog

Spouse: So, now that we own AIG Insurance, what shall we do with it?
Me: I dunno. Eliminate any dress code, first? Install day care programs at each office? Take junk food out of the vending machines?
Spouse: Do you think we ought to have them sell health insurance?
Me: No, we should encourage them to be better at selling their existing insurance products first.
Spouse: You mean we should let them keep insuring bad financial deals??
Me: Well, someone has to do it.
Spouse: Regardless, I think the bailout bill has to include executions of the executives.
Me: Good idea! Public beheadings, I think.
Spouse: That can be a bit messy. Hanging is very efficient.
Me: Yes, but you need lots of rope and a skilled hangman. A block and axe is simpler.
Spouse: The public square area at the corner of Wall and Broad, between the Stock Exchange and JP Morgan Building would be perfect. Leave them all hanging as an example. The pigeons will peck out their eyes.
Me: Pigeons and seagulls. Remember the olde English reserved the block and axe for royalty. Everyone else was strung up on a gibbet. So the top-level executives get the axe, everyone else dangles.
Spouse: Pigeons and the peregrine falcons, too.
Me: And the heads can go on pikes, like Oliver Cromwell's.
Spouse: You're right!
Me: So which of us was the Medium Lobster?
Spouse: I think you were, and I was Giblets.
Me: Me? I thought I was Fafnir.
Spouse: You were Fafnir all along.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cyclopogon lindleyanum

What a cutie this is! A miniature terrestrial "painted orchid" with pretty striped leaves (though this clone is nothing to compete with its Sarcoglottis neighbor in the pic).

Cyclopogon lindleyanum (or maybe C. lindleyanus? Google both and see which you prefer) is from Colombia and Ecuador. My friend who gifted me a potful keeps it in active growth year-round in moderate shade (about the same light as Ludisia), plenty of water, warm temperatures; his conditions include a cool period in spring and fall when he brings the plants in/out of the house. His assertion that it grows like a weed and flowers any time a growth matures might be justified by his having five large potfuls of it all grown from 1 he got just a couple of years ago.

I love love love the teeny flowers. So cute. And look how many buds remain unopened on that spike!

Several orchid nurseries offer 'Silver Screen' CHM/AOS which has very pretty striped silver leaves. I have hopes my clump will become prettier being kept under lights...slugbait likely does nothing for its beauty.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Josephine Tey, she Rocketh

Add "The Singing Sands" to the Just Completed booklist. This novel was published posthumously, so it was the last Inspector Alan Grant story.

I read half the book aloud to Spouse, both of us delighting in the lively dyspeptic prose, its ascerbic assessments of Scots, Englishmen and the world in general. Nothing very much happens, there is hardly any action other than people going back and forth in cars or boats, people going fishing or talking to one another. Nevertheless it is a true page-turner. 200 pages. The ending was a bit of a letdown, but I wonder if Tey hadn't a chance to rework it before her death. The tantalizing glimpse of Grant's future is left to our imaginations.

I'm seriously annoyed I can't find my copy of "Daughter of Time" as it remains a shining example of how to make scholarship and history enjoyable. My parents had the paperback but I read it only after having to read "The Franchise Affair" in high school English (god yes Hunter was a very strange school). Meanwhile "Brat Farrar" is on the shelf awaiting its turn. (On the bright side, digging through the 2 paperback bookcases looking for "DoT" turned up about 20 paperbacks we no longer needed or somehow had 2 copies of despite our frequent doubles-purges. Scary but not suprising how many doubles books we really had when blending our collections. How we ended up with triples of the Journal of Irreproducable Results is however a mystery.)

Domaine des Cassagnoles white wine

Domaine des Cassagnoles 2007, Vin du Pays des Cotes de Gascogne.

Nice for a late-summer sushi dinner. Fragrant of lemons, reminiscent of a nice minerally suav blanc. I noticed a lemon/lime zest finish. Crisp. Dry. Yummy. A very likeable wine overall, perfect for seafood or salad, light cheeses and fruit, or even sipping. And a screw-top to boot. And I paid only $11 for it. Happy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


So o god we've inherited about 8 cartons of (mostly) sci-fi books from friends who are moving. I'm supposed to sell most of them if possible. Right. Of course while examining them, looking up their ebay prices etc I end up, um, reading many of them. I don't have time for this.

    Currently reading (not from the inheritance collection):
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible > Austin Grossman
  • The Last Witchfinder > James Morrow
  • About Writing > Samuel Delany
  • Clapton the Autobiography > Eric Clapton*
  • Blues: the British Connection > Bob Brunning*
  • The Cult of the Mother Goddess > EO James*
  • Black Powder War > Naomi Novik
    Just finished (not from the inheritance collection):
  • Sorcery & Cecelia > Patricia Wede
  • His Majesty's Dragon & Empire of Jade > Naomi Novik
  • Gentlemen of the Road > Michael Chabon
  • Musicophilia > Oliver Sacks
  • The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies > Robert Kirk, Andrew Lang*
  • The Execution Channel > Ken MacLeod
  • The Nag Hammaradi Scriptures (only skimmed)
  • The Search for the Last Undiscovered Animals > Karl Shuker
  • The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds & Horse Care*
Queued up (not from the inheritance collection):
  • Lud-in-the-Mist > Hope Mirrlees
  • The Iron Dragon's Daughter > Michael Swanwick
  • The Confusion > Neal Stephenson
  • The Singing Sands > Josephine Tey
  • The Alchymist's Journal > Evan Connell
  • Halting State > Charles Stross
  • Girl in Landscape: A Novel > Jonathan Lethem

  • Books marked * are technically research for the novel, but I'd be reading them anyhow most likely.

