As the Mist Leaves No Scar

As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill,
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will.

When wind and hawk encounter,
What remains to keep?
So you and I encounter
Then turn, then fall to sleep.

As many nights endure
Without a moon or star,
So will we endure
When one is gone and far.
-Leonard Cohen


"That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; who looed for the best in others and gave the best he had."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
"Every year I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing, and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well. No one ever yet was poor in the long run for having once in a lifetime 'let out all the length of all the reins.'"

- Mary Cholmondeley

"A Bag of Tools"

"Isn't it strange
That princes and kings,
And clowns that caper
In sawdust rings,
And common people
Like you and me
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass,
A book of rules;
and each must make
A stumbling-block
Or a stepping stone."
-R. L. Sharpe
"Today is, for all we know, the opportunity and occasion of our lives. On what we do or say today may depend the success and completeness of our entire life-struggle. It is for us, therefore, to use every moment of today as if our very eternity were dependent on its words and deeds."

-Henry Clay Trumbull

Stop 5: Olympia

Olympia, Greece was of course the site for the ancient Olympic games. Now, since I'm only about two weeks away from starting to teach Western Civ again, I don't really feel like expounding to the point of writing a history lesson about it just yet... But I will post some of the more interesting photos with some thoughts on them.

Since Olympia was largely destroyed by what had to have been incredibly violent earthquakes in 522 and 551 A.D. (and you'll see what I mean about how strong it must have been shortly) nothing was left standing on the site. Anything you see arising above ground level is thus a reconstruction of the broken pieces that were found by archeologists. But even the sheer amount of the remains still on the ground is impressive.

So, some highlights... Firstly, we have the only circular temple on the site, started by Philip II of Macedon and completed by his son Alexander the Great, called appropriately the Philippeion. While quite unusual, it nevertheless evinces what I expected to see from the site, I guess... the subtle elegance of the ancients. (Even if it had all been painted up gaudier than Las Vegas at the time!)

And of course we have a distant descendant of the Olympic Games that we celebrate today. When we do, the famous Olympic flame is actually lit here, on the ruins of the former Altar of Hera (pictured at left) using a parabolic mirror. And what visit to Olympia would be complete with a visit to the Stadium (at right)?

But for me these weren't the most impressive sights. No, I'm not talking about seeing Mount Olympus there (because it's actually in a whole different part of the country), but rather what would have been the ginormous Temple of Zeus!

Of course, it's in ruins now, and the colossal statue of the god which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is long gone... but it is an impressive sight nonetheless. Just get a load of the diameter of the fallen pillars alone, with yours truly standing next to them for comparison! (See, that really must have been some earthquake!!)

Stop 3: Athens & Its Subway

Even though I took hundreds of photos in Athens, they were easier to weed through than I thought!

In part, we had far too little time in the city... only about 7 hours. Combining that with the fact that we were with our Athenian friend Vangelis meant that no local taxi driver would pick us up to take us to the Acropolis because he would have to charge us the "normal" fare! Seriously... we were rejected by like a dozen cab drivers - and it just got funnier every time - who were on their way to the golden goose which is the cruise ship. (Pretty quickly, I learned the Greek for "no"... oshi!)

So, in the end, we only had enough time to see the Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum. And there's practically no way to take a photo of the iconic Parthenon without it being totally cliched... So, I'll teach with those photos and won't bother posting them on Flickr or here. But what I will share are some photos from our cool trip through the Athens metro! Yes, you read that right... the lowly subway!!

Needless to say, you can't dig a hole in downtown Athens without hitting something of historical value. As a result, in an unprecedented move, teams of archeologists worked alongside the metro engineers for a total of six years, uncovering a staggering 32,000 artefacts in the process! The end result is not only a greater knowledge of Athens' buried history, but also metro stations which double as museums! Totally cool.

So, here are some glimpses of these clever exhibits at the Acropolis and the Syntagma Square metro stations... As you can see from the Acropolis stop above, a number of the artefacts (or their reproductions if they're simply too valuable) are on display, including the ancient Greek plumbing (!) and ancient toys exhibited at the Syntagma station.

But at Syntagma they've done even more. Since subways by definition provide a great cross-section of the substrata beneath a city, they've displayed this behind a glass wall... so you can see perfectly well the ancient necropolis which originally occupied that site.

Complete, by the way, with an open grave and a skeleton in it! (I am assuming this is a reproduction, but I can't swear to it...)

Now why can't Rome do the same thing???

