Foldedspace 3.0

As you can see, I am playing with version three of this weblog. I expect things to be fully operational by Labor Day. Keep your fingers crossed!

From the Frugal Kitchen: How to Make Bread-and-Butter Pickle Slices

This easy and delicious recipe for bread & butter pickles is perfect for a beginner. Regardless of your skill level, you’ll produce canned pickles that you’ll be proud to serve. Because of the high acid level in pickled foods, you can process them in a pot of boiling water, rather than a pressure canner. And packing slices into jars is much simpler than organizing whole pickles like dills or sweet gherkins to fit neatly into a jar. These pickle slices are nice in sandwiches, chopped in tuna and pasta salads, or eaten on their own.

 

Look for cucumbers that are meant for pickling or that have been picked when they are no bigger around than 1-1/2 inches. If you are doing large-scale canning, ask your produce vendor if you can buy in bulk. This year, I found a 25-pound box of organic pickling cucumbers for $12. Even after discarding a number of bruised vegetables, that was enough to make over 14 quarts (28 pints) of pickles.

This recipe makes five pints.

You will need:

2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1-1/2 Tbsp mixed pickling spice (cinnamon stick, ginger, mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, chilies, etc.)
3-1/2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/4″ slices

 

Start heating your boiling water canner. This should be tall enough that your jars will be covered by at least one inch of boiling water and there must be additional room (2-3″) to avoid splashing during the boiling process. It should also have some sort of rack on the bottom on which to set the jars. Remember that your jars will displace water as you submerge them.

 

In a 5-quart pot (non-aluminum), combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.

 

Add cucumber slices. Return to a boil, stirring gently and trying to submerge slices as they cook.

 

When the pot returns to a boil, boil for 90 seconds, then remove from heat. The slices should have changed from a bright cucumber green to a darker pickle green.

 

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, fill hot jars* with pickles slices, then fill each with pickling liquid, leaving 1/8″ headspace. (You may have extra brine; you can refrigerate this up to a week if you are making another batch soon.) Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel and add lids and rings.

 

Process in a boiling water canner — 20 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints. Begin timing when the water has returned to a boil after you submerge your jars.

Using a jar lifter, remove jars to a folded kitchen towel. Let cool 24 hours and make sure the jars have sealed. The lids should be sucked down in a such a way that they won’t “pop” when you press on them. If not, you can add a new lid and process again, or store your pickles in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored one year or more. Remove the rings for storage to avoid them rusting onto the jars. (I usually put a ring back on if I am giving as a gift, in order to avoid accidental opening during transport.)

 

*Hot foods should go into hot jars to avoid shocking and potentially cracking the glass. You can heat your jars before filling them by placing them in the boiling water bath as it heats up, or by running them through the dishwasher or using the dishwasher’s dry cycle.

The Trouble With Time Travel

And now it’s time for another Geek Thoughts.

Here’s why I think all Earth-bound attempts at time travel are doomed to failure: Unless the time travel also involves some sort of spatial component, the time traveler is going to reappear in empty space. The Earth is in motion. The solar system is in motion. The galaxy is in motion. The universe is in motion.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, the Earth will have moved far beyond where it was located at the beginning of the sentence. If you were to travel back in time (or forward in time) just one minute, what is it that would keep you tethered to the Earth as opposed to some absolute location in the universal scheme of things, an absolute location essentially in empty space? (Or, at the very least, in the middle of an ocean.)

I’m not saying that time travel is impossible — though I believe that’s likely the case — I’m just saying that time travel is impractical, and isn’t likely to produce anything other than a bunch of space flotsam.

Teleportation, on the other hand, might be practical. If it’s instantaneous.

The Trouble with Time Travel

And now it’s time for another Geek Thoughts.

Here’s why I think all Earth-bound attempts at time travel are doomed to failure: Unless the time travel also involves some sort of spatial component, the time traveler is going to reappear in empty space. The Earth is in motion. The solar system is in motion. The galaxy is in motion. The universe is in motion.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, the Earth will have moved far beyond where it was located at the beginning of the sentence. If you were to travel back in time (or forward in time) just one minute, what is it that would keep you tethered to the Earth as opposed to some absolute location in the universal scheme of things, an absolute location essentially in empty space? (Or, at the very least, in the middle of an ocean.)