    Yep. Too many bloody books.

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Coming Unraveled

    O god I've gone and joined, and now I've been obssessed by yarn and knitting for three straight days. Not actually knitting, mind you, just photographing projects and stash skeins and updating my project notebook (a Good Thing) and re-arranging the bags of projects for more convenience.

    Ravelry rocks. The databases make it a seriously useful tool for tracking projects and stash yarns. The pictures make it easy to see what other people have done with similar yarn. The pattern lists are fantastic. The groups are wide-ranging and filled with great fun people.

    I only have five cartons of SF books to process, research, photograph, write up and post to ebay. I only have a dozen knit projects. I only have a few unfinished chapters left in the novel. I only have to leave the house in an hour for a birthday party. I only have to go to the grocery store, clean, feed teh kitteh, sort mail, shred mail, water plants, mend clothes and make sense of things. Only a few more yarns to add to my Stash list.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Orchid abuse

    See, this is what happens when you shove a plant into the back row so it gets enough light, but then you keep forgetting to hit it with the watering can, and the plant food, and also you forget to repot it even though it came to you with clear signs of needing new mix. (Like old mossy bits of bark, and half the roots being exposed.)

    Nice flowers, a rich dark velvety red. Too bad they're on a growth half the size of the old ones, and they're barely out of the sheath while the old browned flower stalks are several inches long.

    I won this plant in a GNYOS raffle last year. As there's no label, I've no idea what this is, my only clue being the $45 price sticker on one leaf. It might be Pot. Ching Hua Flame 'Red Rose.' I mainly doubt it's Jewel Box because of the price; "Dark Waters" is a good match for the color of the flower, but also the plant is too compact and upright. Jewel Box is a sloppy plant that gets rather large if allowed.

    I'll repot the poor thing as soon as I see a new growth with new roots. Meanwhile it's getting plenty more water, along with all its mates in the back row.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Cuil not cool yet

    Has anyone tried Cuil yet?

    So far most of the picture links are missing, and for several searches I ran this morning it didn't pick up even a small percentage of the hits I get from Google.

    Thinking of my Yarn Archive blog, I typed in "missoni yarn knit" and got 4,850 hits in Google (including, thank you, my yarn blog). I got 3 in Cuil.

    For a laugh I typed in "cuil blogs" in both engines.

    Google returned a load of blog pages referring to the new search engine.

    Cuil returned a load of pages...about a town in Ireland.

    Ha ha.

    Heckboy II

    I don't consider myself a "fan" of too many artists, musicians, actors or directors, but I suppose having seen The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy and now Hellboy II I've probably seen a larger proportion of Guillermo del Toro movies (relative to total ouvre) than most.

    PL, the first of his films I saw, perhaps set my expectations pretty high. The grim story, the unflinching magical realism, the (for American audiences) exotic setting, the superb acting and everything about it was a real treat. (Never mind disagreements I've had with a few people over a couple of plot points.)

    DB was next (though an older film I only saw it on cable about 18 months ago) and I was blown away by its very human story and characters: people behaving badly in terrible circumstances, some rise above and others sink deeper than ever. The supernatural element was important but not dominant, the acting again superb and the directorial challenge of having a lot happen in just a few tighly-controlled sets worked really well.

    Hellboy was a wild thrill-ride romp. I'm glad to have read GdT was a fan of the comic before he directed it. Unfortunately my indie comic-collecting days waned a couple of years before that series began, so I missed its debut and never followed it. I might have to fix that wee oversight, as the tropes and characters are certainly right up my alley, sort of Alan Moore-lite.

    I liked the film's grim cocky humor, I liked the characters even if I didn't understand most of the origin stories, and I liked the silly plot just jumping right in with both feet. I definitely felt like I was being brought into a well-established universe with its own rules. And I never would have guessed the same director created DB or PL.

    Hellboy II...blah. I wanted really badly to like it. I've read more of the comic but was fine with this Golden Army thing being an original plot devised just for the movie version of Hellboy. I was anticipating European legend being stirred into the American-slanted mix in interesting ways, especially with The Hobbit looming in GdT's future. But...blah.

