Monday, October 31, 2011

Something smells fishy

              This last week was fun for me. I have always had a soft spot for squid because they are such cool creatures. They are all bendy and loopy and primitive and strange. They are also incredibly intelligent. There is a story documented of a squid kept in a lab with a bowl of goldfish near the tank (for daily feedings). Somehow it figured how to crawl out of the bowl, into the bowl with the goldfish and then eat them all. How incredible is that? That it even understood the concept of glass and the fish in a different bowl and there was a way to get out. Some people are not that smart (see: people who repeatedly push on door that says pull).
                Some of the newest science on squid involves the giant squid. They were long thought to be figments if the imagination of drunken sailors.  Turns out: not so much. The theory is that they just live deep in the ocean unless they are sick. I hypothesize that they are all ninja squid and constantly evade picture and capture.  I mean, anything that can take on a whale is pretty hard-core. Why not ninja hard-core?

                Some other news is that squid mating is not a precise science. Scientists have known for a while that squid will try to mate with any other squid. It’s not romantic. All they do is place a packet of sperm in the arm of the other squid. I guess it is hard to tell boy or girl if you just go by the arms.  One of my favorite quotes is,

"Male squid, it seems, have only two responses to things they bump into: eat it, or impregnate it. Which is a good reason to avoid bumping into one." -Edward Willett

What they have found, thought is that navigating all those legs and tentacles while fighting with other males often end in the males placing their own sperm packets in their own arm. I know many of you are cringing right now. But it is a little bit funny.

As a part of the week I have made a little book about squid. It is factual with cartoons. I don’t really know who my target audience is- it is too much cartoon and too little facts to be adult informative. It is too many big words and squid concepts for little kids. But I’m making it anyway and you can’t stop me. It still needs color before I post it though. It is always better with color. Also: I ate some squid. Watch out for squid salad. It can be rough *shivers with the thought*.

This week is no TV week. I had actually planned on another week, but that fell through. So now I am going without TV. Already it is heard because so often if I am not watching the TV then it is background noise. This morning I got up and read the news with breakfast. We’ll see how this goes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Here is a fun blog if you would like to play along with squid week:

And this is even better You can build your own squid, set it free, and then go back later and check on it. I named mine chester. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Read about reading

     So, I have to admit, my reading this week was mostly fluff. I have been really into Amish based fiction. I know, it doesn't sound so exciting. But I swear it is! It is kind of calming. The drama is not too stressful and you get to imagine you are living a simple life (without having to do all the extra work that not having electricity brings). Plus I love hearing about all the traditions. Here are a few examples:
  • Weddings are in October and November so as not to disturb harvest.
  • One traditional wedding food is celery casserole- so you know when a person plants a lot of celery one of their daughters is getting married.
  • Some traditional desserts are shoofly pie (made of molasses) and whoopie pie.
  • Courting is all done in secret. Parents do not even know who their child is dating until they "publish" their engagement at church.
  • Until you take the "kneeling vows" (which means joining the church) nothing can be held against you. But after- everything is held against you.
     I finished the last two books out of the three book series. I forget the names. All of them are the same. "The something" where something stands for "Betrayal" "Longing" "Parting" or something like that. It is funny because it's not just one writer either. My fave if Beverly Lewis, but others are good too and have the same type name. Copycats or is there  something special to that style of name and the Amish? I don't know.
     I have started reading a book called "the lost". At least I think. I am bad about titles. It is based on a Jewish myth that there are 36 saints in the world at any time and if there weren't then God would destroy the world. But they are not regular goody-goodies. They are flawed people who teach other people how to live better and be better.  It is interesting, but a little dirty.
     This is squid week. I love squid but have gotten behind on current squid-science. So I am studying all that is new.
     I am thinking about posting some how tos. What do you think? Would you want to read any about how to bake or sew or bead?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Half week- half weak

                  Last week has been a half week. Half of the time was spent in New Mexico and the rest catching up. Still, I managed to pull together a project. It was jewelry designing week.  A friend bought me some beads while she was on vacation and I combined those with the home made beads to interesting affect. Later once I can get a good photo I will show you. 
                I made two necklaces of blue, two or red orange and one of green. Actually, the green one had the ammonite pendant than Ben bought me for our anniversary, so it is extra special. Today I am wearing the blue one with the silver, fake, Mayan coin pendant. So far I have received two compliments.

                I have to confess, I am so far behind on everything I don’t know if I will catch up or give up. Either way it is catch up on reading week. I have a collection of things I want to read and I don’t really want to do something too involved this week. I want something that I can relax while doing.  But next week- anything goes.