I’m not saying that time travel is impossible — though I believe that’s likely the case — I’m just saying that time travel is impractical, and isn’t likely to produce anything other than a bunch of space flotsam.

Teleportation, on the other hand, might be practical. If it’s instantaneous.

Reunions

Saturday we drove down to Shedd, south of Corvallis, for a gathering of the Noah Roth clan.

When I was a boy, the extended family would gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on regular basis. It was easier then. The three siblings (and their families) lived within an hour’s drive. I remember summer afternoons whiled away on the farm — which was a quarter mile down the road from our trailer house — in the company of all my cousins. Those were magical times.

As we grew older, and as people began to die, the extended family gathered less and less often. For a decade, we didn’t get together at all. About six years ago, however, we all came together one day in late fall for a potluck meal at Tammy’s house. Since then, we’ve met at least once a year, sometimes more. Last year, Kris and I hosted the family reunion. This year my cousin Scott held a pig roast.

Kris attends these gatherings with a bit of trepidation. She doesn’t know anyone, and the family culture is foreign to her. Most of my Aunt Virginia’s family — which makes up the bulk of attendees — is conservative Mennonite or some variation thereof. But Kris had a good time on Saturday: she talked with Uncle Stan about family history, she played volleyball, and helped eat pig and ice cream.

Here’s what a Mennonite family reunion looks like circa 2007. It’s not much different than it looked circa 1977. (This video was taken with my spiffy new ultra-compact digital camera.)

As we were preparing to leave, Kris decided that she needed some plums. The ladder wasn’t handy, but that’s okay — Scott had a forklift ready to go:

“That was fun,” Kris said, as we left the reunion.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” I said. “This gathering was perfect. It’s just like I remember the gatherings from my youth. This is what it feels like to get together with family.”

“I guess everyone’s getting more comfortable with me,” she said. “And maybe I’m getting more comfortable with them.”

Whatever the case, I’m glad that Kris had a good time. I look forward to next year’s reunion, wherever that might be.


In the evening, we drove from Shedd to south Salem for dinner with Mac and Pam. It’s been a long time — years — since we had a nice meal with just the Proffitt-Smiths. It was great to do so again.

We toured their house, looking at all the work they’re doing, both inside and out. Inside, they’re currently remodeling the master suite. The project has been going on for months. As those of you who have done (or are doing) remodeling projects of your own will understand, they’re tired of sleeping in the living room.

Outside, Mac has been ripping up and chopping back the overgrown hedges. Pam has been working to turn one field into a productive garden — it’s come a long way from just last year! They have seven chickens now.

As the others prepared dinner, I sat and read to Megan (whom I’ve dubbed “Lulu”). She wanted to hear about the animals of Hawaii, and about counting, and about a mouse who turned into a tiger.

I was hoping I’d get to see her in a fit of rage:

Luck was against me, however.

It was a lovely evening, a perfect end to a lovely day.

Reunions

Saturday we drove down to Shedd, south of Corvallis, for a gathering of the Noah Roth clan.

When I was a boy, the extended family would gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on regular basis. It was easier then. The three siblings (and their families) lived within an hour’s drive. I remember summer afternoons whiled away on the farm — which was a quarter mile down the road from our trailer house — in the company of all my cousins. Those were magical times.

As we grew older, and as people began to die, the extended family gathered less and less often. For a decade, we didn’t get together at all. About six years ago, however, we all came together one day in late fall for a potluck meal at Tammy’s house. Since then, we’ve met at least once a year, sometimes more. Last year, Kris and I hosted the family reunion. This year my cousin Scott held a pig roast.

Kris attends these gatherings with a bit of trepidation. She doesn’t know anyone, and the family culture is foreign to her. Most of my Aunt Virginia’s family — which makes up the bulk of attendees — is conservative Mennonite or some variation thereof. But Kris had a good time on Saturday: she talked with Uncle Stan about family history, she played volleyball, and helped eat pig and ice cream.