    What it is, I'm really tired of BIG BIG BIG SETS with BIG STUFF HAPPENING that makes no sense. After a promising start setting up Big Intrigue and lost magical talismans, the fantasy elements became soooo generic I found myself longing for even a few Celtic knots and claymores. I mean, Elfquest is more true to source! And please, I had a real problem accepting Elvish golden robots. And if you're going to have the entrance to the Otherworld near the Giant's Causeway, then show the bloody landscape properly! If there's a Celtic mythic connection, use it! (An army of the dead risen from Arawn's magic cauldron would make better mythical sense and be much creepier...but that's my movie, not GdT's. Sigh.)

    That said, Johann Krauss stole much of the middle of the film. Great voicing, and really great puppet work humanizing his robotic suit. The opening puppet-story sequences are brilliant as well. GdT just does that sort of animation better than nearly anyone.

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Sudden flashes of absolute genius

    I'm sure I'll later go looking and find this advice on a dozen other knit blogs and forums, but here goes.

    When knitting the two fronts of a cardigan at the same time -- because not doing that is just plain lame -- and knitting the button-band and buttonholes into the front edges, do yourself a huge favor and knit a "reminder" stitch into the band where the button will be attached.

    This occurred to me the old-fashioned way, i.e., I made a mistake. I knitted a buttonhole on both bands of my current project, and didn't realize it until many rows later. I decided it wasn't worth doing a tedious undo-three-stitches-crochet-upwards-after fixing thing, since I would be able to just sew the button right over the hole -- BING! In the case of this project, a lacy scrap of stuff made slinky and exciting with Classic Elite Cotton BamBoo, the button band is 5-stitch wide garter and I am now using a single centered purl stitch on the same row as the buttonhole. I will do this for the rest of my knitting life. It is SO much easier than tying in a yarn marker.

    (I think I recall reading someone's clever advice -- probably Elizabeth Zimmerman's -- that when knitting a baby sweater in advance of the happy event, you should knit buttonholes on both bands and then sew the buttons over the appropriate side once the gender is known. Frankly I've lost track of what's male/female sided any more. I have jeans that zip one way and shorts that zip another. I've never been too good with gender-assigned clothing convention, other than Real Men Don't Wear Lace.)

    Vina Aljibes Rosado 2006

    Another intriguing Spanish rosado came to our table tonight. Vina Aljibes, "vino de la tierra de Castilla" looks elegant with its silver label trappings, and provides surprises in the glass. "Obtained from our best Syrah grapes, this rose is produced using a low temperature fermentation process." I've had Syrah-based roses before and quite liked them, so here goes.

    First off the color is not the typical rosy pink of a rose or rosado. It's dark in the clear bottle and in the glass, the color of mixed fruit juice like a cherry-cranberry mix. The bouquet is rich, fruity, spicy. Chilled, the flavor is dry and spicy, very distinctly mingled cherry, black-currant and blackberry, but not jammy like a full Syrah or sugary like some roses. I think there's some black-pepper notes too.

    Spouse thinks it would go very very well with lamb but might overwhelm beef unless it's richly sauced! (I'd rather have a red with beef, hands down.) Also he suggested glazed ham and chicken mole, but not any plainer version of chicken. And veal stew or veal parmesan, richly seasoned, would work well. Perhaps a rich vegetarian curry, or one of my fave pasta/bean/bacon dishes. Definite no to fish or seafood. I think tomatoes would clash, but Spouse disagrees. We'll have to try.

    We drank this with irresistible pork chops I found on sale, very simply browned on both sides in olive oil with salt, black pepper and oregano crust. The key to really tasty pork chops is to get that fat well-browned, if only on one side. Sides of organic broccoli, organic golden haricots vert, final sugar snap peas of the season (what kind of microclimate does that one Greenmarket farm have, for heavens sake?? all the other ss-peas were gnarly and looked inedible) and an heirloom striped/ridged zucchini sauteed in the pork drippings with sliced red pepper and Vidalia onion. To follow, a peach/white peach/raspberry/blackberry pie.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Transmogrify Pesky Stomach Fat Into Gold!

    How perfectly lovely that the first "sponsored ads" that popped up as I perused Arthur Waite's Collectanea Chemica under Forgotten Books/Google Books were for oil management systems, potassium permangate by the pound and only secondarily for tarot and mastery of the astral plane. Woo. And pyrotechnic supplies. Woo. And, of course, how to lose stomach fat. I think stomach fat ads are guaranteed to pop up regardless of the subject. Woo. Although as the early pages of the Hermetic Tracts concern themselves with the Alkahest and the superiority of human urine above all others for alchemical purposes (good as then there's no need to go bothering any other beasts for some), well, I suppose fat reduction and colon cleansing ads are just possibly appropriate...woo woo.

    And of course, a peek into The Corpus Hermeticum yields ads for spiritual guidance, and Hermes boutiques. Woo.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Summer in a Glass

    Screw recipes. See what's good in the fridge. Take down a pint glass. Add: a few strawberries cut in pieces, mostly ones that aren't perfectly ripe and might otherwise go to waste. A handful of fresh blueberries. Enough chunks of watermelon to overfill the glass. Pour contents into blender jar. Add a couple small extra chunks of melon for their liquid content. Blend till frothy. Drink. Ahh. Bonus points: calculate # of servings of daily 5 fruit/veg that were just consumed without any added fats or sugar. Three, I think, as the pint glass holds about 3 cups. Ahh. That pluot eaten just before the smoothie, that was pretty damn good too. Nearly the size of a baseball, weighed nearly a pound, deep ruby red flesh, juice explosion...ahh.

