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Busy day today, and none of the three ideas I had for this post came together. Instead, have some fiction, this time read to you by Levar Burton. (You know, the Jeopardy host, and oh yes, Roots and Star Trek and Reading Rainbow and a few other things as well;)

His podcast is Levar Burton Reads, and he picks some of the best speculative short* fiction out there. So when you have a few minutes, sit back, listen, and relax.

* * *

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

* Shortish, anyway. Reading aloud always takes a bit of time, so a typical episode is about an hour.

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“Life, a good life, a great life is about “Why not?” May we never forget it.” 

― Danielle Steel
Original Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Oh look, I’ve used this quote before. Guess it must be true:) Bonus quote!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

― Shel Silverstein

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Dreaming of Winter

It’s hot and sticky, I’m in the middle of several projects but have nothing finished, and I’m short on time because Mr. Man wants me to give him a haircut. What does that mean for this blog post and you, fair readers?

How about something fun and easy, with a bit of history thrown in? I give you the NHL’s oldest recorded footage of hockey:

Safety gear? What safety gear?

Stay cool, friends!

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One of my favorite reads is the terrific* Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.  

Here’s the first book:

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1) by Ilona Andrews

This husband and wife team also have a number of other great books, all starring kick-ass women willing to go to any lengths to save what needs saving.

The writing is excellent, the plots fresh and unpredictable in the best ways, and the characters, even the bad ones, are complex and well-drawn. (The authors are particularly adept at helping readers understand, and at times forgive, even the darkest characters.)

What’s not to love?

* * *

So when I decided it was time to learn how to make a vintage-style travel postcard, I thought of Atlanta. Not the vibrant city it is now, but as Kate sees it after magic returns to the world, complete with mysterious denizens, vampire Casinos, witch jungles, shapeshifter Keeps, ruins and one lone high rise. 

Welcome to Atlanta.

* * *

Original photos by Shashidhar SMorica PhamHidayat AbisenaMichael DenningCory GazailleToa HeftibaAustrian National Library & Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

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* Feel free to disagree with me, I don’t mind. Just know that I am right;)

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Have I mentioned that I have a museum? Its archives are mysterious and its vaults are deep.

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Shadows of multi-dimensional butterflies, visible only once every two-hundred thirty-four years. Faithfully recorded by Miss Kara Ellen Swanlea.

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It’s Tuesday and there’s a nasty storm coming (heavy rain and powerful winds with a potential side of hail and tornadoes, so that’s fun). Is it time to take a trip to the virtual used spaceship lot?

Who knew the Halo Pelican was almost the size of the Millennium Falcon? (Also, with apologies to Mr. Bezos and Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, but yours are definitely not the biggest!).

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Editor’s Note: That isn’t a typo in the title. Well, it was a typo when I named the original file, but it was funny and my brain is mostly off at this point so I kept it.

I tried a new photo-to-oil-paint method today. The technique is straightforward, if time-consuming, but I can tell I’m not an actual painter. The arm and face are a little weird but my eyes have gone wonky and I’ve started thinking seriously about adult beverages, so this is what we’re going with today!

With apologies to whoever made the fine costume I blurred out, I give you “Portrait of a Mandalorian Primcess.”

She looks anything but prim.
Original Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

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* Editor’s Note: Welcome to Lunchtime Clickbait, where we test oddly specific headlines establishing implausibly sweeping claims for oddly specific life strategies. 

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Sure, it’s only been two days, but I can unequivocally say that smoked oysters have changed my life.

Photo by Thomas John on Unsplash

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How do I know for sure that smoked oysters are the best thing since sliced bread? Well, three days ago I had ideas as usual, but little energy for action. Sure, I got my work done, but then, meh.

For the past two days we have had smoked oysters for dinner, and for the past two days I have had far more energy and verve than usual. I think the connection is obvious.

Yesterday? I did all of the things. Work, yes, but also house and writing and creative fun stuff. Also peaches.

Happily tucked away in the freezer, waiting to become sorbet.

Today I’ll do that and more, and I’m sure that it’s all because of the smoked oysters. What’s not to love?

Will smoked oysters work for you? Maybe, and unless you have a shellfish allergy, they can’t hurt.

* * *

Now, do I wish they didn’t come in cans designed to slice my fingers when taking them to the recycling bin? I do, but I also have a solution.

I mean sure, you could still cut yourself if you tried hard enough. So maybe don’t?

And many of the readily available options are from halfway around the globe, but it would be great if increasing local popularity also encouraged more local production.

It’s also encouraging to see the shells used as material for educational and shoreline reclamation projects like the Billion Oyster Project and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Still not convinced that smoked oysters are right for you? What else does a sweeping claim for dramatic outcomes based on one small lifestyle change need for maximum reputability?

A Top Ten List, of course!

* * *

Top Ten Reasons to Eat Smoked Oysters

10. They are great on salads, on pasta, in soups, on picnics, or straight from the can when you don’t have time for niceties like plates.

9. Canned, they are shelf stable to the Apocalypse and beyond.

8. Oysters purify water, are terrific for shoreline health, contribute to restorative aquaculture, and in a well-managed fishery are a great addition to a sustainable food system.

