Paper Menagerie

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

From the Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

A wonderful short story. I almost hate to link to Gizmodo, which allows one to read it for free in its entirety because it’s so ad-ridden. But it’s worth a a read.

As Gizmodo says at the beginning of it’s article:

Ken Liu’s incredible story “Paper Menagerie” just became the first work of fiction to win all three of SF’s major awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award.


In Praise of Fast Food

A great counterbalance to the common (and, I think, still a good thing to remain critical about) distrust of fast food.

For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty. Natural often tasted bad. Fresh meat was rank and tough, fresh fruits inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter. Natural was unreliable. Fresh milk soured; eggs went rotten. Everywhere seasons of plenty were followed by seasons of hunger. Natural was also usually indigestible. Grains, which supplied 50 to 90 percent of the calories in most societies, have to be threshed, ground, and cooked to make them edible.

So to make food tasty, safe, digestible, and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission. They created sweet oranges and juicy apples and non-bitter legumes, happily abandoning their more natural but less tasty ancestors. They built granaries, dried their meat and their fruit, salted and smoked their fish, curdled and fermented their dairy products, and cheerfully used additives and preservatives–sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, lye–to make edible foodstuffs.

Unte Reader

In addition, I was surprised that so many international dishes that seemed timeless to me, were invented in the 20th century:

Nor are most “traditional foods” very old. For every prized dish that goes back 2,000 years, a dozen have been invented in the last 200. The French baguette? A 20th-century phenomenon, adopted nationwide only after World War II. Greek moussaka? Created in the early 20th century in an attempt to Frenchify Greek food. Tequila? Promoted as the national drink of Mexico during the 1930s by the Mexican film industry. These are indisputable facts of history, though if you point them out you will be met with stares of disbelief.

Utne Reader

The Commodordion

Clever people can make a hobby out of anything that exists.

In late October, a Swedish software engineer named Linus Åkesson unveiled a playable accordion—called “The Commodordion”—he crafted out of two vintage Commodore 64 computers connected with a bellows made of floppy disks taped together.

-Ars Technica

AI Yōkai

Disturbingly cool.

AI Yōkai (AI 妖怪) is a dictionary of monsters from Japanese folklore, whose images have been generated by me using the artificial intelligence program Midjourney.

Maciej Lipiec

Found in a Library Book

The Oakland Public Library has a fun, voyeuristic, website where they showcase items found n library books.

Well, if you leave them in an OPL library book, or around the library, you might find them featured right here, on our website.

Oakland Public Library

They have a Twitter and Instagram feed, too.

In the Yellowstone, a site by the by the Academy of American Poets, offers a wonderful email service called “Poem-a-Day.” Today’s offering was right in my wheelhouse: poetry AND Yellowstone?

In the Yellowstone
Harriet Monroe – 1860-1936

Little pin-prick geysers, spitting and sputtering; 
Little foaming geysers, that spatter and cough; 
Bubbling geysers, that gurgle out of the calyx of morning glory pools; 
Laughing geysers, that dance in the sun, and spread their robes like lace over the rocks; 
Raging geysers, that rush out of hell with a great noise, and blurt out vast dragon-gulps of steam, and, finishing, sink back wearily into darkness; 
Glad geysers, nymphs of the sun, that rise, slim and nude, out of the hot dark earth, and stand poised in beauty a moment, veiling their brows and breasts in mist; 
Winged geysers, spirits of fire, that rise tall and straight like a sequoia, and plume the sky with foam: 
O wild choral fountains, forever singing and seething, forever boiling in deep places and leaping forth for bright moments into the air, 
How do you like it up here? Why must you go back to the spirits of darkness? What do you tell them down there about your little glorious life in the sun?

The History of Ketchup

I had no idea that ketchup has seen so many versions and iterations!

The word ketchup is derived from the Chinese word ke-tsiap, meaning a pickled fish sauce. This mixture was mainly added to recipes to season a dish, versus served as a condiment.

Peggy Trowbridge Filippone at The Spruce Eats.

Update: I was looking up this article again for a friend and realized that, for some reason, The Spruce Eats removed their article by Peggy Trowbridge.

Another similar and quite in-depth article I’ll replace it with for any curious travelers to this site is by Stanford University professor Dan Jurafsk on his blog “The Language of Food.”

But walnut or mushroom aren’t the original ingredients of ketchup either. As Samuel Johnson tells us in his great Dictionary in 1755, English mushroom ketchups were just an attempt to imitate the taste of an earlier original sauce that came from Asia.

What was this Asian sauce? It’s clear from the earliest English recipes that the original ketchup was fish sauce, the stinky cooking sauce called nuoc mam in Vietnam, nam pla in Thailand, patis in the Philippines, and made from salting and fermenting anchovies. An English recipe in 1736 calls for boiling down “2 quarts of strong stale beer and half a pound of anchovies”, and then letting it ferment. And here’s a full early recipe for ketchup from Eliza Smith’s cookbook, the book mentioned in my essay on ‘entrée’. Smith’s cookbook, The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, was a very popular English cookbook, first published in 1727, and in the 1742 edition the first cookbook to be published in the American colonies.

The Language of Food

A few things to know before stealing my 914

I am not a knowledgeable car person (although my excellent friend Sean, who forwarded this article to me is), and yet I still found this a delightful and hilarious essay.

This is a Porsche 914. It has a mid-engine layout. The transmission is in the far back of the car, and the shift linkage’s main component is a football-field-long steel rod formed loosely in the shape of your lower intestine. Manipulating the gear shift lever will deliver vague suggestions to this rod, which, in turn, will tickle small parts deep within the dark bowels of the transaxle case. It is akin to hitting a bag of gears with a stick, hopefully finding one that works.

Norman Garrett on the Hagerty website.