Here’s what a Mennonite family reunion looks like circa 2007. It’s not much different than it looked circa 1977. (This video was taken with my spiffy new ultra-compact digital camera.)

As we were preparing to leave, Kris decided that she needed some plums. The ladder wasn’t handy, but that’s okay — Scott had a forklift ready to go:

“That was fun,” Kris said, as we left the reunion.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” I said. “This gathering was perfect. It’s just like I remember the gatherings from my youth. This is what it feels like to get together with family.”

“I guess everyone’s getting more comfortable with me,” she said. “And maybe I’m getting more comfortable with them.”

Whatever the case, I’m glad that Kris had a good time. I look forward to next year’s reunion, wherever that might be.


In the evening, we drove from Shedd to south Salem for dinner with Mac and Pam. It’s been a long time — years — since we had a nice meal with just the Proffitt-Smiths. It was great to do so again.

We toured their house, looking at all the work they’re doing, both inside and out. Inside, they’re currently remodeling the master suite. The project has been going on for months. As those of you who have done (or are doing) remodeling projects of your own will understand, they’re tired of sleeping in the living room.

Outside, Mac has been ripping up and chopping back the overgrown hedges. Pam has been working to turn one field into a productive garden — it’s come a long way from just last year! They have seven chickens now.

As the others prepared dinner, I sat and read to Megan (whom I’ve dubbed “Lulu”). She wanted to hear about the animals of Hawaii, and about counting, and about a mouse who turned into a tiger.

I was hoping I’d get to see her in a fit of rage:

Luck was against me, however.

It was a lovely evening, a perfect end to a lovely day.

Heroes

Sometimes Kris surprises me. For months I’ve been trying to get her to watch Heroes with me. It’s not a show I was interested in at first (am I interested in many television shows?), but after reading so many good reviews, I purchased the entire first season from iTunes, but never watched it. It’s been sitting on my hard drive unviewed for at least six months. “It looks stupid,” Kris would say. “I don’t like superheroes.”

Then last Thursday, she surprised me. “Let’s watch Heroes,” she said.

“Er, okay,” I said, and we traipsed upstairs to connect the computer to the big monitor. We watched the first episode.

“Hm,” said Kris.

“It’s supposed to get better,” I said. So we watched the second episode. And the third. “It’s time for bed,” I said.

“We can watch one more episode,” Kris said.

On Friday, we watched three more episodes, and on Saturday another three. In fact, it was hard to stop. It was like an addiction.

Heroes is a clever show in many ways. Creator Tim Kring has drawn on many modern superhero tropes, and developed them for television in a way that is friendly not only to comic book geeks, but also to those who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a comic. The characters don’t run around in costumes — they’re average people leading average lives. Superpowers are downplayed at the expense of human drama. Sometimes it seems like a soap opera with superheroes.

The main characters include:

  • Claire, a Texas cheerleader with amazing healing abilities.
  • D.L., a ghost-like ex-con.
  • Isaac, a drug-addict who can paint the future.
  • Hiro, who can bend time and space.
  • Matt, a cranky L.A. police officer who can read minds.
  • Nathan, a politician who can fly, and his brother, Peter, who can temporarily absorb other people’s powers.
  • Niki, who is basically the Incredible Hulk.
  • Micah — Nikki’s boy — who can control machines.

And, of course, there are a collection of bad-guys, most notably Sylar, a man who kills other super-powered people and eats their brains to take their powers.

This show isn’t perfect, though. In fact, often it’s just mediocre. To some degree, Heroes suffers from the Battlestar Galactica disease: characters that are chummy one week will be at each other’s throats the next week, and then allied again in the third week. These ever-shifting alliances make little sense, and it’s often difficult to discern any long-term motive for a particular character. This frustrates me, but it’s not as bad on Heroes as it is on Battlestar Galactica. Also, like Galactica, Heroes has the danger of becoming “about itself”, the ultimate sign of a doomed show.

(Someday I’ll articulate this theory in more detail, but it’s my belief that you can tell a show has grown stale — jumped the shark, if you will — when it no longer adheres to its initial premise, but becomes “about itself”. The classic example is Seinfeld‘s self-referential plot about developing a “show about nothing”. In that particular case, it was well-handled, but most of the time when something like that happens, the show is lost. It happened in a big way during Battlestar Galactica season three, and it’s happened to most of my favorite shows. It’s one of the primary reasons that the Star Trek franchise imploded.)

