January 2004 Archives

My Head is Sweetly Buzzing

This afternoon I went to Intensely Chocolate: Chocolate Talk & Tasting at Olbrich Gardens, which was part of their Chocolate: The Bitter & The Sweet exhibit. James Nienhuis, a horticulture professor at the UW gave a (Powerpoint) presentation on chocolate and related anecodotes about a research project he conducted with the Mars chocolate company in Brazil. It was rather interesting and funny. (He declared that eggplant was not really a vegetable, but in fact a sponge. Chocolate, on the other hand, was a vegetable, except for white chocolate, which should be classified as an eggplant.) He discussed the history of chocolate, and the processes involved in making it. I was interested to discover how the cultivation process varies between Africa and South America. I'd heard about the horrifying labor practices used on cacao plantations in Africa. However, in South America cacao is grown by small farmers, and is growth within the rain forest, as it is traditionally a tree that grows best beneath the forest canopy. In that, cacao production is actually rather good from an environmental standpoint, in that it allows the forest to continue to grow, instead of being clearcut, as for the beef industry. Also, since the crop replies on insects for polination, pesticide is not is heavy use. Nurture the rainforest and you will have better cacao production.

Besides the talk, there was also a tasting. It began with our "tickets", which were small packages of M&Ms. He also passed around roasted cacao beans for us to look at during the lecture, as well as cacao "nibs" which we could taste if we chose to. I found it to be rather bitter with only a vague hint of chocolate, but I probably would have tasted more of the flavor if I didn't have a lingering stuffy nose. As another treat, he passed out Dove bars to the audience, though there wasn't enough for everyone. I was sitting at the back, so they ended just ahead of me. However, someone in my row was nice enough to break off a chunk of their bar, and then pass the rest down the row, each member breaking off another small chunk.

Finally, the "real" tasting began. At that point it was advantageous to be in the back, for faster access to the chocolate, which was provided by Orange Tree Imports. That was the best. There was a iced chocolate drink which was actually very refreshing. Then there was a long row of baskets filled to the brim with chunks of different varieties of chocolate, ranging from white to milk to an 87% cocoa dark. There were also little baskets of plain crackers to use as a palate cleanser. Each chocolate had a small printed description, and recommendations for how best to use or accompany the chocolate. It was delicious but rather overwhelming by the end.

Fortunately, I was able to sit in the Bolz Conservatory for an hour or so, to soak up the tropical atmosphere and chill out while I let the chocolate buzz wear off a bit. Needless to say, I'm still experiencing a bit of a sugar high. What a great way to spend a January afternoon!



Food, Glorious Food!

If you've ever wondered just what you are eating, nutrition-wise, nutritiondata.com is the place to go. You can search for specific foods, or look up particular combinations of food values. For example, what foods are highest in protien and lowest in saturate fats?.

I'm definately going to be adding it to my bookmarks. I'm not a dieter, but I often ponder what it is that I am eating, and most meat and produce doesn't come with a NV label.

Nice page layout, too.

I'm still here!

No, I haven't developed a blogging malaise. However, between asorted computer issues (getting the iBook running and sorting out OSX on the iMac) and having a class or activity pretty much every night of the week, I've just been out of time. I keep thinking "Oh! I should blog that!" about stuff and then not being able to remember what it was by the time I get online. I am hoping that once I get a battery and an Airport card for the iBook, that situation may improve.

In other news, anyone wanna buy some candles?


It isn't often that someone's blog entry will move me to tears, but this sure did.

God bless you, Dooce. You and your family. May that girl of yours show up healthy and easily, and with no problems.

Um, yeah. What's the big deal?

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All day Wednesday I kept hearing about the "scream" that Dean made in Iowa. People kept talking about how it revealed and unattractive "rage". Stories like this one were (and still are) all over the place.

Then I got to see what they were all talking about, and all I can say is, "That's it?" The rousing "Yeeeeaaaaaaaah!!" at the end of an impassioned speech to supported was the "primal scream" that has everyone in a tizzy? Have you people never gone to a pep rally? Have you never been fired up and/or needed to fire up your people?

I find it amusing that Al Gore was mocked for being to "robotic" and boring. How is it that now we are castigating candidate for having and showing passion? As for him being "full of rage", and having an "outburst"...look around. Look at what is happening in the world. If you are *not* mad as hell, you probably aren't paying attention (or you're a Halliburton stockholder).

I haven't yet decided who I will support in the primary. The only candidate that is a definite no at this time is Joe Lieberman, who in some ways would actually be worse than Bush. (He's just as conservative, but the liberals wouldn't want to oppose him because he's "our guy".) Still, I'm giving a great big eyeroll to anyone who actually thinks that the Iowa speech was in anyway a big deal. Grow up and get a life, people.