Stop 4: Mykonos

Again, jumping around out of order, photos from the beautiful whitewashed tourist trap that is the Greek island of Mykonos are now up in my Flickr photostream (and in my sidebar slideshow at right!)

Whew, that's pretty much it for the modern cities... now I have to face fixing up the hundreds of photos from classical Athens, Olympia and Delos!!

Stop 2: Corfu'

A little out of order in presenting my vacation pics, but it was actually easier to start the weeding out process with the ones from the island of Corfu'. A handful of new holiday snaps are thus now available in my Flickr photostream (visible in the slideshow in the sidebar).

More to come...

Dr. V and the Splendour of the Seas in Corfu'

Venice in Vintage Science Mags

It's always a hoot to look through old issues of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, and with Google Books you can now do just that! But what do you get if you mix an eternally medieval city with eternally hopeful futurists? You get these mags' interesting take on Venice! Through their pages, you see the 20th century slowly but surely arrive to the canal city (or not, as sometimes the case may be...)

As you can see from the pictures, the articles ranged from the ridiculous (at left) to the strangely poignant from World War I below.

For more on Vintage Venice, see my post over at Metafilter...

Worst cruise photo idea EVAR!

I wanted to pose for it from behind the fishtank but they wouldn't let me!

(Just kidding...)

Proof that I'm easily amused...

A towel animals mosaic from last week's cruise through the Med!

Remembering Venice: The Fragrance!

I've been living in Venice each and every summer for the last 16 years, and I've NEVER encountered the (in)famous so-called "stinky" canals of Venice. As far as I'm concerned, Venice smells no better or no worse than any other coastal city during the summer.

Nevertheless, I was not particularly broken up about the fact that I couldn't take that fragrance home with me. I couldn't, that is, UNTIL NOW!

That's right... there's now (drumroll please!) "Remembering Venice: The Fragrance"! Yes, you too can now enjoy the bottled smells of Venice long after you've left the lagoon city, all for a mere $113!!

A Palladian Afternoon in Venice

Yesterday, I caught the ferry boat that takes cars to Venice's beach island, the Lido. It passes through the wide Giudecca canal that forms the underbelly of the city, where you can get some unparallelled great Venetian views!

To wit, in one fell swoop, you can get a spectacular gander of not one BUT THREE churches designed by the virtuoso Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio!

As proof, I've uploaded to Flickr these shots of mine taken of the gleamingly gorgeous sixteenth-century white marble churches of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Zitelle, and the Redentore. Enjoy!!

Great photo & good advice: TAKE IT EASY!

Originally uploaded by TIMVANdotCOM


From the photo's notes:

"Taking it easy on the world's largest salt flats. Bolivia.

We couldn't decide on what to 'write', the first thought was "BOLIVIA", but no one could figure out how to do the 'B'... though I must add that 'S' isn't easy either... one guy had a t-shirt with the words TAKE IT EASY written on them... and the rest is history.

I only had a 10 second timer window to push the shutter and sprint to finish the '!'"

Magnificent Pakistani (and Sicilian!) Car Decorations

Gorgeous collection of photos capturing the Pakistani tradition of elaborately decorating their vehicles. According to Drive Line:
The most striking thing in Pakistan is the vision of trucks and buses completely covered in a riot of color and design. They might spew diesel fumes, they may take up all of the winding, narrow, under-maintained road one is trying to negotiate, but they are certainly noticeable, like so many mechanical dinosaurs adorned in full courtship colors.

The decoration of vehicles is a common practice in a number of countries in addition to Pakistan. Similar techniques and materials are employed in truck and (more frequently) bus decoration in the Philippines, Indonesia, and several countries in Central and South America; in South Asia itself, Indian trucks are painted, as are the scooter rickshaws, called "Baby Taxis", of Bangladesh. What makes the case of Pakistan unique, however, is the pervasiveness of vehicle decoration, since decoration is heavily utilized on virtually all privately and fleet-owned commercial vehicles, from the well known trucks and buses, to vans, share taxis, animal carts and even juice vendors' push carts.

The motifs on the trucks can be categorized in five groups:
1. Idealized elements of life, such as the romanticized village, landscapes or beautiful women.
2. Elements from modern life, such as pictures of political figures or patriotic symbols.
3. Talismanic and fetish objects, such as horns, yak tails and items of clothing.
4. Talismanically or religiously loaded symbols, such as eyes and fish.
5. .Obvious religious symbols and images such as Buraq (a celestial horse that is believed to have carried the Prophet Muhammad on a spiritual journey to heaven).

