Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Good-night, sweet ladies; good-night, good-night." *

Just saw this photo on Entertainment Weekly's website in a "First Look" at the new film Effie about Euphemia Gray Ruskin Millais, the child bride of Victorian art critic John Ruskin, who left her husband for Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. Dakota Fanning plays Effie, Greg Wise plays Ruskin, and Tom Sturridge is playing Millais. (Lots of other Brits like Julie Walters, Derek Jacobi, and the awesome Emma Thompson!)

Doesn't Fanning look like she could be the model for Millais' famous painting of Ophelia? (Even though the model was actually the beautiful and tragic Elizabeth Siddal, who would marry Millais' fellow Pre-Raphaelite, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Also, she caught pneumonia from lying in bathwater while modeling for the painting. True fact.)

This reminds me that I still need to watch "Desperate Romantics"! And with that, I am off to bed!

*Ophelia, Hamlet, IV.v, William Shakespeare


One hundred thirty-seven years ago today, the Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill KG OM CH TD PC DL FRS was born. I like to invoke one of Churchill's WWII catchphrases, "KBO" ("Keep Buggering On"), whenever things start to get tough.

The last time I was in London, I visited the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms for the first time. I loved that museum; I learned SO much about both Churchill and the war. It gave you a real feel for what Churchill's HQ was like during WWII, the most chilling part being the sounding of the air raid siren. I remember remarking to Je Gilde as we left that London during the Blitz seemed like New York during 9/11 - every day for eight months! I definitely want to go back to the museum the next time I go to England... which is a subject for another day...

I am also a fan of FDR, so I put together this little inspirational graphic (from images I'd found on the internet) to leave on my desktop when times are particularly frustrating at work. It actually helps keep me going (and keep things in perspective too.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Encounters with Nature (and Dinner)

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. On "Black Friday", Sisters K & B and I went for a long walk in Sister B's new neighborhood, where we encountered this fellow. I think that he knew what we had done to one of his brethren the day before; he was giving us "the eye". (Actually, he GOBBLED at us. It was both hilarious and a bit frightening. I'll be honest: I was taking picture after picture, but I was ready to flee if he came after me.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid / Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire"*

We had some really unseasonably warm weather this November, and, on one warm Sunday earlier in the month, I took my camera for a walk through Mt. Auburn Cemetery. When I was a kid, after church on Sundays, my dad would sometimes take us for a drive through the old cemetery in our town, and we would try to find the oldest grave marker. It would get us thinking about what life would have been like for that person: were they born in America or were they immigrants? were they alive during the Civil War? during the American War for Independence?

Because of that, I never think of graveyards as spooky, well, at least not until it starts getting dark...I think I spotted a number of those Weeping Angels from "Doctor Who" on my walk.... EEK!

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

*Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray
The full stanza reads: "Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid / Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;/ Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed, / Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The One Where I Impart Some of My (Limited) Cooking Talent

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I am not what you'd call "culinarily inclined". I don't particularly enjoy cooking. I do enjoy eating good food and do enjoy sitting in the kitchen, drinking wine, keeping other people company while they are cooking. If something is easy, I don't mind doing it, but I am much better at mixing cocktails and pulling together a tasty compliment of hors d'oeuvres than whipping up a meal. (My true calling is in ordering good food; hence my profession in event planning.)

When I was in high school, we had a really tough chemistry teacher who used to set an assignment every year that the students would have to make fudge (as in chocolate fudge) at home, write up a report of their observations while making it, and then submit both for a grade. Now the point of this was to observe boiling point, pressure, and a bunch of other things I don't remember.

One of the warnings she gave was not to make the fudge on a rainy or overcast day. The assignment was set in the winter. In New England. Fine days were hard to come by. Even with the help of my mother, I made three terribly grainy batches of fudge, but I DID observe how the boiling point was affected by the lower pressure. While I knew that my paper would be okay, I knew that if I turned in a bad batch of fudge, my grade was going to get hammered, and this teacher was very reluctant to give high grades.

Our Latin teacher, who was a caterer on the side and who knew that we were all having a difficult time in chemistry, gave those of us in Latin III a sure fire fudge recipe that didn't involve boiling sugar. It is SUPER EASY and DELICIOUS, and I am passing this recipe on to you today. I just made some to bring to Sister K's for Thanksgiving.
Mr. McCreesh's Super Easy Fudge
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips (or 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup of peanut butter chips)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (I omit when using chocolate AND peanut butter chips)
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (I made this with the light kind recently, and I didn't notice a difference in the taste.)
  • 1 brownie pan, greased (you can use butter or non-stick cooking spray - guess which one tastes better?)
Heat the condensed milk in a double boiler until it is really runny. (I don't have a double boiler so I use a metal bowl fitted into a pan of boiling water. Same difference.) Stir in tthe 2 cups of chips until they are fully melted into the condensed milk and the mixture starts to thicken. Quickly transfer the soft fudge into the brownie pan and spread it out in the pan to set. You can top the fudge with decorative whole nuts or you can add chopped nuts to the mixture itself. (I prefer it plain.)
(This time, I pre-lined my pan with aluminum foil for easy traveling, but it made things a bit messy. I wouldn't do that again.)

I think that my project got a "B" from the really tough teacher. From my dad, it got an "A++". I think that he will be pleased when he sees that I made this for him!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. "*

As a bit of a precursor to Guy Fawkes' Day, on Friday, the Fourth of November, the 'Tute got a visit from the character V from the graphic novel V for Vendetta. It was rather all a bit "meta" as V spent most of the day reading that very same graphic novel. (I have to be honest, I actually took a lot of geeky delight in seeing V down the hall every time I popped out the office. Hee hee!)

MIT Hack: "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes' Day hack MIT Hack: "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes' Day hack

*V for Vendetta

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"A strange twilight world opened up before me, and I felt as the first man to set foot on another planet, an intruder in this mystic garden of the deep."*

For many years now, I have totally been in love with the Steampunk aesthetic, although I am not "steam punk" myself. ("Victorian England + technology = what's not to love?" as far as I am concerned.) It has popped up in recent films like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Golden Compass, and Sherlock Holmes, and it looks like the new film Hugo (an adaptation of the great book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) has a Steampunk element to it. Of course, one of my favorite tv shows, "Doctor Who", has a Steampunk vibe, especially the last two series, and ScyFy's "Warehouse 13" has had a lot of Steampunk references since H.G. Wells returned the the Warehouse.

It has been really great seeing Steampunk getting more coverage. There was a great episode of Boston's "Chronicle" about Steampunk back in the spring. In the last few months, I have seen at least three separate television bits covering Steampunk: one on PBS, one on IFC (again, on Steampunk in Boston!), and, most recently, on "CBS Sunday Morning" (which, despite what some of my friends say, isn't just for old people).

Watch Off Book: Steampunk on PBS. See more from PBS.

*20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (whose works are a big influence on Steampunk)


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