7. They remind me that the history of cities like New York is tied to the oyster. 

6. Smoked oysters give an average day a bit of fancy dancy je ne sais quoi.

5. Oysters are rich in protein, good fats, iron, zinc, and copper. Eating them makes me feel practically electric!

4. Smoking takes away that weird sliminess of raw oysters that some people love but, well, I don’t. (Although maybe I haven’t tried enough of the good stuff, like those from High on the Hog‘s TheRealMotherShuckers.)

3. I still have warm fuzzy feelings from childhood, sitting in the living room recliner, reading, and eating after-school oyster stew.

2. Lord, I don’t know, isn’t this list done yet?

And finally, the number one reason to eat smoked oysters…

1. They are affordable, accessible, and Costco sells these babies in eight-can packs!

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Yes, these oysters are the squishy kind, but the picture is pretty. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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Today is Bastille Day.

Photo by Joe deSousa on Unsplash

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Today is also a family member’s birthday, yay!

Photo by Robert Anderson on Unsplash

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And on this day, years ago, I visited a floating market in Thailand.

At 6:45 this morning I hopped a bus for a two-hour ride to the floating market at Damnoen Saduak. I’m sure the pictures will tell the tale well, as long as the viewer can also imagine the sticky heat of the morning sun rising over a town whose streets are made entirely of water. It was totally touristy and, admittedly, lots of fun.

On the way there the bus stopped at a coconut oil factory, made obvious from the road by the mounds of coconuts piled everywhere. A woman stood by a huge stove and swirled coconut oil or juice around and around in the largest wok I’ve ever seen. She actually had three of these monstrosities cooking at once, each in various stages of reduction. Every so often she’d reach over and grab another handful of coconut husk to stoke the fire. I couldn’t resist a bag of coconut candy; it’s probably 99 percent fat and terrible for me, but it tasted like richly-flavored brown sugar. Delicious.

The first boat driver was a little throttle happy, so we got the speed demon tour of the town’s waterways. He’d race full ahead toward a wall, then turn at the last minute. The front of the boat would turn sharply, the back swing around, and we’d race off to the next corner to do it all again. Along the way I realized how little difference there is between streets of gravel and water. All along the banks there were walkways leading up to people’s houses, small yards where they kept everything from pets to fishing traps, and little garages off to the side where they parked their boats at night. One difference: on the canals’ sides I noticed an odd creature, a fluffy pink worm-like animal that looked a little like a small sea cucumber. It was easy to spot because it was hot hot pink. 

The first thing we were encouraged to do after stepping out of the boat was to get right back in another. For a few dollars a sightseeing boat of sorts would shuttle tourists around the main market canal. In a few seconds we were off with the rest of the boats, making our way along the canal crowded with boats carrying food, trinkets, and other tourists. The only thing they told us was to watch our fingers, as the boat’s metal-rimmed edges collided frequently. Good to know. 

Almost all of the boats selling things were occupied by women. They talked amongst themselves while making fried rice cakes or chopping open coconuts for us to drink. It seemed like a crowded market anywhere, just on the water.

A woman with a Bunsen burner and stack of bowls in her boat made noodle soup. As my boat mate sat back to slurp up his lunch, a man came over and asked me a question.

He wanted to know why I wasn’t eating too, and wanted to assure me that the food was both good and safe. By pointing at a passing boat and a billboard adorned with smiling faces and happy stomachs, he managed to let me know that the market had been established as a “Safe Eating Zone” which was enforced by police. I could eat without fear. I thanked him and let him know by pointing at my stomach that I just wasn’t hungry. I tasted some of the soup soup and declared it delicious. We concluded the conversation with smiles and thanks. 

Pretty good, considering neither knew a word of the other’s language.

* * *

J.R. Johnson

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I’m feeling a lot better today, less exhausted ouchies and more “It’s cool, I’m good.” No naps today, no wishing I had a sling for my mostly incapacitated arm, just chilling and learning things.

Like using words to generate color palettes. Let’s see what we can do with that, shall we?

PhotoChrome

Using the Unsplash photo database, this site retrieves images related to your search term, combines them into a single image, then extracts a color palette. One nice thing is that you can deselect some of the component images, darken or brighten the palette, or zoom in to highlight just some of the colors in an image. I do find that the results tend to be a little muddy (“summer” is a lot duller grey and brown than I expected) but the tweaking helps.

* * *

Then what? I decided to learn how to color grade an image. Essentially, grading is a technique that lets you take the palette from one visual and apply it to another, often changing the tone and emotion of the image. A photo can go from warm summer afternoon to dark and stormy without a lot of fuss.

There are a lot of ways to do this but here’s a handy tutorial explaining the process in Affinity:

Steal the Color Grading from Any Image with Affinity Photo!

PhotoChrome has a link to download the composite image but it didn’t work for me. Instead, I used the “copy HEX” option for the color palette, then copied the darkest, lightest and middle colors into the Affinity photo Gradient Map / RGB Hex Sliders window.

What’s the color of cool? In my version of this exercise, this:

#4b5c74, #656778, #767482, #718694, #80949d

Here’s what that looks like when transferred onto an image.

Original Photo by Jenny Marvin on Unsplash
Cool

Then I had to try a couple of others for fun.

Ireland
Mars

It’s probably no surprise that I’m liking Mars best.

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