However, by far the commonest religious symbols appearing on a truck are the Ka'ba and Prophets mosque, appearing on the left and right of the front of the truck somewhere towards the top.

Interestingly, half a world away, some Sicilians (whose culture was also influenced at one time by Islam; coincidence?) used to decorate first their horse carts and then their cars in a a similar kind of way. (The Fiat 500 at left is absolutely fabulous!)

More Ben Hur Vespa Fun!

"I Drew the Coffin": The "Oblique Strategies" of Marshall McLuhan

I just posted a long item on Metafilter about my discovery online of an important set of playing cards created by Marshall McLuhan (who presciently coined the phrases "the medium is the message" and "global village").


At right, one of my favorites of the cards.
(I love the fact he's wearing academic regalia!)


I am now the proud owner of a Vespa scooter! Now, this is the fun life!! (Captured best by this 1999 song by Lunapop, I think!)

The Vespa was war-stricken Italy's reaction to the need for personal transportation in 1946. Little would anyone have suspected then that this sturdy little scooter born of necessity would become associated with the swank good life of the ultra-hip by the 1960s...

To celebrate my finally joining the mod squad here in Italy, here are some WONDERFUL 60s commercials for the Vespa! (Don't miss the girls in skirts riding side-saddle!!) Enjoy!!

(Not last but not least, my question I posted on AskMetafilter and the discussion that ensued where I found these cool videos. Last but not least, here's a great pic of Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd from my latest discovery, Vintage Photographs!)

How much difference a single person can make: "The Man Who Planted Trees"

I first saw this 30 minute-long animated short film more than 20 years ago, and it's still every bit as poignant today, if not even more so. Please watch - ideally in fullscreen - and I hope you will be as inspired by its beauty, hope, and wisdom as I continue to be to this very day.

"The Man Who Planted Trees tells the story of a solitary shepherd who patiently plants and nurtures a forest of thousands of trees, single-handedly transforming his arid surroundings into a thriving oasis. Undeterred by two World Wars, and without any thought of personal reward, the shepherd tirelessly sows his seeds and acorns with the greatest care. As if by magic, a landscape that seemed condemned grows green again. A film of great beauty and hope, this story is a remarkable parable for all ages and an inspiring testament to the power of one person."

Lots of Parties in Italy!

But not the fun kind! ☺ I was astounded at how many were listed when I was waiting for my Italian husband to vote in the European elections... Some of these parties he'd never heard of before!

Anywhere else it would be gourmet; in Italy it's just the grocery store

Thanks to all the wonderful local fresh fruit and veggies here, it's easy to eat low calorie. That is, until you get to the grocery store and see all the wonderful food there!

I snagged such goodies at the Italian grocery hypermarket today!

Eating low cal's going to be kinda tough... ☺

Utterly Fantastic Venice B-Movie Poster!

This is just so breathtakingly, unbelievably, wonderfully, cheezily beautiful, I couldn't resist its spellbinding kitschy powers! Enjoy!!

The Nauseating Nature of Italian Politics

Longtime readers of "MMC" will know that I typically avoid political discussions, and I am practically never, ever partisan... I believe that people tend to come to their individual political conclusions - whatever they may be - as a result of their own personal reasoned deliberations, and that needs to be respected.

But I guess every rule has an exception... Admittedly, politics is a messy business everywhere, and surely good taste is not a prerequisite. But exceedingly poor (even disgusting) taste seems to be becoming the political rule of the day here. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Prime Minister Berlusconi's Hijinks Have Finally Raised Eyebrows in Italy, and today the Italian neo-fascist party is holding an election rally right around the corner from my house in Venice; they'd originally wanted to march very near - if not through - the historic Jewish quarter of the city! (That was cancelled, but needless to say, I'm not at my house today.)

But it doesn't end there. Check out the posters for the European Parliament elections which are coming up next week... You may have heard in the news that Italian has had a tremendous problem recently with embarkations of illegal immigrants. Well, the party of the Northern League, whatever valid points its platform may or may not have, tends to be notoriously jingoist about Northern Italians and denegrates nearly everyone from south of (and including!) Rome. The poster on the bottom left shows an American Indian and states, "They faced immigration. Now they live on reservations!" As an American, I was shocked and appalled that such an enormous miscarriage of justice by my own forefathers was being completely mischaracterized by the Lega for the sake of grossly misleading political propaganda.