I like most of the cast of Heroes, but I’d be happier if some of the characters died. Matt Parkman, the telepathic police officer, needs to be offed. I’m not a fan of Nikki/Jessica, either. I know that there will be new characters during the second season, but I’d actually prefer if the show was mostly about new characters and situations. We’ll see.

I enjoyed the show — though the first ten episodes were better than the last thirteen — and I look forward to seeing where the creators take it in the future. Best of all, I know that Kris will be watching it with me!

(For those of you who watch the show, be sure to check out the Heroes wiki.)

Why I Love the County Fair

It’s the middle of August, which means that my hometown is playing host to the county fair.

I’ve always loved the fair. As a boy, I loved it for the rides and attractions: the Ferris wheel, the Spider, the Fun House, the games. As a teenager, I loved it as a place to take dates and to hang out with friends. But as an adult, I love it as a showcase of the skills and talents possessed by my friends and neighbors, and as a lingering slice of Americana. When I walk onto the fairgrounds, I feel like I’m walking back in time.

Nearly every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve made the annual trek to wander the grounds, petting the pigs and goats, looking at the vegetables and preserves, admiring the photography and art, and to watch the rodeo. It’s rare these days to find a place that highlights the work of the average person. Most of what we see is mass-produced and mass-marketed — “homemade” seems to be a dying art. But at the county fair, homemade reigns supreme.

If you’ve never watched a group of junior high schoolers show the sheep they’ve raised, you’re missing out. Around here, llamas are a big deal:

 

Because the Willamette Valley remains an agricultural region, there are plenty of vegetables on display at the fair. You can find rows of garden-grown peppers and carrots and corn. My favorite, though, are the freaks of nature:

 

From time-to-time, I even show stuff that I’ve made. It costs nothing to enter the art and photography competitions, yet there’s the chance to win big ribbons and small cash prizes:

 

I’ve been encouraging Kris to enter her preserves in the food competitions, but she hasn’t accepted the challenge yet. I think it’s only a matter of time before she brings home some blue ribbons of her own.

The county fair makes me happy — it’s evidence that there are still people who make and grow things with their own hands instead of just consuming. (I’m always reminded of Action Girl, for some reason.)

From 1947, here’s a cheesy short film extolling the virtues of a day at the fair.

 

I know that in some places — Minnesota, for example — it’s the state fair that’s important, but for me it’s all about the Clackamas County Fair.

Heroes

Sometimes Kris surprises me. For months I’ve been trying to get her to watch Heroes with me. It’s not a show I was interested in at first (am I interested in many television shows?), but after reading so many good reviews, I purchased the entire first season from iTunes, but never watched it. It’s been sitting on my hard drive unviewed for at least six months. “It looks stupid,” Kris would say. “I don’t like superheroes.”

Then last Thursday, she surprised me. “Let’s watch Heroes,” she said.

“Er, okay,” I said, and we traipsed upstairs to connect the computer to the big monitor. We watched the first episode.

“Hm,” said Kris.

“It’s supposed to get better,” I said. So we watched the second episode. And the third. “It’s time for bed,” I said.

“We can watch one more episode,” Kris said.

On Friday, we watched three more episodes, and on Saturday another three. In fact, it was hard to stop. It was like an addiction.

Heroes is a clever show in many ways. Creator Tim Kring has drawn on many modern superhero tropes, and developed them for television in a way that is friendly not only to comic book geeks, but also to those who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a comic. The characters don’t run around in costumes — they’re average people leading average lives. Superpowers are downplayed at the expense of human drama. Sometimes it seems like a soap opera with superheroes.

The main characters include:

  • Claire, a Texas cheerleader with amazing healing abilities.
  • D.L., a ghost-like ex-con.
  • Isaac, a drug-addict who can paint the future.
  • Hiro, who can bend time and space.
  • Matt, a cranky L.A. police officer who can read minds.
  • Nathan, a politician who can fly, and his brother, Peter, who can temporarily absorb other people’s powers.
  • Niki, who is basically the Incredible Hulk.
  • Micah — Nikki’s boy — who can control machines.

