Just Shelley

Mashed Potatoes

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

My Dad was an odd man. He was very macho, and his furniture was all dark and heavy and full of plaid and brass. At the same time, though, he would buy me delicate teacups for a collection he started for me when I was less than one year of age.

He ended up with bronze hunting dogs, and lamps made out of rifle butts; I ended up with cups painted with roses and cups painted with southern belles and cups with little doves on them. Being a person with simple tastes, I never had the heart to tell Dad how much I disliked this cup collection. Sometimes, when I’d have to wash the things, I would look at them and contemplate an accident in the sudsy water. Luckily, starting young, I moved around so much my Dad agreed with me that the teacup collection, and the silver, and the Belgium lace would be best with my brother–to be given to my nieces when they were adults.

Dad also bought me a hope chest when I graduated from the 8th grade, because that’s what Irish men did for their daughters when they ‘came of age’. This rather traditional view of womanhood conflicted though, with Dad’s hopes for me for college–he believed and strongly that women should be as educated as men. He even felt that women should have the same job opportunities as men, and if both the man and the woman worked in a household, the man should contribute to the housework. Being as he was born in 1910, he could be considered a man ahead of his time. However, I personally felt his exposure to the Powers women made him the man he became.

His mother, my grandmother, died when he was young during childbirth and his own father took up drinking and eventually died of the bottle. Dad and his brothers and sister were split up, to live with different family members. Dad lived with one uncle, who was a fur trapper in Canada for a time. Mostly, though, he lived with my Great-Aunt Alma, a lovely woman who treated Dad like one of her own. Good thing, too, because her own son turned out to be a jerk and a crook.

Just because Dad was enlightened didn’t make him terribly adept at cleaning. He was a slob; he really was. His garden was beautiful–he had a green thumb, though was rather obsessive about trimming the trees (me having to throw myself in front of them. more than once, to keep them from being trimmed ‘just a little more’). But inside his house, all that heavy dark furniture would collect a sheet of dust, obscuring not only the grain of the wood, but the color. Grays. I remember my Dad’s homes as always being gray. And sneezing a lot. I sneezed a lot when I visited Dad.

He was a pretty good cook, though. It was my Dad who first interested me in food, as something other than fuel. It was he that took me out for fancy dinners and taught me manners and how to fold a napkin and cut one’s meat. Of course, now we know the American way of cutting meat is considered provincial: where you cut the meat and then put the knife down, switch the fork to your right, stab the meat and put it in your mouth. You then transfer the fork back to the left, grab the knife, and continue the dinnertime ballet. How was Dad to know the British royalty don’t eat this way? That’s how he was brought up.

He fancied himself a bit of a gourmet, and it was so sweet how he would garnish his meals to add a little extra sophistication. Of course, to him, a fancy garnish was a dash of paprika so we had paprika on most of our food. Paprika on the chicken; paprika on the macaroni and cheese; paprika on the cottage cheese; and paprika on the mashed potatoes.

If there was a food that Dad loved more than anything it was mashed potatoes. Oatmeal for breakfast, mashed potatoes for dinner, and tea throughout the day, with applesauce before bed. Last year, when I stayed at my brother’s to keep an eye on Dad while the family was on holiday, he asked if we could have mashed potatoes. My brother and his wife are true gourmets and they never cook plain mashed potatoes, even without the paprika. I got the spuds, but a situation arose in the family before I could cook them.

Not long after, Dad moved out of my brother’s house and into a very pleasant retirement home. The last time I visited him there we had a lovely time. We talked for hours and walked about outside, looking at the flowers. When it was time for dinner, I walked Dad to the dining room before heading home. I noticed from the chalkboard outside the room that the cook had made mashed potatoes and pointed it out to Dad. His eyes lit up and he tossed off a quick ‘Bye, Dear’, as he made his way toward the doors leading into the kitchen.

Diversity RDF Technology

Women and Web 2.0

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I have many things to do and it seems or feels little time to do them. This is compounded by some frustration in wanting to get a little of the Fall photography in while I have the opportunity, but this endless summer refuses to end.

The only tasks I have left now are writing and the preparation for the RDF tutorial at XML 2005, and they’re slow going. In addition to my commitments, I also want to get some writing here to the weblog before I take what could be a longish break. I want to finish my bottoms up RDF tutorial, and yes, finally, my part 2 and 3 of Parable of the Languages, and few other odds and ends that aren’t tech related.

I am also planning on writing a detailed response to Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 writing, but was dismayed when I looked at the speaker list for the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. For a topic as diverse as Web 2.0, what statement about this wonderous new world is being made when only 7 out of 106 speakers are women? Is there room for hope among the hype of Web 2.0?