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Con, With Occasional Musings

    Readercon 19 is over. Saturday morning, following 3 panels that covered, in order, neuro-biological responses to fantasy-fiction tropes, neglected historical periods for fictional settings, and philology's role in worldbuilding, I felt I was back at Brooklyn College where my first two years in the experimental New School of Liberal Arts consisted of a 4-hour seminar class every day, 4 days a week. I often feel like that at Readercon.

    Jonathan Lethem and James Patrick Kelly were Guests of Honor. I don't read much short fiction these days aside from ancient anthologies I feel compelled to collect so I'm not familiar with most of Kelly's work. Lethem's written prose is terrific, and the two hour-long interviews with him were insightful, entertaining and encouraging. (Gordon Van Gelder managed about three questions edgewise, and Rob Killheffer I think managed four.) I admire Lethem's indifference to "genre" boundaries. I never understood the need for critics and analysts nurtured in tiny narrow academia incubators to succumb to the worst impusles of human nature and slag any writing that doesn't quite fit through the mail slots of their artificial habitats. I'm glad authors like Lethem -- and Atwood and Salman Rushdie and Michael Chabon and whoever else -- enjoy challenging the NYT and NYRB and other reviewers simply by being good regardless of the odd tropes they use to tell their stories. I'm glad the book-reading public now and then removes its head from its romance/chick lit/thriller/extruded fantasy product-saturated behind and gives something new a chance. (Why anyone might still give a damn what newspaper critics think of JK Rowling and the Harry Potter books, for example, baffles me...the millions of people who bought and loved the books certainly don't care whether Rowling is a woman or a man, and what is the opinion of someone educated to think only books with angst-ridden modern couples being unfaithful to each other are worth reading.)

    James Patrick Kelly comported himself nobly during the Kirk Poland Bad Prose Competition, but I think it was Patrick O'Leary (in absentia but author of Seuss-like "A Yak of Siam" that blended beautifully with the chosen Bad Ending) and Yves Meynard (once again champion! and author of the amazing "Alphabetical Torture" segment) who I stole the show.

    The book dealer tables were fruitful, the freebie book tables were generous (I think we now own half of Daniel Dern's former collection -- thanks, Daniel!) and the general vibe was as always awesome. There were familiar faces I missed but many new ones I very much enjoyed meeting. (Michael Kandel, on the very off-chance you see this, I forgot we own Captain Jack Zodiac!)

    The lobster salad rolls at Travelers Food and Books were as superb as always. The Long Trail Hefeweizen was cold and refreshing. Chipping sparrows played on the lawn by the wooden moose. I found a hardcover copy of Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke for $2.50 in the basement bookstore. Win.

    And thanks to the (beta) launch of, I now have Dave McKean’s cover art for Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow, as my wallpaper. Sweet.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Follow the Reader

    We're pleased as punch to be attending Readercon again this year. I'll likely write about it next week, and whatever goodies we discover at the Food and Books diner by Mass Rte 30. (They make a rockin' lobster roll, much better than Legal Seafoods, I hope it's on the menu Thursday.) I've been catching up on reading GoH Jonathan Lethem, even though Spouse is very impatient that I finally finish The Execution Channel so he can crack jokes about stuff in it. Hell, I still have to go through the bagful of old books we bought last year and haven't yet read so we don't accidentally buy them again...

    Whither July?!

    I really don't understand where the past 2.5 weeks went. We kept busy enough, we were even social -- good grief, we attended seven separate social events, some of them involving more than one person! -- and yet I scarcely can account for the time without my datebook. Besides visits with friends and lunches, Spouse also played a lot of chess and saw the dentist twice. (I saw the dentist once, but that was Only Yesterday and the memories will surely linger.) I saw a friends' photo exhibit opening, saw "Wall-E" and visited Dave & Busters with another friend, saw the Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and generally had a pretty good time (aside from seeing the dentist yesterday).

    Food and wine have been a bit dull, as poor Spouse has been avoiding alcohol and chewy foods as part of his ongoing dental treatments. The prospect of a summer without corn on the cob depressed him, but I promised corn every other which way which cheered him. I have a dozen lovely ways of preparing fresh corn. I eagerly await the first full-sized ears at the Greenmarket.

