Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Folklore of Pasta

It occurs to me that pasta seems to be the foodstuff with more folklore and superstition attached to it than any other.
My mom, for example, always poured oil into the pasta water in order to keep the pasta from sticking together. It also kept the water from boiling over.
When the pasta was cooked, she'd rinse it in hot water in a colander, "to wash off the extra starch." (I think it was Kathy who first pointed out to me that pasta is 100% starch anyway, so the whole rinsing thing seems a little futile.)
Mario Batali states forthrightly that you shouldn't put oil in the pasta water, because pasta coated with oil won't absorb the sauce properly. And Mario also states that if you rinse off stray grains of starch, you're also making it harder for the sauce to stick.
Paul Prudhomme, on the other hand, says that you not only should have oil floating on your pasta water, but that you should throw the raw pasta through the lakes of oil, and he says that you can taste the difference, and in a good way.
I'm inclined to go with Mario on this, though perhaps I should conduct a proper experiment and gather evidence.
Have any of you encountered any more great pasta folklore?

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mystery Plane (3)

Okay, the last Mystery Plane was identified after a mere 32 minutes. Let's see if this one does better.

What is this aircraft? And why is it not what you might think?


Monday, June 28, 2010

Mystery Plane (2)

The last time I was at an air museum, I posted a picture of a mysterious aircraft and challenged you all to solve the puzzle. Diana Rowland came up with the solution in, like, twelve seconds, but now that I've been to the Museum of Flight I hope to do better.

What is this aircraft? And no, it's not the one you probably think it is.


Back from Seattle

So I'm back from Seattle, having had a wonderful time with any number of old friends. And having finally met Ursula K. Leguin, and actually been on a panel with her, as opposed to just looking at her from across the room as she's mobbed by admirers, which I gather happens to her more or less all the time.

The first place we stopped was the Museum of Flight, which is right next to Boeing Field. In this photo I am actually in the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird, preparing to take off for . . . well, not much of anywhere. But I was ready. If my nation called, I was so totally there.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Away to Seattle

I'm leaving for Seattle to help with the induction of Roger Zelazny into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which will take place on Saturday.

I'll be doing a panel on science fiction on Saturday morning at 10:00, followed by a signing at 11:00. Both will be at the Courtyard Seattle Lake Union hotel, and will be followed by the Locus Awards.

Come join me if you're in the area.

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News from the Mideast

A note on Turkish soft power: I posted a couple years ago about the Turkish telenovela Noor, which turned out to be a huge hit once it was translated into Arabic and marketed in the Arab world. Arab women were stunned and fascinated by the male hero, who openly loved and supported his wife, allegedly a new idea in those parts. The fictional hero was cited as a co-respondent in divorce cases by men who failed to live up to his standards.

Well, the mighty Turkish soap operas march on--- a wave of Turkish melodramas, police procedurals and conspiracy thrillers — “Yaprak Dokumu,” “Kurtlar Vadisi,” “Asmali Konak,” “Ihlamurlar Altinda” and now the steamy “Ask-i Memnu,” the top-rated series in Turkey (think Madame Bovary on the Bosporus) — are making their way onto Arab televisions, wielding a kind of soft power.

Through the small screen, Turkey has begun to exercise a big influence at Arab dinner tables, in boardrooms and bedrooms from Morocco to Iraq of a sort that the United States can only dream about . . .

Politics and culture go hand in hand, here as elsewhere. If most Arabs watch Turkish shows to ogle beautiful people in exotic locales, Arab women have also made clear their particular admiration for the rags-to-riches story of the title character in “Noor,” a strong, business-savvy woman with a doting husband named Muhannad. Dr. Shafira Alghamdi, a Saudi pediatrician, was on vacation here the other day, shopping with two Saudi friends, and volunteered how Arab husbands often ignore their wives, while on “Noor,” within what remains to Arabs a familiar context of arranged marriages, respect for elders and big families living together, Noor and Muhannad openly love and admire each other.

“A lot of Saudi men have gotten seriously jealous of Muhannad because their wives say, ‘Why can’t you be more like him?’ ” Dr. Alghamdi said. Meanwhile, she was illustrating another consequence of the show: the sudden, spectacular boom in Arab tourism to Turkey. Millions of Arabs now flock here. Turkish Airlines has started direct flights to gulf countries (using soap stars as spokespeople). Turkish travel companies charter boats to ferry Arabs who want a glimpse of the waterfront villa where “Noor” was filmed. The owner recently put the house on the market for $50 million. Until lately he charged $60 for a tour, more than four times the price of a ticket to the Topkapi Palace.

Even fatwas by Saudi clerics calling for the murder of the soap’s distributors haven’t discouraged a store in Gaza City from hawking knockoffs of Noor’s sleeveless dresses (long-sleeved leotards included, to preserve feminine modesty) . . .

Culture may well be trumping politics: A Hamas leader not long ago was describing to a reporter plans by his government to start a network of Shariah-compliant TV entertainment when his teenage son arrived, complaining about Western music and his sister’s taste for the Turkish soap operas. Then the son’s cellphone rang.

The ring tone was the theme song from “Noor.”

I've long wondered if the best way to triumph in the clash of civilizations would be to carpet-bomb our enemies with consumer goods: generators, refrigerators, trash compactors, televisions, stereos, music videos, Play Stations . . . once they're hooked on Left 4 Dead, Lady Gaga, and Noor, we can declare victory and go home.