I need some help coming up with new ideas for weeks.  Please send in any ideas you may have. I have covered quite a few suggestions so far. Why not yours?

Read me before reading backwards for full enjoyment

             My more loyal followers have noticed that I have not posted for two weeks. No, I didn’t forget about you. I was away on vacation. Some people have made me paranoid, though so I didn’t want to post that I was going to be gone and for how long. I doubt anyone would have broken in or anything, but you know that the stranger and more unlikely, the likelier that it will happen to me.
                I have posted a few short articles about New Mexico. You can pick and choose what you want to learn about. But don’t worry, they are not too educational. About ¾ is opinion and sassy. So read what you will, ignore the rest. I may or may not post more later. There were a few other excitements such as the bear that ate through the beer lines at the restaurant we were at and a tremendously eventful and unnerving plane ride back.

How to survive a hostel

               So, Ben and I thought that it would be a neat adventure to stay in a hostel. Plus, it would save some money. Win/win, right? Looking on the website it said it was on a historic square and offered a free full breakfast every morning. So, well, not really. Actually, no. Not at all.
                As it turns out it was on a historic town square technically in the town we wanted. Technically. If you were to write it a letter, you would address it to the right town. In reality it was more than twenty minutes outside of town proper. Apparently New Mexico has large zip code areas. We ended up in a town that had seven shops that all closed at six. No grocery store. No convenience store. The one little shop where you could “buy groceries” actually (I’m not kidding) had two of every product. Sometimes not that much.  So this is your first tip: look up on a map exactly where the place is. Look at its relationship to other places that you want to go.

                For a hostel the place was nice. We actually managed to book private rooms with private bath for a little extra (the grand total was still $35 a night). That being said, it is still a hostel. There are some things you need to think about that might not normally know. Here are a few things that I found most handy.

For your own health and well being, when you are staying in a hostel bring a pair of shower shoes. Also be sure to bring some kind of room spray; not everyone is as clean as you. If you plan on going to bed early or sleep late, I suggest a pair of earplugs. Lots of other people stay there and they do not care what your sleep schedule is.  To make your stay more enjoyable, ask the people who live there what they like to do and what places are good to eat at. They can give you insight to places you didn’t even know were there.

There will come up situations that you do not like. You should find a way to be flexible. Remember: you are in a hostel not a hotel. It is not about customer service there. It is about a place to sleep for cheap. For example, while we had a private bath, the plumbing was so old that you could not flush toilet paper down the toilet. I’m not going to go into detail here, but you can imagine the complications that arose. So we just planned to be elsewhere at certain times of the day (just in case).

Don’t plan on meals. It may promise a full breakfast, but in reality it is a tub of oatmeal and access to a pot. This can be a plus or minus. If you are looking to save money you can buy some groceries and cook yourself. If you are looking for convenience and want to come in after a long day of activities and pay for a meal, you’re out of luck. Another possible down side is that someone has cooked curry and for several days the whole place smells.

Overall, it was a neat experience. We got to meet some cool people and some weird people and some quiet people. I had some of the best noodles I’ve ever eaten. I met a Buddhist who uses his practice group to pick up women/see them naked. I met a Disney producer and his writer wife. I learned these helpful tips to pass on to you. So if you fell like an adventure, I actually do recommend trying a hostel.

Architecture...sort of

               If you read the article about food, then you know I awarded New Mexico a gold medal for consistency. Well, they get gold in architecture, too. All of the buildings look pretty much the same. All of them and square and low- There are no tall buildings. The tallest building would be the hotel we stayed in which was five stories, but even that was unusual.  
                The buildings are all painted one of three shades: Adobe, Terra Cotta or Adobe/Terra Cotta. I really found it amazing just how alike all of the colors were. I mean, most places that I’ve been you can have ten blue houses and none of them are the same shade. I guess that it is possible that the shades aren’t that close and actually just pick up natural shades of the dessert. Therefore they all fit the color scheme so well they just look the same.  Whatever. They match.

                It was cool that the modern styles matched the ancient native built pueblos.  The pueblos are all low and desert colored. You can see a new home and an ancient pueblo and there is only one big difference- pueblos had the door on the roof and you had to use a ladder to get up to it. It was nifty for when there was fighting or bears or annoying visitors. You could just pull the ladder up. Not good for the old, disabled or clumsy.  That is why a few pueblos that are still inhabited have changed that and cut a door in the regular spot.