    Been knitting, of course, lots and lots of knitting, mostly baby stuff for my twin-laden friend. I have discovered I adore using sock yarn, but I am sooo not a sock knitter. Knitting socks is...well, at the end, I've got something to wear on my feet and frankly I'm really hard on my clothes and especially on socks, tending to shove them into boots and shoes with less delicacy than perhaps some people. My nice thick warm angora-wool blend socks from the Gap collect pills like mad. Lesser socks simply go holey. And as I really prefer very lightweight socks and stockings anyway -- the days New York goes utterly sub-arctic these days can be counted on the fingers and toes of one side -- and the socks are utterly hidden by my pants legs and shoes or boots, well what's the point in knitting them?? I know lots of people walk around their house in socking feet, but with cat fur and litter a constant threat I prefer slippers. So lovely handmade socks are not for me. Besides, I really hate knitting in the round at the diameter of a sock. The needles get in each others way. The yarn gets tangled. The circular needles method is too complicated for my poor aged brain. So no. It's cheaper and easier just to buy stuff!

    But I did make a very happy discovery that avoided wasted knitting: in digging up my oldest yarn stash the other month, I unearthed a pair of ribbed pieces still on needles, made of Encore DK, that were an actual if reluctant attempt to create ribbed flat-knitted socks (to eventually end up in the round as the heel approached). This ridiculous project, entirely in the wrong yarn and gauge, sat unmolested and was about to be unravelled until I realized the width of each panel was perfect for infant hats! And so I only undid a couple of inches of each panel until the proper height (length?) remained, put the panel back on needles, did 4 rows of k2tog decreases, and viola! Near-instant snug little hats! By "near-instant" I mean "about twenty minutes" including unravel and final stitch-up.

    Been writing my novel too, chugging along, weaving together sub-plots and finishing chapters and coming to blinding realizations such as one particular character holding the key to a more satisfactory conclusion if only I make him the son of X & Y instead of nobody in particular. Amazing. Working at novel length is entirely new for me, even after two and a half years of this project. My years of dedicated if misguided study of "how to write a novel"-sort of literature didn't really prepare me for the reality of characters who pop up out of nowhere, say Ahem and proceed to take over scene after scene in utterly ruthless fashion. Or for subplots that invade my weary head after I thought I was done for the night.

    All my most satisfactory Trek-zine experience was humorous short stories. The one time I attempted to work at a bigger story, a three-part series, the results were...mixed. I had a tendency at that time in my late teens to zone and drift through life, sometimes for months on end. I wrote and we published part one, I worked diligently on part two, sent it to my zine team for the next issue...and um they had to break it to me gently that I'd already written part two and it was in the previous issue. The previous issue I'd also forgotten existed and added to the pile of stuff on my desk without a second thought. Huh? But dang, they were right. There was part two, following one, just like they said. Dang. And of course, the two versions of part two were entirely different! And the second one was a bit better. So with a few tweaks that became part three and all was once again well. And I woke up a bit. And I mourned that the only computers I had available were the highly-sought terminals at school. Re-writing all those pages would've been sooo much easier on a word processor...

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    All orchids great and small

    Everything from Lepanthes calodictyon (above) and pleurothallids resembling moss, to great leafy Coelogyne dayanum (below) and massive Stanhopeas all under one roof, and that's why I love J&L Orchids.

    I'm posting most of my visit photos on Flickr. The new jewel orchids and very pretty Phal schilleriana seedling -- practically a jewel orchid in its own right -- are settling in well with their neighbors.

    I as usual drooled over the stunning Masdevallias but I was strong, I resisted, despite it looking like the yellow nameless hybrid might actually have survived the heatwave...

    Saturday, June 28, 2008

    Invaders from Rigel, by Fletcher Pratt

    I love love love this cover. It's got a moving rocketship, and it's fiery blast hasn't made any impact on the people right below. It's got a ray gun. It's got green guys in bubble-helmet space suits. What more can we ask?

    1964 Airmont Books, NY paperback edition, #SF4.

    From the back cover:
    "Astronomers had observed the comet for some time, and had predicted its course. It would collide with Earth. There was no hysteria; scientists were apparently convinced that the results wouldn't be dangerous to life.
    But Murray Lee woke up with a feeling of overpowering stiffness in every muscle...and received the shock of his life. The motion was attended by a creaking clang, and his elbow felt like a complex wheel.
    Why -- he was metal all over!"

    Author Fletcher Pratt knew how to play for laughs. Oh my yes.

    The Bright Phoenix, by Harold Mead

    I've got a thousand of these to get through, I ought to really get cracking. This cover, I think, exemplifies the mid-50s semi-abstract art from Ballantine Books. Not always easy to divine the contents from the design, but here I think art and text work rather well together.

    1956 Ballantine Books paperback. An original novel, not reprint.

    From the back cover:
    "Bright Phoenix is the story of a "perfect" State, founded on worship of the spirit of Man and dedicated to the mission of resettling the devastated areas of the world. Officers, Workers, Colonists--everyone believed in the State.
    Everyone but one man. This is his story--of the Colony he led to the Island...of the primitive race he found there...and of the desperate plan to escape from a Utopia that had become a living hell.
    Richness of texture, really skillful and sympathetic writing and a talent for poignancy make Mr Mead's novel very good weight for your money."

    Mm, weight about 7 ounces. The book is still in my eBay store, so go get it while it lasts.