Meanwhile, in Saudi, women frustrated at not being allowed to drive are now threatening to breastfeed their foreign drivers, which according to a recent fatwa by no less an authority than Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Bin Nasser Al Obaikan, member of Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, will turn them (the drivers) into their sons.

The campaign will be launched under the slogan: "We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners," a journalist told Gulf News.

Amal Zahid said that their decision follows a fatwa issued by a renowned scholar which said that Saudi women can breastfeed their foreign drivers for them to become their sons . . .

Under this relationship, foreign drivers can mix freely with all members of the family without breaking the Islamic rule which does not allow mixing of genders.

Breast milk kinship is considered to be as good as a blood relationship in Islam.

Not that this is meeting with complete approval:

Another Saudi woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, questioned: "Does Islam allow me to breastfeed a foreign man and prevent me from driving my own car?

"I have not breastfed my own children. How do you expect me to do this with a foreign man? What is this nonsense?" she said.

I totally love this. "You offer bogus religious readings to prevent us from doing something totally reasonable, we'll come up with an even more outrageous bogus religious reading to point out the insanity of the process."

They probably should just chill out with a few episodes of Noor.

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Post Toolbox

I am still a bit rocky from the two weeks of Taos Toolbox, and remain very much sleep-deprived. I came down from the comfortable temperatures of the mountains to the 100-degree heat of the Middle Rio Grande Valley, so all I've wanted to do is cower under the air conditioner and sleep.

Not that my schedule permits this, of course.

But what a terrific workshop we had! For two weeks the participants ate, slept, and breathed writing, critiques, exercises, plot points, worksheets, character arcs, and the necessity of killing one's darlings.

Carrie Vaughn was an excellent speaker, and talked for 90 minutes without losing the enthusiasm of her audience. And Nancy Kress was just, like, totally amazingly great! She's an absolutely fabulous teacher. If you ever see that she's teaching something, sign up! (I will.)

The workshop also featured movies, beer, wine, margaritas, a hot tub, hikes through the wilderness, and a special surprise guest appearance by a bear.

Here's a photo taken just after our last dinner together, as sunset was touching the Sangre de Cristos.

From L to R, Eric Kelley, Barbara Webb, Lawrence Schoen, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Danielle Lefevre, Sean Craven, Jason Musgrave, George Galuschak, Rich Baldwin, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Hallie Rulnick, Oz Drummond, Amy Sundberg, Lou Berger.

Christian Walter, who flew all the way from Switzerland to attend but had to leave early, is not pictured.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Ursoid Invasion

So here I am at the lodge in Taos Ski Valley and it's nine-fifteen at night and I've just been told that there is a bear in the building.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ra Ra

Finnish orc-rock band Turisas, display their dexterity on "Rasputin."

Dig that frenzied Finnish dancing!

And dude--- heavy metal accordion.

Rah. Rah.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Virtual Tee

A few choice quotes from Toolbox workshop critiques. All this goes on the virtual tee shirt.

"Nothing says 'fuck you' like a corpse hand in the face."

"The house is on fire but I dropped my drink."

"You can't be Orwell and Kafka simulaneously."

"Lovecraft was scared of everything. But these guys are really okay."

"I'm having trouble doing ONE thing simultaneously."

"Why didn't his friends notice that he'd turned into a massive dick?"

"There needs to be more science fiction about toilets."

"Infodumps must be earned." (Which Larry Hodges in another forum promptly improved to "As you know, Bob, infodumps must be earned.")

"If he's farting oxygen, he's a plant."


Toolbox Song

Here we are at Toolbox,
Our jolly, happy crew
Here we are at Toolbox
Where the hell are you?


Massive Flow

The Onion does it again.

Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP Headquarters

LONDON—As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico entered its eighth week Wednesday, fears continued to grow that the massive flow of bullshit still gushing from the headquarters of oil giant BP could prove catastrophic if nothing is done to contain it.

The toxic bullshit, which began to spew from the mouths of BP executives shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, has completely devastated the Gulf region, delaying cleanup efforts, affecting thousands of jobs, and endangering the lives of all nearby wildlife.

"Everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest," said BP CEO Tony Hayward, letting loose a colossal stream of undiluted bullshit. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean, and the volume of oil we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total volume of water." . . .

[via Leslie]

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Friday, June 04, 2010

What? Friday Already?

Friday already?

It has been a very busy week. The next weeks are likely to be busier.

For the last few days I've been busy with so many things.

  • The runup to Taos Toolbox, the master class in writing that I'll be running for the next two weeks.
  • The quarterly organizational meeting at the karate school, usually lasting much of the day (I had to bail early).
  • Requalifying for my black belt, later today.
  • Preparing a proposal for a Sekrit Projekt, about which I may be able to tell you later.
  • Writing the novel, which of course I must do no matter how many other activities beset me.
  • Trying to find a place to stay in Seattle for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame ceremony later in the month, where I will be giving a speech at the induction of Roger Zelazny.

All of which means that I may be a little scarce around here for a while, and the ratio of content vs. silly Youtube videos may drop to an even lower number than it is now.

I hope to return you to your regular programming some time in July.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lego Printer

From the realm of the strange, useless, and utterly cool, it's a printer made out of Legos. [via Emily]