Use it in a sentence please?

Today I got to watch a gradescool speeling bee. About 20 4th and 5th graders competed to see who would represent their school at the citywide bee in March. It went fairly quickly. Two children got knocked out each round for the first two rounds, but in the third they dropped like flies until only two remained. I regret to say that I can't remember the winning word.

Of course, the proceedings reminded me of Spellbound, and gave me the desire to both see the film again and to possibly attend the citywide bee. If I do, expect a full report here.


I don't know which is funnier, the ducks (mp3) or the penguins (flash).

via Neil and Bryan

Big Fish

Another movie that I have seen recently is Tim Burton's Big Fish. I've always love Tim Burton pictures, but the last one I'd seen, Sleepy Hallow, had left me disappointed. I must say, though not all reviewers that I've read were impressed, I very much enjoyed the film.

The movie's framing devise has Billy Crudup as Will Bloom, an expectant father visiting his own ailing father (Albert Finney) and trying to come to terms with the man he knows but doesn't know while he still can. The majority of the movie is a series of flashback to the story of Ed Bloom's life, or at least the the story as he has always told it. Ed Bloom is a master teller of grandious tall tales, and it is difficult for those around him, particularly his son, to seperate the fact from the fiction.

The movie is much more vivid and alive during the tall tales, with the trademark Burton surreality and whimsy. The colors are brighter, the contrasts are deeper, the hair and costumes more stylized, and the music more...Elfman-y. Ewan McGregor plays Ed Bloom as a younger man, while Alison Lohman is eerily perfect as the younger version of Jessica Lange's Sandra Bloom.

The scenes in the framing section are fairly straight forward and movie-ish. Less enthralling, but just as important, they ground us in the reality from which the tall tales can spring. Being able to see Ed Bloom the way others see him helps us to appreciate it when we get to see Ed Bloom the way he sees himself. The scenes are well-acted in that they convey the emotion and gravity of the family situation without becoming mawkish.

Toward the end of the film, the two worlds come together is a very satisfying way. I don't want to give much away, but if you are at all a crier, bring some kleenex with you when seeing this movie.

To be true, there were a few moments here and there that had me shifting in my seating and waiting for them to be over, but as a whole I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and was happy to see it all on the big screen.



Mona Lisa Smile

Also seen this weekend was Mona Lisa Smile. Eh. It has a great cast, and they make the movie enjoyable. The story is fair-to-middlin, and rather predictable. Cute, sweet, standard. See it for cheap or free, but don't feel guilty for checking it out.


Peter Pan

This weekend I went to see the new Peter Pan. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, though I had heard that it hit on some of J. M. Barrie's darker themes. I was hoping and praying that I would like it ever so much more than the 1953 Disney version. I was not disappointed. It was worlds better than 1953. Not complete perfect, but certainly good enough to have me smiling as I left the theater.

To begin with, the casting for most characters was pretty brilliant. Oliva Williams *was* Mrs. Darling; glamourous and sweet at the same time, you could see her being just the sort of mother that children would fly away from Neverland for. Jason Isaacs (recently seen as the despicable Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) played the double casting of Mr. Darling/Captain Hook so well that it took me nearly half the movie to realize that the deliciously wicked pirate was also the nervous and stuttering bank teller. Richard Briers' Smee had me smiling. Not quite the bumbler of Disney's picture, this Smee was truly a rascal with a wee bit of good still in his heart.

None of the children had that grating child-actor cuteness that is so often a risk. Rachel Hurd-Wood was a perfect Wendy Moira Angel Darling, and a blessed antidote to the simpering Wendy of 1953. This Wendy actually told the sort of bloodthristy tales that you could actually see little boys crowding around to hear. (Cinderella encounters pirates at the ball!) She can handle a sword and longs to have pirate adventures herself. God bless progress! Yet isn't made into a tomboy. She is allowed to love sword fighting and fairy dances.

I have heard several complaints about Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan himself. For some, his American accent among the Brits was jarring. For others, they don't think he adequately portrays Pan's feelings. I had neither of those problems. Perhaps he wasn't the very perfect Pan that has been in my mind's eye since childhood, but he conveyed the boyish exuburance, carelessness, confidence, confusion, arrogance, vulnerability, etc. that is everyboy. He wants so very much never to grow up, but when he meets Wendy he has a few stirrings that growing up might not be such a bad thing entirely, and that is an unsettling notion.

