Thursday, October 29, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The get together was not momentous; I wasn't being offered a book deal or anything. Just a little chat about the current state of books and a bit of a writer's pep talk over a few beers (or water, in my case). Apparently the cute-in-that-incredibly-enticing-nerd-girl-with-those-glasses-you-know-the-ones-way editor gives people she feels are good writers this little shove in the right direction... once. Though she did say she'd prod me again in 6 months, which made me feel special.
However, now I'm left with the rather dangerous thought that I'm a good writer. I've never really thought about it too much; I've always felt I was far too prone to using run-on sentences, semi-colons and ellipses to really consider myself anything more than a hack. Yet here was this obviously-smarter-than-me-about-books person telling me that, no, I actually am a decent writer.
Well, at any rate, it'd be a nice creative option to fall back on when I completely stop exercising or taking care of my physical health in any way, shape or form.
Which starts... oh, 2 years ago.
I guess I should start writing.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
So, when we found our new apartment in Astoria last fall, aside from it's quirkiness, location and size, one of the big selling points was the presence of a backyard. It's a relatively large backyard, maybe 25' x 30', and, though most of it is covered with a concrete deck, it still has a sizable four foot wide strip of earth along three sides, and other random patches as well.
And so it began last October and November, buying a cheap but decent, workable shovel and trolling for affordable flower bulbs in the clearance section at Home Depot. I settled on tulips, with a side of irises. I turned the soil along the far wall, where the solitary existing bit of greenery lived; a tall Tree of Heaven - essentially a large weed-tree, but quite solid and providing of a modicum of shade. I removed large rocks and a portion of the smaller ones, loosening the soil and raising the bed a touch. I buried the bulbs deeper than normal due to the lateness of the season and built a small stone boarder with some of the rocks I had recovered from the soil. The work spanned two or three days, and November was a bit late to be planting bulbs, but I took satisfaction in the effort nevertheless.
A somewhat delayed and mild winter gave my poor novice bulb planting the chance it needed, and sure enough, come March, I was rewarded with the first signs of life, as the tulips began to push their way through the rocky soil.
At the same time, I was beginning to see progress on a different front; I had begun vegetable seedlings in trays in my bedroom, balanced across the ironing board configuration of a scavenged Jefferson Chair.
A month later began the backbreaking work of sifting the remaining soil of all rocks, stones and foreign debris. (Literally backbreaking - I dislocated 3 ribs... with the help of a crappy fusion yoga class.) I had been given a book on bio-intensive gardening and was very intent on prepping the soil as well as possible.
So I built a soil sifter out of some hardware cloth and a dresser drawer I pulled from a garbage pile and got to work. I worked anywhere from 3 to 8 hours a day (I have a lot of free time) running shovelful after shovelful of dirt through my earth sieve. This went on for about 6 weeks. About half that time consisted of rain, but I still ended up putting hundreds of hours of work into the project. I know that seems like a lot, but consider the math.
The internet tells me a cubic foot of dirt, presumably with rocks and such, weighs anywhere from 40-80 lbs. Let's be conservative and estimate that my dirt only weighed 40 lb per cubic foot. I moved/sifted approximately 200 (?)* cubic feet of dirt. And I moved it twice (once out and through the sifter into a big pile and then back. More than twice really, as there were a lot of intermediate moves, but to once again be conservative, let's say it only went back and forth once each way. That means that, over the course of 6 weeks, I moved, by myself, 16 metric TONS of dirt. With a SHOVEL.
(*Note: These numbers need to be double checked.)
After the dirt was sifted, I created additional boarders with the large rocks, created a rock path to the water hose by our patio stairs with the remaining small rocks, and then washed all the medium sized rocks and built a small water garden/fish pond out of an old plastic storage bin.
Allow me, for a moment, to pat my own, mostly healed, back.
Around about this time, my seedlings had gotten to plantable size and the last frost date for this area had past, so in went the plants. Mesclun lettuce mixes, collard greens, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and more. I seeded other things such as squash, peas, carrots, beets and beans directly into the ground and began another round of seedlings for radishes and the like. Herbs went along the edges of the plots.
All that remained was to water and weed. And weed. And weed. They're relentless. It's astonishing how many weeds have managed to take root in such a seemingly small space. And the occasional slug.
The mesclun hit the soil running. After what seemed like only a few weeks I was chewing on my first bits of mixed greens. Fresh, buttery lettuces, lightly sprinkled with balsamic and olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Fantastic.
And then, at varying rates, the other veggies began coming in. The peas took to their scaffolding like a champion, producing handfuls of lovely snap peas. The beans produced a nice harvest, but seems to be done after just one round. The nasturtiums have brightened up my salads with their edible flowers, collard greens have found themselves steamed and soupified, and the first squash died well to my pasta sauce.
And then there are the tomatoes.
At first they seemed obedient, wending their way up nicely through the bamboo and string pyramids I'd built for them from scratch. They looked promising; green and flowering. Then came the July rains and the tomatoes cried freedom. Crawling across the concrete, tearing down their bamboo tripods like caged animals powered by gravity and the sun, the tomatoes, both heirloom and cherry, began questioning my authority. I responded with a spiders web of cotton twine, trying to maintain some semblance of vertical stability. The maneuver worked to some degree, which only has left me with... harvesting.
It's a race against ripening with these tomatoes. Almost as fast as I can pick them, new ones ripen. The ones I've picked explode into over-ripeness in a day or two, splitting and rotting faster than I can pop them into salads or my mouth. I have a plan to enter a tomato jam making frenzy; hopefully that will help stem the tide.
