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.

The Martini FAQ

Brilliant and a must-read for anyone who enjoys good writing and a great martini. I heard of this fantastic site while listening to John Gruber’s “The Talk Show podcast.” Put me in the “shaken” is better camp.

Q: What is a Martini?

A: Do you want the short answer or the long answer?

Q: The short one first, please.

A: A Martini is a cocktail containing unequal portions of gin and dry vermouth (in a ratio of somewhere between 2:1 and 15:1, inclusive) served chilled, in a conical stemmed glass, garnished with either a green olive or a lemon twist.

Q: OK, I’m ready for the long answer now.

A: A highly vocal minority of Martini drinkers, the Prescriptivists,1 insists that the short answer is in fact the only answer. Any deviation from this definition may produce an enjoyable cocktail, but it will not be a Martini. (There is a single exception: one may use less vermouth.)

Strict adherence to the Prescriptivist position brings with it several undeniable benefits. Foremost among these is the quality of the drink itself: it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to truly improve on the classic American Dry Martini. There are also practical benefits, since the Prescriptivist has no need to stock an elaborate bar. Give him an ample supply of the two base ingredients and a fresh stock of garnishes, and he’s set. Finally, there is the bracing sense of keeping the barbarian at the gate, of shielding a flickering flame of culture against the gusts of fad and fashion.

In the end, however, the Prescriptivist position is untenable, because both the English language and the Martini itself are constantly evolving entities.

In truth, there has never been a single definitive version of the Martini: it was born through variations of earlier, similar cocktails; the earliest recorded recipes differ significantly from each other and even more greatly from the classic American Dry Martini; and continuous — sometimes radical — modification of the basic recipe has been a part of the drink’s identity and appeal throughout its history. The rise of vodka as the most popular base spirit and the multitude of Martini variations that became popular in the 1990’s are only the most recent cycles in a process of mixological experimentation and exploration that has accompanied the Martini since its inception.

The difficulty surrounding precise definition is compounded by an additional factor. In a manner shared by no other cocktail, the Martini has become an icon. For many it is a symbol, either of a certain subset of American culture, or of America itself. As Lowell Edmunds discusses in his scholarly deconstruction of the cocktail, Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail, the word “Martini” evokes not only a cocktail, but also an image and an idea. The symbolic potency of the Martini depends very little, if at all, on its ingredients. It depends somewhat on the conical cocktail glass in which it is traditionally served, and it depends above all on the name: if someone identifies a given drink as a Martini, then, for symbolic purposes, it is a Martini.

One may, however, arrive at a workable definition by setting aside consideration of the Martini qua symbol as a matter calling for scholarly exegesis rather than definition, and by adopting a descriptivist stance toward the definition itself. This is what Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown have done in Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini: “a Martini is a short drink made with either gin or vodka and served straight up, in a Martini glass” (14).2 While Prescriptivists may shudder at some of the concoctions that this definition allows into the fold, and while others may be disappointed that their favored avant garde Martini-like drink is not blessed, this definition does accurately describe the drink throughout its history, while remaining narrow enough to distinguish Martinis from other cocktails that happen to contain gin, vodka, or vermouth, or happen to be served in a Martini glass.

1 “Prescriptivist”, in my usage here, is not a synonym for “Traditionalist” or “Purist.” Traditionalists and Purists are those who drink traditional Martinis, made according to the short definition. Prescriptivists are those who insist that cocktails made according to the short definition are the only true Martinis, and that deviant varieties should be referred to by a different name.

2 A “short drink” is a cocktail that contains primarily spirits — such as a Martini or Manhattan. A long drink is mixed drink served in a tall glass, containing approximately eight parts non-alcoholic mixers to one part spirits — such as a Screwdriver or Bloody Mary (Miller and Brown 14).

The Martini FAQ, by Brad Gadberry