But I believe that even that pales in comparison to what the party of the Radicali, practically the Italian equivalent of the Libertarians, are doing right now. Their politicians are wearing YELLOW STARS OF DAVID! Initially, I believed that they were doing it as an act of solidarity with the illegal immigrants who are being rounded up and kept in containment camps before being deported... and while I still found it deeply questionable equating this admittedly difficult human rights issue with the genocide of six million people, I thought at least I could understand why they were doing it. Instead, it turns out that they're wearing them just because they feel like their party is under-represented in the media!!! While I used to have respect for their leader, Marco Pannella, despite his sensationalist antics sometimes (he was instrumental for example in the legalization of divorce in Italy in the 1970s), this was the last straw!

I am officially disgusted... no, actually nauseated, by Italian politics.

Venice's Marriage to the Sea, or "Liquefied Is My Soul!"

Today was the annual celebration of Venice's "Marriage to the Sea," and a wonderful reminder of why I love this city.

It was Nan McElroy's blog Living Venice that reminded me that this weekend was the Feast of the Ascension, celebrated in quite a particular way by Venetians.

The "Festa della Sensa," as Venetians call it, has been celebrated for nearly a millennium. Probably the best read you can find about it is in Ed Muir's Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, but - as a quick intro - I can tell you that every year on the traditional Catholic feast day celebrating Christ's Ascension into Heaven after his Crucifixion, the city would take to its boats and row out to the end of the Lido barrier island, right in front of the Benedictine church and monastery of San Nicolò (as you can see in the image by eighteenth-century Venetian painter Gabriele Bella).

There, the Doge (the ceremonial head of the government) would drop a ring into the water, precisely where the Venetian lagoon met the Adriatic Sea, saying "We wed thee, O sea, as a sign of our true and perpetual dominion." (What can I say? Venetians were legendary for being more pragmatic than romantic!)

Today, a similar ceremony occurs, with the mayor standing in for the doge. But what really got me today was getting to wander around the old monastery complex of San Nicolò and the concert of seventeenth-century music which concluded the day's festivities.

Firstly, a couple of iPhone pics of San Nicolò... While most of the complex that one sees today (at left) is later than the sixteenth century, I have a soft spot in my heart for any and all remnants of the early Middle Ages. Sure enough, there is preserved a section of Romanesque-Byzantine mosaic pavement and some columns from the ruins of the nave of the older church, about a thousand years old! Even better is an easy-to-overlook tiny fragment of relief of an eagle, probably meant to be a symbol of the Saint John who is believed to have written one of the Gospels.
But the evening's concert held in the church was the best part of the day! Firstly, as is the case with so many cultural events here sponsored by groups like Musica Venezia, it was FREE! (Particularly amazing when you consider that you'd be hard pressed to find anything of the like stateside at nearly any price!)

Secondly, the musicians (from the group VeniDilecteMi) were fantastic (6 male & female vocalists, 2 violinists, a viola, 1 lutist, and an organist), and performed music composed more or less at the same time as the present church of San Nicolò was itself was built, that is, during the 1600s.

As you can see, it was the perfect setting for these beautiful sounds, many of which had been taken directly from seventeenth-century music books and had never been performed in recent times!* (BTW, while the church is about 400 years old, the crucifix you see in the photo at left dates back about SIX HUNDRED YEARS, to the fifteenth century!)

Most of the works performed were very short, just a few minutes long, and written by minor, lesser-known composers of the time. But still Venice was a major cultural center of Europe, and was absolutely saturated with wonderful music by composers of all levels!

Here, for posterity's sake, is the great program they performed (with the pieces that really struck me in bold):
  1. G.B. Bassani, Suonata IX (1683)
  2. A. Balbi, "Laudabo nomen Dei" (1606)
  3. A. Grandi, "Vocem Iucunditatis" (1637)
  4. A. Grandi, "Quasi Cedrus" (1630)
  5. A. Balbi, "Exsurgat Deus" (1606)
  6. J.H. Kapsberger, "Toccata III" (1604)
  7. F. Lucio, "Jubilate Deo" (1649)
  8. A. Grandi, "In dedicatione templi" (1618)
  9. A. Gabrieli, "Ego rogabo" (1576)
  10. A. Grandi, "Bone Jesu Verbum Patris" (1621)
  11. B. Marini, "Zarabanda III" (1655)
  12. A. Grandi, "Benedictus Dominus" (1610)
  13. J.H. Kapsberger, "Preludio in sol" (1640)
  14. A. Grandi, "Deus canticum novum" (1628)
  15. B. Marini, "Sinfonia IV tuono" (1655)
  16. A. Grandi, "Anima mea liquidfacta est" (1630)
  17. F. Cavalli, "Canzona a 3" (1656)
  18. C. Monteverdi, "O Jesu vita mia" (1603)
  19. G.B. Bassani, "Suonata VI (1683)
  20. A. Grandi, "Memoriam fecit" (1621)
  21. A. Grandi, "Ave maris stella" (1637)
  22. C. Monteverdi, "Cantate Domino" (1620)
I'll just say one more thing: I learned today that there were a number of lesser-known composers whose work I really enjoyed. But then there was Monteverdi! (Along with Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi was the only other composer played today who was at all well-known; indeed, he is considered one of the earliest innovators of opera and is buried with honor in Venice's splendid Frari church).