So that's where I am thus far. We'll see what the rest of the summer and fall brings.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It was AWESOME. Johanson made the material accessible without seeming watered down. He was funny, charming, flirty and appropriately bitter against religion and ignorance. He was lightly political as it pertained to the current state of science in our culture, and helped put the hard facts of his and others' discoveries into the context of the greater world at large.
He had discovered the bones in 1974, so as we watched pictures of he and his team working some 35 years ago, it was a fascinating juxtaposition of images of the younger, ambitious man and the seasoned, wiser, yet no less exuberant older man before us.
His lecture seldom dragged, and he handled the questions afterward with great aplomb, including one from a self-agrandizing moron who had clearly Wikipedia'd a catch word to use for that very night: "Could you speak regarding the TOPHOLOGY involved...," punching the word tophology (sp?) like an eager school boy auditioning for the role of teacher's pet.
The good Professor took this opportunity to PWN the punk, responding, "Actually, I was just hiking in the Rocky Mountains two days ago with a colleague when we came across a perfectly lovely deer pelvis and I pointed to it and said, 'That will never become a fossil,' and when she asked why, I said, 'Well, it's all a question of tophology, my dear.'
That's right punk, he knew the word AND had used it in context.
And then... he ended playing us a SONG about Australopithecus that someone had written for him. And said they were making a YouTube video of it. I was like, "Wha wha WHAAT?!? Ending paleontology lectures with a summary song?! That's MY bit!!!"
So in the end, I'd have to conclude that SSSC is a bit more nerdcore than Nerd Nite in the scientific branch of the Nerd world, but NN extends across the whole of Nerdery so still maintains it's street cred.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I had begun my work on the presentation nearly a month beforehand (more even), but was quickly delayed by a crashed logic board on my computer, which took the Apple store 12 days to replace. So I ended up having two weeks to put together my lecture, which might seem like a lot, but I also had to reconstruct both the backing beats and video from my "Up From the Depths" Godzilla video, as all my original work had been stolen with my old Macbook Pro. So I was a bit crunched for time.
Fortunately for me, many wonderful bloggers, scientists and fans, have posted a lot of material regarding the speculative zoology of Godzilla. Using all of that available material, with a few ideas of my own, I slowly began figuring out a structure for my lecture. Headed into my final week, I had, more or less, a rough draft of about 80% of the presentation text, and started to build the Powerpoint slideshow from that. Ah Powerpoint, I've never found you useful before. Ever.
I find deadlines both overwhelming and empowering, so as Friday approached, I grew simultaneously anxious and excited. By Thursday, I could see the end in sight, which is a good sign, but I could also see how much work I had over the remaining 24-hours. Still, with a few hours to spare, everything came together and I was even able to rehearse my presentation in front of my TV as it ran my slides and felt semi-confident as I headed out to Brooklyn.
8pm, and all is fine. Gay Nerd Speed Dating is in full, if perhaps sparsely attended, swing, and the Nerd Nite host is on stage presiding over the festivities. That wraps up and shortly thereafter I find myself on stage doing tech and sound check for my impending talk/rap. There was a little scare for about 15 minutes when the video projector simply stopped working, but other than that the only hiccup was that in the end, due to various compatibility issues and missing cables, the other two lecturers ended up having to use my computer for their presentations. Macbook: 3, Thinkpad: 0.
The first two presentations go well - we learned a nice bit about both the evolution of Korean Pop Music and the Harp. Then, after a brief break and setup, it was my turn.
What followed was the most satisfying live performance of my entire career.
And what followed that was the realization that I had failed to hit record on my camera.
So I'm only left with my memories. Our host Matt provided me with an easy opening joke when he accidentally referred to the Japanese as "Japan people," and it from there I immediately relaxed. The audience was fantastic, responding to both my lecture and the accompanying slides incredibly well. The lecture may have run nearly twice as long as intended due to laugh breaks. I haven't performed live in quite some time, so the connection with the audience was intoxicating, and a hundred times so as it was my own material AND they were responding to it all.
Then I performed "Up From the Depths" live and it went pretty perfectly. End. Applause. Yay.
Following that, I had a great time during the Question and Answer section, fielding questions about Zombies vs Godzilla (Godzilla, of course), the origins of the Godzilla movie franchise and Global Warming vs Godzilla. I told the long-haired hippy who asked the climate change question that we should be more concerned about Godzilla, who is a real and present danger, than some imaginery threat of the ice caps melting in the future. I'd forgotten how much I love improvising on the spot, and this particular format was ideal for tickling this bit of my fancy.
Anyway, I'm sort of cringing sitting here tooting my own horn, even in the relatively anonymous world of internet blogging. So suffice it to say I had a great time and I think the audience did as well. A few positive blog posts about the evening:
(Yes, that's right. I Googled myself. Shut up.)
People were incredibly nice afterwards, coming up to me and giving very positive feedback. One kind fellow handed me the card to his online store and told me to pick out anything I liked and he'd send it to me. Another fellow had come down all the way from Vermont expressly for the Godzilla lecture and, I was glad to hear, wasn't disappointed.
One of the nicest compliments of the night was when a writer from The Colbert Report told me that the lecture was on the same level as that show (at which I tittered like a little school girl on the inside).
When I asked him if they were hiring, he responded, "We're never hiring."
C'est la vie =)