We can only wish that during the parties and schmoozing, those attending will look through their glasses of bubbly and notice that something seems to be missing.

Technology Web

October 5th is Web 1.0 Retro day

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Thanks to zo in my comments and Ken Camp, I was able to find out about the upcoming Web 1.0 conference:

Sponsored by 43 Folders and the year 1998, with generous contributions from Adaptive Path, Mule Design, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, and Central Desktop.

We will meet to discuss line breaks, spacer gifs, and the ability to launch links in a new browser window.

Proposed format for brief, non-primarily-drinking-and-socializing portion of the Conference:

1. You sign up on a sheet to do your presentation
2. I hold and manage a timer (duh)
3. You have 2.0 minutes to make a case for your 1.0 technology or squirrely business model
4. Whenever you say “monetize,” “font face,” or any of a variety of secret 1998 words, everyone drinks
5. Repeat until a) 20 minutes, b) we get bored, or c) every person in the room completes a first round of funding

I was so sad to miss the last event. I plan on attending this one spiritually since I can’t make it physically.

So set your big honking digital watches, the ones with the face that’s at least six inches across, because October 5th is Web 1.0 day.


In celebration of taste

I’m reading a lovely little book titled Bittersweet Country, edited by Ozarkian author Ellen Gray Massey. It contains the best articles from a periodical named Bittersweet, published by Massey’s English class from the Lebanon, Missouri high school. The magazine focuses on the Ozarks, the culture and the way of life of the early Ozark settlers.

The first section of the book focused on kitchens: what appliances existed and how they were used, how food was prepared, giving recipes, and even providing diagrams of typical kitchen organization. Most had a big, rough table, usually made by hand, with benches for seats. On this, food would be placed–for eating in the next meal or to hold for the next day. It would be covered with a pretty cloth to keep the bugs off.

In those days, the settlers were frugal and nothing was every thrown away; even ash served a purpose because ash that is wet and allowed to sit and rot forms lye as a by-product. Lye was essential for both cooking and cleaning, and many homes had an ash hopper where ashes from the wood stove and fireplace would be thrown. When it rained, water would trickle through it, resulting in the lye. The cook would then combine this with water and dried corn and boil it for a time to create hominy–a fluffy, and tasty, corn dish.

(I found a recipe for homemade hominy at WikiBooks. If you’re not familiar with WikiBooks, it’s a Wikipedia-related site for …open-content textbooks anyone can edit. )

Reading about kitchens and cooking in Bittersweet reminded me to recommend an enjoyable weblog: 101 Cookbooks. The author, Heidi Swanson, features recipes from her collection of cookbooks–providing interesting background material as well as entré into a world of natural and vegetarian and vegan cooking. It’s a beautiful site, too: perfect for her topic and interests. (It’s not a site that reads well as an RSS feed, which is probably why she doesn’t provide full feeds.)

Ms. Swanson also features some rather fascinating and unusual recipes, such as today’s Lemon Verbena Drop, giving a little cocktail background as apéritif:

In the past I’ve had (a few) friends who tended to treat cocktails more like fashion accessories than beverages. They always opted for the drink that best matched their handbag or shade of lipstick. Bless them though, because they always looked cute. Or cute for a while. There is a place up the street that serves saketinis in a pretty range of sunset colors – reds, pinks, oranges. They serve them in ultra-wide, shallow martini glasses. Turn one way, and the drink in your glass slides right out the other side. It’s a given, anytime we go there someone will end up either wearing their own drink, or wearing someone else’s.

101 Cookbooks led me indirectly to the cupcake weblog, a weblog about all things cupcakes. But let’s not stop there. If you’re like me and find wedding cakes to be a true art form, then here’s a tip: use the Flickr tag wedding cake to see hundreds of photos of wedding cakes, traditional and anything but. My favorite cake so far is this rather unusual Seussian affair.


Post Serenity

I did go see Serenity tonight. The movie theater is about 1/2 mile from us, and no one was out. We had the stadium seating theater; shared with approximately 20 other people. The seats were excellent and so was the sound, but the film developed a flaw in it for the last ten minutes. Didn’t impact on the overall movie, but was unfortunate.

I won’t talk about the movie–anything one can say is a spoiler. I think it was an excellent movie, but somewhat unexpected. It was a true Firefly show, though — no disappointments for fans. I didn’t see any hull number, but I’ll take a swing and guess at the hull number and ship soon to enter Serenity trivia as noted by Commander Rogers: the NC 1701, USS Enterprise.