As the program today said in his biography, "Claudio Monteverdi is one of the absolute musical geniuses of all time." Turns out that this is no understatement. After listening to several perfectly nice pieces by the minor composers of the era, I was utterly blown away by Monteverdi's "O Jesu vita mea"! There was simply no comparison between the unabashed virtuosity of his piece and the others. In fact, one of the earlier works had been called "Anima mea liquefacta est," which means "My soul is liquefied," and that was exactly how Monteverdi's composition - consummately performed in a lovely church constructed at just about the same time as his writing - made me feel! (Have I mentioned lately that God, I love this city?!)

*BTW, anyone interested in recuperating and performing this ancient music can find the musical notation for these pieces and others like them here!

Predictably Irrational!

I'm spending these couple of days easing into my new (Italian) milieu and catching up on some reading, which - it must be said - I'm doing on the iPhone through a mix of available apps, including eReader, Amazon's Kindle and Stanza. Sure, it lacks the satisfaction of the physical experience of reading a REAL book, but, let me tell you from past experience, it weighs a heck of a lot less than if I'd lugged every book I might possibly want to read over the summer to Italy with me!

The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine was quite entertaining, about the real-life events and intrique that unfold following the $156,000 record-breaking auction in 1985 of a bottle of Château Lafite supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson (not least of which was whether this bottle, and several siblings which also surfaced thereafter, was in fact a fake). My only wish for this fun read would have been for its conclusion to be, well, more conclusive. I understand the legal actions are not all finished, but I can't help but think that the author could have nevertheless given a greater sense of closure at the end for the readers who had followed him and the whole story all that way...

Why spend $156,000 for an object which cannot realize the destiny for which it was made without being destroyed? Not to mention for an object which is practically impossible to guarantee complete authenticity? The next book I read might give us a few clues... Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions is the popularization of the groundbreaking research in behavioral economics by MIT prof Dan Ariely. I first encountered his work through a fascinating podcast for the series "All in the Mind." I've since seen him speak live (via stream) at TED2009 about the economics of honesty and on the PBS Newshour about the current economic crisis, and I remain a great fan of his keen and creative intellect.

For further info, Ariely's going to be in the spotlight a lot again soon! TED just posted this afternoon his talk from the EG ("Entertainment Gathering") 2008 conference, and an expanded and updated edition of his bestseller is out TODAY, with additional information regarding his scholarship and experiments, not to mention addressing the astoundingly predictably irrational current stock market crisis!

Hope they pique your interest as much as they did mine! Enjoy!!

A Slice o' Maine Life: Husseys, Guns, Wedding Gowns, and Cold Beer!

My parents were traveling around Windsor, Maine today and captured what has to be the very best store sign EVAR! (And it *is* serious...) What a kick!! Enjoy!!!

Venice: A Blue Marvel?

A week ago, I stayed overnight at the Weston in South Boston, where for the wakeup service your tv would turn itself on to the BlueMarvel channel. I wound up waking up to these sights and sounds of dawn at a basalt beach in Maui!

The whole channel's like that... According to the Maine-based company,
The best way to experience nature is simple. Go outside. For those who cannot, BlueMarvel presents an alternative. This is nature's events at nature's pace, bears on bear time, and the passage of the sun according to its own rhythm.

BlueMarvel pioneered a format we like to call "Experiential HDTV", whereby the viewer is allowed to slow down and develop a deeper relationship with the content, as if it were an open picture window in their home, hotel room or place of business. Our inventory of experiences include sunrises, sunsets, storms, distinct animal behaviors and migrations from stunning and evocative landscapes of our planet, all with crisply recorded natural sound.
Needless to say, their soothing video tour through Venice caught my eye... but not my ear! Natural sound, my foot! While people were shown in some of the shots, you never heard a soul. Not to mention there was no sound from the motorboat (the bow of which you constantly see in the video) taking them around... and last but not least when they finally passed a vaporetto on the Grand Canal, the noise it made was just sort of a generic machine sound, but not the loud characteristic churning, almost grinding sound all Venetians know too well. That's when I realized... they were using SOUND EFFECTS!!

