Sister Wendy strikes

I want to thank Chris for turning Laura and me onto Wendy Beckett. Last night, we watched a segment from Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting/Grand Tour/Odyssey/Pains of Glass): DVD on the "golden ages" of European painting: the time of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Poussin. My Matisse kick has stimulated for me a more general interest in the history of Western painting. Although I bombed out with Netflix: Artists of the 20th Century: Henri Matisse (which I found to be too dry), I still held out hope that a TV series or multimedia lecture series would be still a great way to learn more about Matisse and art in general. Since I have enjoyed Bach and the High Baroque, I turned to the Teaching Company for more but was disappointed to find that there is currently no course on modern art. When I mentioned my search to Chris, he reminded me of Sister Wendy.

We found Sister Wendy's comments to be stimulating. I am already looking at Rembrandt and Velázquez in new ways. (I didn't know that much about the them to begin with, so art veterans might have a different take on Wendy Beckett.) The two paintings that stick in my mind from last night are: Rembrandt: Bathsheba at Her Bath:


VELAZQUEZ, Diego: Las Meninas:

Posted in Art

does purple cauliflower stay purple after cooking?

purple and orange cauliflower

Laura and I had never seen purple cauliflower before our trip to Berkeley Bowl on Thursday. According to All About Cauliflower, "This variety of cauliflower has a purple colored curd rather than white as on regular cauliflower. It cooks faster than white cauliflower and has a little milder taste. When cooked, its color changes from purple to green. Purple cauliflower can be substituted for white in most recipes."

Not in our experience though:


Writing big while writing small every day

I admire Lloyd and Chris for being able to add to their weblogs on (more or less) a daily basis. I have tried over the years to emulate their practice. I find it difficult to do so without spending way more time each day than I think is desirable. Recently, I have found really simple things to fill my daily writing quota. Even though I've not blogged every day, I have taken at least one picture a day since early January and posted my pictures to Flickr. It's only natural for me to use a picture or set of pictures as a writing prompt for my blog. Two birds with one stone: I add commentary to my pictures in Flickr while also fulfilling my daily blogging goal.

Even though I get something up on my blog, I remain unsatisfied. I long to write more sustantive pieces than what I can just crank out on the spur of the moment. The solution that I've been pursuing is to work on larger scale pieces in the background while sustaining the daily writing habit. Easier said than done. I have been trying to make all the little pieces contribute to the writing of the larger pieces, instead of merely competing for time and attention.

To the end of writing articles akin to Chris Ashley's essays, I have been accumulating a list of possible topics for blogging, looking for jigsaw pieces that start to fall together into larger patterns. I will resist the temptation to list those topics so I can give myself space to reconsider half-baked ideas.

Tomorrow, our local group of "Berkeley bloggers" meets for lunch. I'm looking forward to the fellowship and conversation that flow from being in the very same physical space as each other. Times like this remind me how I've not used my weblogs recently to participate in conversations. Conversing is difficult though, require patient listening/reading over time. I also find weblogging-as-conversation challenging because the way I write and read blogs are driven by speed, a need to get through the overwhelming torrent of materials.

My first pumpkin carving experience

I assiduously avoided every opportunity to carve a pumpkin until Saturday. One of the activities planned for a birthday party to which Laura and I were invited was pumpkin carving. This time, I wanted to carve a pumpkin.

Laura drew the Picasso-esque face, while we be shared in the carving:


We took our pumpkin home and lit it that evening:


I did end up adding a secondary face to the pumpkin, a checkboard reduction of the face:


Testing and flickr interactions

I'm playing with the drag and drop Flickr functionality in the new browser which lets me read photo from a particular photostream and drag the picture down into the authoring environment.  For example, let me highlight a few pictures I took but didn't want to spend a lot of time writing about.

Flickr Photo

An obvious picture of me in a mirror.

Flickr Photo

I don't know what "tagging" is in this context.  Is this a message to the folksonomic community?

Flickr Photo

Ten minutes of flipping through this book convinced me that it would be wonderful experience to immerse myself in the visual and tactile world of textiles.

Conclusion:  drag and drop authoring is cool.

Here's a screenshot to show how it was done:

Flickr Photo

Our car is gone

I really didn't want to drive yesterday morning but I was slow at getting out of my apartment. Six minutes was not enough time for me to reliably get to the El Ceritto Plaza station. Hence I reluctantly decided to jump into my car once again.

Unfortunately, the car was not where Laura and I had left it on Monday night. I looked up and down my street in Albany, wanting to doubt the memory of having parked our car. Finally, I went back upstairs to announce to Laura that the car had been stolen. Laura came out with me to confirm what I still found hard to believe.

We had done what we could. We had secured the steering wheel with a club. The doors, I'm confident, were locked. "It's not fair," we said to each other. (Of course, what car theft is fair?) We latched on to the false hope that maybe our car had been sticking into a driveway and thus had been towed.

I called the Albany police department, which then dispatched a young police officer to the scene. We were not that lucky -- our car had not been impounded. I filed the police report while the police and I stood outside the apartment. He told me that there are about five car thefts reported a week in sleepy Albany. I knew that I was only complaining when I said that I had parked for years in south Berkeley without any problems -- so what's wrong with Albany? Such laments weren't going to bring our car back.

Chances are, I was told, that the car would be recovered in several days or at most, in a couple of weeks. We hope that our car won't be banged up too badly. Being a 1991 Toyota Corolla with 110K miles, it was still a good solid car that I had hoped would serve us well for years to come.

This morning, I took a picture of where the car had been and where I still hope it will magically show up again:

Last night, Laura and I consoled ourselves by drawing and telling stories about where the car might have gone. I drew the following:

mourning the lost car

after receiving some bad news about some dear friends, I was reminded once again that it's only stuff. Still, I got a bit nostalgic for my car -- which is the first car I ever owned. I dug up the last picture I have of it. Has anyone seen it around?

last picture of our car before it was stolen

Ha Jin reads from “War Trash” in San Francisco

Ha Jin reads from "War Trash" in San Francisco

Originally uploaded by Raymond Yee.

Ha Jin talks about his new book, 'War Trash: A Novel' - SF Station Event Listing.

I knew very little about Ha Jin before the reading. I hadn't known, for instance, that he wrote in English and not Chinese. When asked about he would write his fiction in Chinese, he said that he had to discipline himself not to do so. He had committed to refining his English writing craft and could not afford to diverge from that path.

His comment made me consider the choices I have made professionally and the need to stick to my choices without jumping around too much.