                I am sure there is a ton more that can be discussed. But overall architecture bores me. So I don’t have much vocabulary to discuss it intelligently. “That building is big,” “It was so pretty,” and “The windows were big,” is about the limit of my architectural knowledge. So it you want to know more look it up or take a vacation.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

State of the native- revered and ignored

     As you may or may not know the Native American population is high in the Southwest. I don't know the statistics, but everywhere you go there are full-blooded natives embracing their heritage. I am curious about why there are so many natives that practice native traditions there, and around here, where there were just as many native people, it's more common to find 1/8 Cherokees with no clue to traditions. Or people who say they are native, but have no idea what tribe or how far back.
     Sure, you can go to a reservation and see the dances and visit the museum. But over there you can meet a Native in a bar that is studying atomic interactions and in his spare time preparing the fruit pies for Feast Day. Not really. Men don't prepare the fruit pies. But you get my point. Why did the natives there maintain traditions and here- not so much?
     Part of it may be that here we have not celebrated the culture much. In New Mexico, there are beautiful celebrations of the native cultures every where. There are tons of museums to honor culture, art and heritage. Even more important than that, the culture is honored in everyday life. All of the bridges and noise blocking walls on the highways are painted to match the adobe homes and have native designs like the roadrunner and Kokopelli painted on them. Any building you go into is decorated with Native crafts like baskets and woven blankets. Find me anything like that here. I challenge you. And "Cherokee National Park" doesn't count. It has to honor in more than just name.
     While Natives have a revered place in society and traditions are maintained in New Mexico, that is not saying that all is well. Far From it. The reservations are plagued by alcoholism. I know, it is a stereotype, but there is truth to it. One big problem there is Native people freezing to death on reservations because they have drank to much and not gone inside. Drinking, Meth and gambling are major issues. I could go into the root causes of poverty on the reservation due to lagging schooling system and lingering cultural isolation (despite the more recent efforts). But I won't. You can look that up.
     As you may or may not have known, I was hoping to have some kind of artistic inspiration or revelation out there. I did not get any of that from the modern artist over there. I manage to find some inspiration and new ideas from native art. The farther back you go (preferably before European contact) the more interesting it is. Designs, simplification, making the normal sacred- it pushed me in a new direction. Once I get some stuff made, you will see what I mean.

Food of New Mexico- Feel the Burn

     Do you like food so hot that it burns all the way through your system? Do you like beans to be the majority of every meal? Is your favorite side item a dry tortilla? Then Northern New Mexico is for you.
     Ok, it wasn't that bad. But is was vastly different from my beloved Southern Food. So different that I had digestive troubles for a week in a half. The last few days of the trip I only ate food from the tourist restaurant (read: mild and inoffensive). It was necessary for my own well being.
     Here is something you might now expect: in all the food we ate there were no black beans or salsa. I don't know about you but whenever I've ordered "Santa Fe" anything it is smothered in black beans and salsa. Thins Santa Fe chicken, casserole, eggrolls, etc. In reality every dish came with pinto beans and chili sauce.
     I was fine with the pinto beans. They are a little bland, but fine. The real issue I had was with the chilies. There was chili sauce on or in everything. Everything. And I don't mean a sauce with chilies in it or sauce with a lot of hot pepper added to it. It was chilies cooked and pureed. No other ingredients to take off the heat except my tears.
    Which brings me to the dry tortillas. At first Ben and I were confused why they kept giving us side dishes of dry tortillas. Even with things lite burritos which are already in tortillas. After some trial and error (and then confirmation by a local) we realized that the tortilla was to cool your mouth off. Ta-da!
     I have to give it to the people of Northern New Mexico- they are consistent with their food. It is like they had a meeting and agreed that frito pies, navajo tacos and stuffed sopapillas should be on every menu.  Frito pies are a big deal over there. They are fritos, pinto beans, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and chili sauce (which was like our kind of chili with hot chilis added).
    Navajo Tacos and Stuffed sopapillas are both made with the same base- Indian fry bread. It a little hard to describe. The bread is flat and square, but is puffy from being fried. For the tacos they are folded over and for stuffed they are cut in half and, well, stuffed. I, as a good Southern girl, think that we should invest some time in learning to fry our bread. Sure, we have hush puppies, but they put their fry bread with sandwiches, burgers, practically anything. Catch up. I'm looking at you, Paula Dean!
     Of course, we had more food adventures than that. We had a really excellent dinner at a restaurant called Mica. We ate a ton of honeyed sopapillas. We ate vendor food. But all of that is normal stuff you  could find anywhere. I wanted to give you a taste of what made New Mexican food unique and worth the burn.

PS- There were still Mexican food restaurants out there. They are very clear that Mexican food and NEW Mexican food is completely different- God help you if you say they are the same thing. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out the differences (but don't tell them that).