    From the inside teaser page:
    "John Waterville was an explorer, part of the Leader Group for the new Colony. Every member of the party -- Officers, Colonists, Reconditioneds -- had been carefully selected and trained for survival on the Island. But the State had overlooked one fact:
    The Island was already inhabited.
    Deep in the forests lived a primitive race who worshiped savage gods -- and who would not surrender their land.
    In the fierce conflict that developed, Waterville saw two things: that the Islanders were a free people fighting for survival, that the Colonists were arrogant slaves of a despotic State."

    Arrogant slaves. That's pretty good.

    Fresh air! Times Square!

    Spouse and I had a lovely time in the big bad city last night, dinner at Chevy's and then Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Spouse I fear enjoyed even more than the play, the prominent error message adorning the computerized billboard on the Port Authority building.

    The Roundabout Theatre Company does marvellous productions. This year we've seen 3 of their adaptations of London productions: The 39 Steps, Sunday in the Park with George, and now Liaisons, using Christopher Hampton's play upon which Dangerous Liaisons was based. (God I wish I'd seen Alan Rickman as Valmont...)

    The sets for these three productions couldn't be more different. 39 Steps used 4 actors playing a giant game of Let's Pretend with stuff they might've found in the attic, and it was frantic absolute perfection. Sunday's set was bare slightly battered white walls decorated with ever-changing cgi paintings that moved and flowed and helped tell the story. And Liaisons has dark mirrors and glass panels, mixed with curtains and swags, that both reflect and hide the characters as they run about their business, so that sometimes a person who just exited remains shadowy, visible, just behind the glass watching the new scene. Wonderful stuff.

    Oh how I miss my balcony sometimes

    Didn't New Guinea impatiens all used to be much more colorful? I used to grow them in Brooklyn on my balcony. The leaves were beautiful even if the plants were a bit touchy. Every time I see plants for sale now, it's all green-leaved varieties. The Greenmarket vendors offer them in every flower color available but for example on Wednesday only this plant, out of hundreds, had the old variegated foliage I remember. Now and then I'm tempted to try one under lights, but I have The Fear of bringing garden-center plants amid my orchids, and besides there's just no room. Although maybe that kill-zone way in the back of my upper lights shelf might be perfect...

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Greenmarkety Goodness

    My visit to Union Square last week yielded all I hoped it would. Magnificent sweet, fragrant, luscious local strawberries. Tender kuta squash. Silky fresh sugar snap peas. Baby white turnips with crisp tasty tops. Pretty golden chard.

    Personally I'm not wild about chard, but it's leafy and green and unlike spinach or beets the stems are tasty when stringed and cut small and added to a pan of mixed vegs. I didn't get beets Friday as I didn't want to carry them and the turnips, but I'll get some Wednesday. Beet tops are tastiest in spring; we've found autumn beet roots are delicious but the tops can be unpleasantly metallic, even if parboiled with mixed greens southern-style.

    Stir-fried random tonight will be a treat, as I'm still plowing through the bounty I brought home Friday. Jersey asparagus is just ending but Agata & Valentina's still has some, so that goes in the pan with the squash, peas, turnip tops and chard stems. Also sliced sweet onion.Then diagonally-sliced Chinese sausage, just 2 or 3. A handful of walnut halves. Garlic. Ponzu, sesame oil, sesame seeds to finish. Served over rice, or maybe I'll finish up the rice noodles I bought over the winter but keep forgetting to cook.

    The strawberries are superb just as is. I'm finally making that coconut-streusel peach pie this afternoon and I might just toss in a few, along with some blueberries. Once that's gone I'll do a mixed berry pie with an oat-crumble topping. And muffins. O my yes.

    Snow Fury, by Richard Holden

    While we're at it, let's do this one too. Striking, yes? I was compelled to read this one before it went on eBay. The prose was much less striking than the artwork, alas, but not terrible.

    1956 from Perma Books M-3034. 1st paperback edition.

    "The snow had come early to New Hampshire. Nothing sinister about that. But a strange light, like moonshine, rose wherever it lay. People became uneasy. A young couple, whose car had been trapped in a drift, were found dead with their faces shrunken beyond recognition. What was there about the snow that brought death? Then David Storm discovered the most horrible fact of all..."

    I could spoil it (the snow eats people!) (oh I just did, sorry) (it's infected with some chemical that of course isn't radioactivity it's something else entirely) (I think) (oh and did you catch that David Storm solves a weather mystery?) but how likely are most people to ever read this, never mind hold a copy themselves?

    Outpost Mars, by Cyril Judd

    Keeping up the lovely vintage SF paperback covers...this was another book from my father-in-law's collection, long ago since sold on ebay.

    1952 1st paperback edition from Dell.

    "Mars was no paradise...but to Dr. Tony Hellman, it meant a second chance for man -- and to Hugo Brenner it meant a world to plunder...whose vast wealth was based on Earthmen's tragic addiction to the vicious drug, marcaine...Brenner's success would mean the end of their better world. Could the struggling colony survive the assaults of entrenched greed and persecution?"

    Sounds timely enough for me! Notable also for the Theodore Sturgeon thumbs-up at top.