And, of course, there are a collection of bad-guys, most notably Sylar, a man who kills other super-powered people and eats their brains to take their powers.

This show isn’t perfect, though. In fact, often it’s just mediocre. To some degree, Heroes suffers from the Battlestar Galactica disease: characters that are chummy one week will be at each other’s throats the next week, and then allied again in the third week. These ever-shifting alliances make little sense, and it’s often difficult to discern any long-term motive for a particular character. This frustrates me, but it’s not as bad on Heroes as it is on Battlestar Galactica. Also, like Galactica, Heroes has the danger of becoming “about itself”, the ultimate sign of a doomed show.

(Someday I’ll articulate this theory in more detail, but it’s my belief that you can tell a show has grown stale — jumped the shark, if you will — when it no longer adheres to its initial premise, but becomes “about itself”. The classic example is Seinfeld‘s self-referential plot about developing a “show about nothing”. In that particular case, it was well-handled, but most of the time when something like that happens, the show is lost. It happened in a big way during Battlestar Galactica season three, and it’s happened to most of my favorite shows. It’s one of the primary reasons that the Star Trek franchise imploded.)

I like most of the cast of Heroes, but I’d be happier if some of the characters died. Matt Parkman, the telepathic police officer, needs to be offed. I’m not a fan of Nikki/Jessica, either. I know that there will be new characters during the second season, but I’d actually prefer if the show was mostly about new characters and situations. We’ll see.

I enjoyed the show — though the first ten episodes were better than the last thirteen — and I look forward to seeing where the creators take it in the future. Best of all, I know that Kris will be watching it with me!

(For those of you who watch the show, be sure to check out the Heroes wiki.)

Toto Has Two Daddies

For years, Toto has been the butt of many jokes among my friends. Her insistent meow and often cranky demeanor have prompted many — including Kris — to dismiss her as a bitchy old cat.

While there’s a grain of truth to that, she’s secretly a sweetheart. She’s a needy little thing. She loves to cuddle. Kris is her favorite companion, whether in bed at night or on the couch in front of the television. But she also loves it when I’m sitting in the parlor reading. For over a decade, she’s climbed onto my lap, stood on her hind legs, and done what I call “ear-diving”: she purrs and purrs while burrowing her slobbery nose into my ear. Yuck.

We’ve had people babysit Toto before. Nobody’s ever really bonded with her the way that I have. I’ve always called her my familiar. (That’s to be expected, of course. I’ve known her literally all her life, ever since she was a few hours old.) In fact, nobody’s bonded with her at all. Until now.

While we were in London, Dublin, and New York, our friends Paul and Amy Jo stayed out our house. For the first week of their visit, Toto apparently lived in a cardboard box underneath Kris’ computer desk. This was completely random. But eventually she must have decided that Mom and Dad had left for good, and that these new people were to be here parents. She ventured forth and made herself acquainted with Paul and Amy Jo. Especially with Paul.

Paul decided that she loves when Paul is sitting in the parlor reading. She climbs into his lap, stands on her hind legs, and ear-dives. She thinks he’s pretty darn cool.

375
Lazy photo taken with my laptop’s built-in camera

We’ve been back nearly two weeks now, and it’s been interesting to watch Toto’s reaction. She’s almost like a changed cat. While I wouldn’t call her friendly, she’s less cranky than she used to be. Also, she loves to be outside. When she was younger, she always wanted to be outside, but ever since Tintin died, she’s preferred the indoors. Here at Rosings Park, especially, she hasn’t been interested in outside. But now she is. She asks to go out first thing in the morning. She asks to go out before we go to bed. She’s discovered the joys of sitting in the grass, staring at nothing.

It’s funny to watch her interact with me and Paul, too. She loves us both, and often she has to choose. She’ll come hobbling downstairs (she’s old, remember), meowing her gravelly little meow, saunter into the parlor, and stop in her tracks because she has to make a choice: Dad One or Dad Two? Dad One or Dad Two?

It’s kind of fun to have Toto back to something of her old self. I only wonder how long it will last…