The tragedy of the story is that Pan can't win whicheve choice he makes. He can stay in Neverland, a boy forever with all the joy that it entails, but he must leave behind family and love to do so. On the other hand, it is very true that if he returns to the world and allows himself to grow up, he must face school and work and the daily grind of decisions and responsibility that go along with adulthood. (The Mr. Darling/Captain Hook connection really helps to illustrate this.) Yet even with that note of sadnes, the story is not allowed to become bogged down by it, and such is it's brilliance.

As for the movie, I do agree with those who said that the PG rating might not be quite strong enough, and that it probably should be PG-13. I know children, and how bloodthirsty they can be in their imagination and play. However, parents might not want to expose their children to quite to much of it, and very young children might easily become scared at some scenes. I did hear on child start crying at one point in the show.

Overall, I liked it and would go to see it again if given the opportunity.




I wonder exactly what it is that makes popping bubble wrap so darn cathartic.

On the other hand, the phrases "blister wrap" and "blister pack" have absolutely no appeal for me.

Hooray! Ice skating time is back. I got to skate for about an hour today (yesterday) on the Tenney Park Pond. It wasn't too cold, and it wasn't too crowded. I am, however, incredibly sore, especially at the ankles. It always takes awhile every year for my ankles to remember the feel of skates.


On Thursday night, I attended the grand opening of Planned Parenthood's new east side Comprehensive Reproductive Health Center. It was a cold, cold night, but the celebration tent was packed with people (all bundled in coats, scarves, and gloves). By the time I got there, almost all the food was already gone. So much for being fashionable late. Fortunately, the food was not the focus of the evening.

The building and facilities are amazing--spacious, clean, and bright. It has a total of 6,500 square feet of space, including new offices for the Community Education Department. Original art hung on the walls, along with assorted dedication plaques.

The mood in the clinic and the adjoining party tent was festive and thankful, but not everyone was happy. A handful of anti-abortion (and anti-choice, since they feel that contraception is also wrong) with graphic signs clustered on the sidewalk and heckled those who entered and exited the grounds. They weren't violent, but they were confrontationl. According to one of my acquaintances, they have been protesting ever since the site was annouced, before ground was even broken.

This is my problem with these guys. (And they, as usual, were all guys. Not a single woman in the bunch.) I don't have an issue with anyone thinking that abortion is wrong. I'm not a big fan of it myself, which is why I am an advocate of proper sexual education and universal access to safe, reliable contraception. My objection is for those who oppose *any* form of birth control other than abstinance (even within marriage) and any sex education other than abstinance based education (and that must be supplied by the parents only...if the parent's don't do it, that's just too bad). Finally, I've known women who were against abortion, but the only people who have ever shoved graphic signs in my face and called me a whore and a murderer have been men. Really, there is nothing like the word "whore" to win me over to your point of view. Totally.

Anyway, it was a great night despite the chill and the protesters. By the way, even thought the clinic has opened, they are still trying to raise the last $50,000. Donations can be made, and information can be found at http://www.ppwi.org or by calling 256-7549. (Donations of $100 or more will earn the giver a place on the "Wall of Honor".)

Good, Better, Best

Over the past month or so, I have watched all three of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. In the past two weeks, I have also had a chance to check out Ralph Bakshi's 1978 Lord of the Rings and Rankin-Bass' 1977 The Hobbit and 1980 Return of the King.

At first I thought that Bakshi's LOTR was bad, but I did not know what true pain was until I watched Rankin-Bass' ROTK. Now that, ladies and gentleman, was truly awful. Of the three animated films, the only one that didn't induce constant cringing was The Hobbit. Ugh, ugh, and ugh. (There's actually a wonderful lambasting of thr R-B ROTK here.)

I do hope that in a few years, when Peter Jackson has rested up a bit, he does get around to filming The Hobbit. That would make my day.

Boy Toy

Happiness is a Hot Water Bottle

When 14° F is the warmest it gets in a day, it's time to hybernate.

F Seeks M

Personal ads as an art form. I'd never thought of them that way, but now that I ponder it, there are some stunning works of fiction out there.

A fun little read.

A Must Read

So, having done a bit of asking around, apparently my best bet for learning all about my Jeep, and fixing any new problems as they arise is to pick up the original factory service manual. Mighhty pricey, but I suppose it may be worth it.

Whiny Baby

Little, if anything, has gone right today. The biggest problem has been caused by my own studid carelessness, which makes it worse since there is a kind of comfort in being able to blame your problems on others.

Two small rays of light, though. In the mail today was my enrollment confirmation for my web design class at MATC, and an unexpected card and present from a friend. Hurray for those.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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