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    She prays like a Roman with her eyes on fire

    Steely Dan, as seen at the Beacon Theatre Saturday June 21, is a bit odd. Songs and style trapped in amber, no surprises but a satisfying re-affirmation of why we like the music. Not quite a relic, not quite an oldies act -- o god are they? No, Motley Crue is an oldies act not unlike doo-wop package shows, and Vince Neil's had nearly as much cosmetic surgery as that Wildenstein catwoman, while Donald Fagen mans the keyboard looking like a nebbishy white version of Ray Charles. ahem. They expertly played the smooth funky jazz-pop you expect, you'd never mistake them for Paul Motian Trio at the Village Vanguard or John Zorn at Tonic, but I credit them for priming my ears for real jazz later in life. While I'm always happy to hear something that makes me say, Hey! Another way for music to sound! I'm not entirely sure I'd appreciate modern jazz and bebop as much as I now do without Messrs Fagen and Becker's guidance.

    Show opened with "The Royal Scam" and chugged along from there through what I think of as a pleasant steady groove but to be honest it was a lot of those songs that all sorta sound the same at ten minutes "Babylon Sisters" and "Gaucho" (sung by Becker!!)...and "Hey Nineteen" thrown in with a little Becker patter. Sorry, not a fave song of mine. Yeah, I was 19 when the song came out...uh yeah I kinda dug older guys...o never mind.

    God, even the band's roadies are old. Um can I just see that MGMT video again, with the young half-naked guy doing stuff half-naked...?

    They finished the first big chunk of show -- I refuse to call 5 songs an encore -- with more uptempo stuff, the crowd-pleasers, "Josie" and "FM" which wow, based on the studio record I just never envisioned as a number to get the crowd on its feet dancing. "Love is Like an Itching in My Heart" -- a great Supremes song -- helped showcase the backup singers and the band. Then "Peg" "Don't Take Me Alive" "Kid Charlemagne" (YES there's gas in the car).

    Fannish devotion ran quite the gamut, from the fellows hollering "Cuervo Gold!!!!!!!" to the guy at the end who screamed SCUMBAAAAGS!!!! apparently because the band failed to play "Deacon Blues." Hey dude, you're a good argument in favor of allowing reefer in the theater. Like, chill. Seriously. It's Steely Dan. They have a lot of good songs. It's not like after 2 hours Skynyrd forgot to play "Free Bird."

    Yeah, I would've liked to hear "Deacon Blues," yeah, also "King of the World," "Bodhisattva," "Black Friday," "Pretzel Logic" and definitely "Do It Again" but you enjoy the show in your mind after you enjoy the show you had a ticket for...

    I don't think there was anything from "2 Against Nature" or "Everything Must Go." I haven't etched those albums into my brain, and I'm extremely unlikely to do so. The songs are catchy but I just can't care a whole lot about them. They're lacking that spark of genius, I guess, that I expect from a great SD track. They're also lacking subtlety. O well. Not that I always treasure subtlety, I still listen to the Ramones and the Buzzcocks too...

    PS I love when my iPod on perpetual shuffle reads my mind, like the second song it played? after I left the show? like I got to the bus stop and it was totally "Josie" man!! (Okay so the first one was "Game of Love" by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Get it, dude? The Mindbenders!)

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Early Peaches

    Early-season peaches from California usually disappoint, being woody and dry despite smelling great and passing the Gentle Pressure test, but early-season CA nectarines are often succulent. This year the early white peaches are fantastic, being ripe, tender and juicy to the point of brandy-headiness. The smaller nectarines are perfect, the larger ones blah. Four white peaches and four very large, slightly bi-lobed yellow peaches are scenting the entire living room far superior to any darn candle. The yellows are huge but irregular, and their skins are nearly mahogany in some places. Their flavor is deep and tongue-tingling rich, that perfect mix of sweet and tart only the finest fruit ever achieves.

    Mingling cut juicy peach with ripe raspberries, strawberries and very thick Greek yogurt, plus a generous sprinkle of Stark Sisters almond granola...that's breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The early Carolina peaches are all green at my local supermarket, so I'm avoiding them. I've been so much happier with peach buying since I learned somewhere, no idea now where, that a peach showing green around the stem will never ripen off the tree. As I am utterly baffled by otherwise nice people who claim to dislike ripe juicy peaches and prefer them apple-like in texture, I've hardly bought a bad peach since.

    Early Georgia peaches, smaller the better, are a bit over-sweet and not complex but good in pie. I think I heard this year's crop will be poor from bad weather. But our local New Jersey peaches are in the Greenmarket at the same time anyway.

    If time permits I'm just going to have to revisit the store tomorrow and hope there are still enough ripe yellows to make a peach pie. My favorite recipe is from Cooking Light, and it's dead simple. The combo of peach and coconut seemed too bizarre for words but it works amazingly well. Ignore the b*s about refrigerated pie pastry, use good frozen pie shell pastry from Whole Foods (or in NYC from Fresh Direct or even, in a moment of sheer extravagance, Eli's/Zabars). Also, don't bother if the peaches are so under-ripe the potato-peeler is called for. They might be good for something - a softball game perhaps - but never pie.

