Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nekkid Wimmen

I'll get to the nekkid wimmen in a moment. But first, my equivalent of Twittering:


Dad-blamed, gosh-durned spammers. Grumblegrumble. Hopefully they're gone now, but if not, I may have to change the commenting rules on my blog. Grumblegrump.


So... It's been a while, hey? Yeah; I'm a bad blogger.

Truth is, I've been a bit of a naughty writer lately, and I think the dearth of blogging was due to my guilt. I finished a chapter on my WIP, wasn't totally happy with it, decided to take a break while I outlined the next chapter, and WHOOPS. That 'break' expanded into nearly a month of sloth and minimal writing.

Clearly, The Koala needs to blink her red eyes clear, lick the cotton candy off her claws, and do some Goblin-eviscerating.

Um. But I am back in the groove now, so flesh wounds only, please? Whimper.


As Sarf noted, spring can make you itchy to do something new (like going to VENICE, omgsojealous...) It has certainly taken me that way. I'm signed up to try yoga, and, two weeks ago, I started going to life drawing sessions again.

For anyone who doesn't know what "life drawing" is, that's a euphemism for drawing nekkid people. Yes, nudey wimmen. Nudey men. Hur, hur.

Except there's not much "hur, hur" about it. The models generally conform to Laman's Law of Public Nudity, which states: "Anytime you see a stranger naked, it is always someone you wish you hadn't seen naked."

The models might be grey-haired grannies, bald forty-year-old men, very overweight women, or creepy young guys with tattoos and pierced...bits.

However, that lack-of-teh-hawt is actually one of the coolest things about life drawing. Once you start sketching, you begin seeing the beauty in people you wouldn't look twice at. You notice the wonderful eyebrows and nose on the bald guy, the lovely flowing lines that define the plump woman's shape. You see the beautiful bone structure on the granny and realize she was gorgeous when she was young, and you spot the elegant musculature on the sketchy, skinny guy with the piercings.

It feels like a gift, every time. The world presents you with a very ordinary person, and you get to see them as a thing of beauty.

It's also weird, of course. I'm still not used to sitting with a bunch of strangers, waiting for a sixty-five-year-old man to whip off his sarong and sling his scrotum over a barstool. All the other artists act so cool. I do too, I guess, so I wonder if I'm the only one in the room who still gets that, "Eek, a penis," reaction.

The "eek" reaction goes away as soon as you start sketching, of course. You're concentrating too hard on what you're doing to feel odd about it. It reminds me of how I used to not be bothered by heights while I was rock climbing. If you're concentrating on your hand and toe placements, and the granite in front of your nose, then the expanse of empty air gaping under your feet doesn't bother you.

And it's kind of the opposite to how I feel about writing a first draft (at least these days.)

While I'm writing it, the story seems like complete drek. I'm pushing onward just to have something on the page, and hissing my mantra, "It's only a first draft," through gritted teeth. Only when I lean back and read it over do I think, "Hey, that's maybe kinda good..."

Is it weird to like editing your work more than actually writing it? You get to enjoy the good bits when you're editing; when you're writing, it seems like you're too busy to notice.

Does anyone else find this to be the case? I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mallows, Sans Marsh

I made marshmallows today--from scratch! I am so proud of myself I could just blog.

Once upon a time (when I was teenager-ish aged), I realized I had no idea what marshmallows were. None. I'd been eating them my whole life, but I couldn't have told you any of the ingredients beyond sugar, or by what industrial alchemy they are wrought. To make things worse, I soon realized I also didn't know what mayonnaise was.

As it turns out, sugar is pretty much all there is to marshmallows. Here's the recipe:


3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water

3 packets plain gelatin (that's about 20 grams, or 3 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup cold water

pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

- Prepare an 8 x 11 inch pan by greasing it, then dusting it with icing sugar.
- Mix gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water and let it sit for 10 minutes to "bloom".
- Boil sugar and 1/2 cup water together until it reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 C). For those of you who know the lingo, this is the "hard ball" stage. You need a proper candy thermometer for this.
- Drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture while beating at a slow speed.
- Once all the sugar syrup is in, add the salt and vanilla extract, then beat at high speed for 12 minutes. The marshmallows will become very thick and gluey by the end.
- Pour the marshmallow goo into the prepared pan and smooth its top with a silicone spatula or greased plastic wrap.
- Allow to cool and set (a few hours), then cut into cubes and dredge the sides with icing sugar until the marshmallows are no longer sticky to the touch.

Makes 20 large marshmallows.

Edit: If you place your mixing bowl on top of a potholder for insulation, it cuts down on the small crunchy sugar crystals mentioned below.

Husbandos and Goblins agree: these taste JUST LIKE STORE-BOUGHT (maybe slightly better.) The mouth-feel and texture are exactly the same also, although my marshmallows have a slight bit of crunch from the sugar that you feel between your teeth. El Husbando actually really likes that.

So...why would someone make marshmallows when it's so easy to just buy a bag? Well, because Goblin is gibbled. Store-bought marshmallows contain corn syrup, and I've got an allergy to corn. Although I can eat the pre-packaged ones with no noticeable consequence, I probably shouldn't. Hence, adventures in mallow-land.

So that was my fun for the day. Has anyone other than Sarf done something quirky and adventurous lately? Tell us about it!