So, not only is it a packaged, technological substitute for the real life of the outdoors (which I can't help but think really tells a lot about our twenty-first century society) but they're even faking parts to make it seem more tranquil than the real world actually is!

Still, I have to admit that they've actually succeeded, and it is pleasant viewing. So, here for your viewing pleasure are a couple of BlueMarvel clips not included on their video website. Enjoy!!

Maine Lighthouse:

Maine Lighthouse - by BlueMarvel -

Elephant Seals at Sunrise:

Elephant Seals at Sunrise - -

Twitter me bad?

A great debate in the media this past week... Print media really seems to want to demonize microblogging!

"Twitter causes immorality nonsense deftly dispatched by bloggers. Most mainstream press lost the plot although Time did a good job and Wired Science were keeping it real."

(via Mindhacks)

VIDEO O' THE DAY: Rube Goldberg vs. the Cadbury Creme Egg!

As they said on the site, "This has to be the most impressive Rube Goldberg contraption I’ve ever seen." (And with cheap household materials, too...) My words can't possibly do it justice. Watch it and enjoy!!

(Thanks to @jackiegerstein for the heads-up!!)

Cooking Tips

What's Twitter Good For? Lots of things, even the NY Times says!

To wit, here are some cooking tips that caught my eye while following @foodimentary (who is apparently somebody who's quit their day job to become a fulltime Twitterer, although I have to admit that I have no idea exactly how that would work...)

Anyway, hope they're also useful/interesting to you! Enjoy!!

  1. Tip for Wilted vegetables: Soak wilted veggies in 2 cups water, one tablespoon vinegar to help bring them back to life. @Vegimentary!
  2. Hint for Spaghetti Sauce: Add a small pinch of bicarbonate of soda to your spaghetti sauce to lower acid taste from tomatoes.
  3. While cooking smelly foods, soak a cloth towel & let it dry in the cooking area. It will absorb the smell, keeping the room fresh!

  4. While frying Onions, add a little milk - this will help retain a rich color & prevent them from burning

  5. If you accidentally burn gravy, just pour it into a clean pan & continue cooking. Add some sugar to cancel out the burned taste.


Twitter is a great microblogging service which allows you to post updates, thoughts, links, etc. in less than 140 characters. It's great for posting interesting yet fleeting and still half-baked ideas, of which - you can readily see - I have many more than the fully-baked ones! ☺ Anyway, if you'd care to follow my posts, I'm at @misciel! You can also follow my posts in the sidebar at right.

I experimented with automatically posting my twitters to the blog, and it didn't work very well, but I'll get back to real blog posting as soon as I can.


Scenes from Today's "Maine Maple Sunday"

"Maine Maple Sunday" happens every year about this time, when maple syrup producers all over the state open their doors to visitors so they can see (and taste!) the wonderful alchemy which turns 50 gallons of watery sap into just one gallon of gorgeously golden maple syrup!

Today, my hubby and I hit the road and went to about half a dozen sugar shacks in western Cumberland County, enjoying the heavenly, sweetly humid aroma of the saphouse and sampling goodies like homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh hot syrup, homemade doughnuts with fresh hot syrup, maple baked beans, maple snow toffee, freshly baked bread with maple butter, maple-glazed roasted nuts, and more! What a great day!!

Anyway, here are some random shots of the fun... Enjoy, and you oughta plan to join us in Maine for all the sweet maple-y goodness next year!

The Mona Lisa painted entirely by sheep (and more!)

After having seen this video link for the hundredupteenth time, I finally clicked on it, and now I understand exactly why it's gone viral. It is pretty amazing! Enjoy!!

Surreal art and the blog

I used to rely on the blog to share fun links, but now I find it better doing that more on Twitter. When I have time, I use *Michelle's Mental Clutter* for longer essays. In the meantime, I thought I'd begin to catalog some great art pieces that I encounter through Google Reader that are worth far more than just an http address! To start off... (from left to right)

Erik Johannson (from Brainpickings)

Desiree Palmen (from PicoCool)

»Under Discussion«, 2005 by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (via VVORK)

»Undecidability Meme Diffusion«, 2007 by Sam Basu (via VVORK)