    Masdevallia Doomsday

    The temperature right now is 58F, just after midnight. It rained today for a little while in Manhattan, though a friend in the East Bronx experienced a light hailstorm. Great weather. Glad there's no levees around here.

    The coolth has come too late. The 2 big healthy masdevallias I bought in the spring are just about nearly completely dead. 4 days of near-100F heat crisped nearly every mature leaf, despite my efforts to keep the lights stand cool with plenty of air movement. Slightly different mode of demise than I experienced years ago with my once-great Brooklyn pleurothallid collection; the summer of doom that put an end to those poor plants was just as hot but because the plants were kept too wet the leaves did that amazing still-green-but-touch-it-PLUNK trick.

    If I had the heart I'd buy yet another of these generic yellow or orange plants and try putting it by the bedroom air conditioner during a hot spell. In the interest of horticultural science.

    But this Zygoneria shall be my last, even if it does pull through. It has hardly any leaves left, and the new growth has rotted, despite being right by the mega-fan and open window.

    Nearly every other orchid has come through OK. The mature phals with empty spikes did fine leafwise, but every spent spike that was still green turned brown during the heatwave. Onc. Twinkle, which showed very sudden leaf-tip spotting in the heat, shows no further distress and the new growths continue to mature. The Coelogyne didn't so much as develop a spot. Amazing.

    And Neofinetia falcata flowered magnificently, all buds opened despite the heat. I wish I weren't afraid to repot it, as all the roots are a-wandering. And Mystery GNYOS Raffle Mini-catt, that I nearly forgot about in the back row of the middle shelf, has several buds visible in a nice fat sheath on its still-maturing growth. I've no idea what it is but the old price sticker still on one leaf says $45 so it must be pretty good. Right?

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    More orchidy goodness

    I've seen these around lately. Oncidium Lambaba "Cutie" seems to be the right name a hybrid of Beallara Vashon and Oncidium ornithorhyncum, only one half of which seems rather obvious just from looking at the flower. I'm a bit confused how the labels say one thing but vendors call it this the first sign of fallout from revising Oncidium Alliance hybrids to all be called Oncidium?

    The flowers seem very variable despite being clones. Some have bigger lips than others, or shorter spikes, so I'm guessing either the meristem tissue was wonky or the plants are extremely susceptible to cultural practicies. I hope I have a chance to find out. As I love O. ornithorhyncum -- come on, same scientific name as the platypus! -- I couldn't resist a plant that looks like that species on steroids. It even has a faintly pleasant scent. Supposedly warmth-tolerant, we'll see if that holds up.

    97 degrees. Oy. I'm seeing signs of heat stress on the 2 masdevallias, the Oncidium Twinkle, the Zygoneria and even the Phal amablis. The large paphiopedilums, minicatts, jewel orchids and other phals seem fine. Even Coelogyne mooreana (which isn't) is doing alright, probably due to being in the window right behind the big living room fan and beside the open window; last year it grew magnificently but then again we had a very cool summer.

    Ga ga ga ga ga

    I love being able to hear Spoon on the radio. I only feel a little bit smug over having discovered them three years ago, along with Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. The whole GGGGG album is great. "Don't You Evah" is a great track. How can you not love a band with song names like "Believing is Art" and "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" and "The Ghost of You Lingers." Okay, so their album titles suck. Big deal.

    Hot town, summer in the city

    Oops, it's not summer yet. 97 frickin' degrees, three days in a row, and one of the weirdest windstorms I've ever seen finally ended it. Last night around 9:30 the calm still night outside my window suddenly went SLAM and the street trees were bending over eastward! Stuff started rattling down the street, the curtains blew in, dust and crud came blowing in the open window, and this kept up for at least ten minutes before the lightning, thunder and rain started. The temperature dropped from 87 to 70 in the next hour -- effectively a 30 degree drop from the midday high. Well. Tornado Alley this ain't but that might've been a taste...

    Knitting baby trousseau items to keep babies warm while the temperature is in the 90s became too bizarre. I ordered a batch of Essentials sock yarn from KnitPicks last week, to make cute warm wee sweaters for my friend's future kids who will need them this winter, and somehow gosh darn it 11 skeins of Key Lime CotLin yarn found their way into the box too.

    CotLin might be my new favorite yarn. I have some Classic Elite Cotton Bamboo in the knit queue and making the swatch was pure pleasure, but the CotLin goes just a bit quicker and oh is it ever light and supple. Bamboo needles suit it perfectly; I started knitting it on bamboo straights but I don't have circular #5 or #6 in bamboo, and the Inox circular needle I've put the project onto is only...okay. The yarn is so light the aluminum needles feel clumsy. On the other hand, the wool-blend sock yarn feels just fine on aluminum #2s. I suppose I'll just have to force myself to buy a full kit of bamboo straights and circulars now...I have to find a Japanese junk store, they usually have the straights pretty cheap...