And by the way, mayonnaise is made by beating egg yolks and oil together for a really long time. Who woulda guessed that?

Saturday, April 04, 2009


A fun meme from Travis Erwin. Play along; you know you want to! (And if your memory's as bad as mine, just make up stuff that's approximately right.)

1. Your rock star name (first pet/current vehicle)
Goldfish Bus

2. Your Gangsta name (favourite ice cream flavour/fave type of shoe)
Vanilla Sneaker
3. Your Native American name (fave colour/favourite animal)
Blue Cat
4. Your soap opera name (middle name/city of birth)
Joan Edmundschuk (this one's fictitious for privacy reasons)
5. Your Star Wars name (first 3 letters of last name/first 2 letters of first name)

6. Your Superhero name (second fave colour/fave drink)
Red Tang

7. Your NASCAR name (first names of your grandfathers)
Bert Alexandir
(Fictitious for privacy reasons; sorry)
8. Your dancer name (favourite scent/fave candy)
Lilac Caramilk

9. TV Weather Anchor name (5th grade teacher/city that starts with the same letter)
Gache Glenlivet (Sheesh--who remembers 5th grade?!)
10. Your spy name (fave season/flower)
Spring Iris
11. Your cartoon name (favourite fruit/article of clothing you are wearing)
Pomegranate Bathrobe

12. Your hippie name (what you had for breakfast/favourite tree)
Nothing Cedar

13. Your porn star name (first pet/first address)
Goldfish Lanky

Friday, April 03, 2009

Studentfail, Queryfail, Agentfail, Zamboni.

It's been Monday all week, I swear.

My apologies for the lack of blogging, but yeef. My students are succumbing to serious end-of-term flakiness. I have scheduled ten make-up labs in the past week, and I had two more students absent today who I haven't heard from yet.

It's my own fault. I am a ginormous softie, and they all know it.

My desk is a-flutter with dubious doctor's notes. Bambi-eyed woe-begones creep into my office to protest their innocent ignorance about the department's (well-advertised) policy of "You ditch a lab, you fail the course". Emails sluice into my inbox, detailing the horrors of abrupt, profound, far-too-icky-to-come-to-school-OMG ailments.

I roar and gnash my teeth and try to put the fear of God the meanie-head Lab Instructor into them, and then I let them do the make-up labs anyway. I am such a sucker.

But I also love my job and my students, even when they're making me nuts. I remember what university was like, and all the complex ways in which anxiety and common sense can tango when there's a project due and a midterm coming up. The kiddies do make me smile. Just not when they're actually in my office, claiming they "overslept" a lab that starts at 2 PM.

Besides, did I mention the meanie-head Lab Instructor can get a lot of writing done while she's over-seeing a make-up lab? I am glad I bought this laptop.

Which brings me, via a typically circuitous route, to #queryfail and Agentfail.

I'd like to comment on these two incidents--or more specifically, some of the comments made in them--from the perspective of someone who makes a living as an instructor.

Dear Writers:
Here's a secret: Teaching is fun. Marking sucks. They don't pay me to teach; they pay me to do the stinkin' marking.

Imagine me hunched at my desk, hemmed in by a box canyon built out of lab books, my fingers cramping around a red pen. I have to get through all those books, and I'm starting to go buggy. The only way I'm going to make it is by taking occasional brain-breaks. I pull back from the canyon, cast a wistful eye at the sunshine outside, and check my email or read a few blogs. Then I get back to work.

Now imagine yourself writing a problematic scene. You grind your teeth and sweat over the words, but it's just not flowing. Finally you stop and play a few games of Minesweeper or computer solitaire. Just a few--and then you get back to the grind.

We all do that, right? Sometimes you just need to clear your head.

So please don't begrudge agents their Twitter and Blogging habits; it's perfectly human to need to take brain-breaks. When you're mired in a task that is tedious as well as depressing or frustrating, sometimes the only thing that gives you the stamina to plough onward for another two hours are those brief, time-wasting breaks. This is true of marking, and writing a tough scene, and it's also true of wading through the slush pile.

PS - And please ease up on the response-time fury. Go re-read my second paragraph; when I get busy at work, I blow off non-crucial things that don't make me money. Agents are allowed to also. Reading the slush pile does not make them money.

Dear Agents:
Here's something you've probably had to explain to a few clients: A writer creates a work, and the public reacts to it. The writer controls the former thing; they do not control the latter. They can write the best damned story they are capable of, but they can't force anyone to like it.

Teaching is similar, in that the outcome is beyond your control. Some students--despite your most strenuous efforts--will never learn enough to pass the course. You have no control over that. You can only teach to the best of your abilities, just as the student can only learn to the best of their abilities.

And yes, it's frustrating when you try your damnedest and it still doesn't work. All teachers groan about and laugh over their students in the staff room. We need to decompress.

However, that's where such discussions have to stay. Ridiculing a student to their face never benefits them. You might de-moralize the student, or make them decide you're jerk not worth listening to, but you won't teach them anything. And your raison d'etre is to teach.

So here's the tough question: How much of #queryfail was an honest attempt to teach, and how much of it was a really fun staff room discussion?

Because if it was the latter, it shouldn't have taken place in front of your "students", the writers. You are absolutely entitled to have as many #queryfail parties as you want and to enjoy the hell out of them. Just make them private--keep it in the staff room.

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: