Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Color Wheel

Yesterday when the color printer in our office was malfunctioning, my office-mate and I got on the subject of color wheels. Catherine told me that the color wheel was invented by Isaac Newton, which was something that I never knew before! I blame the bias of American education which values science over art, so all I ever learned about Sir Isaac Newton was that dumb story about gravity and an apple hitting him on the head. But we never learned the more interesting story of how a color wheel hit him on the head. Sure, I could discover a whole bunch of stuff too if things kept falling on me:

Our modern understanding of light and color begins with Isaac Newton (1642-1726) and a series of experiments that he publishes in 1672. He is the first to understand the rainbow — he refracts white light with a prism, resolving it into its component colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

In the late 1660s, Newton starts experimenting with his ’celebrated phenomenon of colors.’ At the time, people thought that color was a mixture of light and darkness, and that prisms colored light. Hooke was a proponent of this theory of color, and had a scale that went from brilliant red, which was pure white light with the least amount of darkness added, to dull blue, the last step before black, which was the complete extinction of light by darkness. Newton realizes this theory was false.

Light enters the prism from the top right, and is refracted by the glass. The violet is bent more than the yellow and red, so the colors separate.

Newton set up a prism near his window, and projected a beautiful spectrum 22 feet onto the far wall. Further, to prove that the prism was not coloring the light, he refracted the light back together.

Artists were fascinated by Newton’s clear demonstration that light alone was responsible for color. His most useful idea for artists was his conceptual arrangement of colors around the circumference of a circle (right), which allowed the painters’ primaries (red, yellow, blue) to be arranged opposite their complementary colors (e.g. red opposite green), as a way of denoting that each complementary would enhance the other’s effect through optical contrast.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Battle of Brothers

Behold brothers Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, currently competing against one another on Top Chef: Las Vegas (otherwise known as Season 6). Not since Cain and Abel has the world witnessed filial drama of such magnitude.

Meet Bryan "Big Brother" Voltaggio (left), aged 33, owner of a three-star restaurant called VOLT and graduate from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Bryan is into "local, sustainable, and organic" food and his favorite simple summer recipe is marinated grilled steak.

His brother Michael "Little Brother" Voltaggio (right), aged 30, apparently learned how to cook from a bunch of celebrity chefs (I wonder how he swung that? Nice work if you can get it!), trained mostly in Europe, and has already won a whole slew of prestigious cooking awards. His focus is on "modern technique, flavor, and presentation." Michael's favorite simple summer recipe is a soft poached egg with morel mushrooms (the fact of which alone ought to immediately place some of the readers of this blog firmly into his brother's camp).

In episode 4, all the contestants became extremely intimidated when the challenge was to cook a classic French dinner for Chef Joel Robuchon, who apparently is to fine cuisine as the Pope is to Catholicism. One of the contestants said he was amazed to see Chef Robuchon in person because he's so legendary, he's "like a unicorn."

And, indeed, as Guy pointed out, he really did resemble a supernatural creature, all squat and wise-looking like Yoda. He spoke exclusively in French thereby rendering his speech all the more magical. As you would expect, whenever he uttered an opinion, all the other chefs fell all over themselves agreeing with him, which was funny.

Look how intimidated Bryan looks:

Meanwhile, Michael looks cocky and arrogant, as usual:

Anyway, for this challenge, Bryan cooked trout with bearnaise sauce while Michael made a rabbit with sauce chasseur.

Bryan's withering look speaks volumes: "I'm totally going to beat you, Little Brother!"

And Michael looks back at him with disdain as if to say, "Oh, yeah? I'd love to see you try."

The supernatural judge enjoyed Bryan's dish, stating that he "took something simple and made it exceptional" except it sounded way better and more magical in French.

Ohhhhh, you can see the crushing embarrassment written all over Michael's face:

And Bryan can barely conceal his glee at Chef Robuchon's praise:

Meanwhile, Michael barely got his food plated in time, but the judges liked his dish as well, deeming it "mature." Still, the winner ends up being Bryan. His prize was to work in Chef Robuchon's kitchen for a week (which is the kind of "prize" that seems good only to an aspiring chef).
Look at Bryan gloating:

And Michael's look seems to say, "Damn you, Big Brother! I'll get you next time!"

I just hope if this situation turns violent, Coach Hoolio will intervene.

Epitaph for Zoe

Zoe was a mail-order bride. As soon as Guy saw her photo, he said, "I'll take her." Zoe arrived in a cardboard box. Guy opened the box and watched as Zoe's head slowly appeared and she took her first look at her new home.

She was a special little cat who liked to be picked up and held. She loved sitting on paper. She loved baths and would get cranky if I didn't take one every night. I put a little stool by the tub so that she could sit there and look at the water. For her, it was like watching TV. She also liked to drink the bath water.

She once turned off the record player when it played a song she didn't like. One time she farted. She was otherwise sweet and dainty. She liked to suddenly sprint into the bedroom at breakneck speed and straight up a steep stack of boxes, which made Guy nervous. She sat in the window every day and waited patiently for Guy to return home.

She was much loved. Repose en paix, sweet little cat.

Drawing by Guy

Monday, September 28, 2009

Word to the Mother

There is a fascinating post on the Kitchn today about vinegar mother:

Do you see it? That slimy red substance at the top of this ceramic jar is called a mother of vinegar, or vinegar mother. It's basically a combination of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that forms on fermenting alcoholic liquids. As the name implies, a mother of vinegar makes vinegar!

When added to wine, cider, or other alcoholic liquids, a vinegar mother creates vinegar with a little help from oxygen. Mother of vinegar sometimes forms in store-bought vinegar bottles when some sugar or alcohol somehow gets into the vinegar when it was bottled. It shows up as a thin layer of slime floating on top of the vinegar. It's harmless and can be filtered out using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar comes with the mother.

Read the whole article at:

You can even learn how to make your own vinegar!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Deebo

Drawing by Guy

I Can Relate to This

The New Yorker, September 2009

Guest Blogger: Deebo

Likes: Trucks (not too loud), string, fish-flavored Petromalt, kibble, birds, squirrels, naps, drinking from the bathtub and from my little glass, dental floss, boxes, bags, paper, butter, feathers, Christmas, being combed, rawhide mouse tails, toy carrot, toy banana, getting my props.

Dislikes: Keys, trucks (too loud), hairballs, dirty litter box, Fourth of July, going to the vet, houseguests, tin foil, when people sleep late, hot weather, grandma, pigeons, fake poop, sudden noises, sudden movements, reading.

Drawing by Jennifer

Sqwerl Enjoys Bread

I photographed this little guy (or girl?) on Friday, enjoying some bread that I provided.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mushroom I Saw On Campus Today

I was walking on campus when I suddenly saw this giant white mushroom.

Wow! That's a big mushroom!

If you click on any of these photos, you can see them bigger. If you look closely at this third photo, you can see what looks like little animal scratches on the right side of the mushroom's cap.

I put a penny on top of it so that you can see the proportions.


I'm not a big fan of tattoos but I've seen a few recently that I've admired.

Katy Perry (and I'm not a big fan of hers either) got a really cute one recently on the side of her foot. It's a happy strawberry. I like tattoos that are sweet and harmless like that (as opposed to "bad-ass").

However, I also really liked an amusingly bad-ass (in a way) tattoo I glimpsed the other day while riding home on Metro. A tough-looking guy on a motorcycle had a giant tattoo on his forearm...of Abraham Lincoln. Random! I liked the combination of nerdiness and toughness. Also, Abraham Lincoln is cool, obviously.

On my bus ride home yesterday, I spotted another tattoo that I admired. Actually, first I noticed the girl and admired her whole look. Her hair was bleached white blonde and styled into loose-but-fake curls, like Marilyn Monroe's. She was sexy in a deliberately tawdry retro way. Then I noticed her feet--the ruby slippers were tattooed on the top of her foot! I like the idea of having shoes tattooed onto your foot. It's so literal. And those are the most iconic shoes I can think of. It was kind of an ugly tattoo, in a way, but on her, it worked.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creative Cake Contest

I found this adorable owl cake linked from my favorite cooking blog, the Kitchn. You can look at all the entries at the link below. Some of them are pretty amazing.

The Kitchn's website is:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Katjinga Loves Paulinchen

Ridiculously cute animal story of the week brought to you by the Daily Mail:

A giant farm dog and a tiny piglet cuddle up as if they were family after the baby runt was dismissed by its own mother.

Surrogate mum Katjinga, an eight-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, took on motherly duties for grunter Paulinchen - a tiny pot-bellied pig - and seems to be taking the adoption in her stride.

Lonely Paulinchen was luckily discovered moments from death and placed in the care of the dog who gladly accepted it as one of her own. Thankfully for the two-week old mini porker, Katjinga fell in love with her at first sight and saved her bacon.

The two animals live together on a huge 20-acre farm in Hoerstel, Germany, where Katjinga's owners Roland Adam, 54, and his wife Edit, 44, a bank worker, keep a pair of breeding Vietnamese pigs.

Property developer Roland found the weak and struggling piglet after she was abandoned by the rest of her family one evening after she was born.

He said: "The pigs run wild on our land and the sow had given birth to a litter of five in our forest."I found Paulinchen all alone and when I lifted her up she was really cold.

"I felt sure some local foxes would have taken the little pig that very night so I took it into my house and gave her to Katjinga.

"She had just finished with a litter of her own, who are now 10 months, so I thought there was a chance she might take on the duties of looking after her.

"Katjinga is the best mother you can imagine. She immediately fell in love with the piggy. Straight away she started to clean it like it was one of her own puppies. Days later she started lactating again and giving milk for the piggy. She obviously regards it now as her own baby."


Zooey Deschanel is a girl who really knows how to wear make-up. Of course it helps that she's a natural beauty, but her retro hair and eyeliner always look great. She wears Lancome's Definicils mascara, which is my favorite too (but Zooey usually wears hers along with big false eyelashes. Fabulous!).

Currently, the make-up I'm most fascinated with is blush, specifically pink, flushed cheeks. Zooey truly excels in this category. She usually wears bold bright pink color on her cheeks, liberally applied, which could never exist in nature, yet she somehow makes it look innocent and fresh.

I think Lancome's Color Design Blush in Petticoat Pink would probably mimic Zooey's look quite well. This color would work on very fair skin (like mine or Zooey's) but Lancome offers a full range of shades for darker complexions as well:

Design your cheeks with a creamy touch of color. Blendable. Lasting. Sensational Effects.A beautifully blendable, silky cream blush that gives cheeks even, lasting color. Smooth and non-greasy, it glides onto cheeks softly and evenly. Perfect for all skin types. In 3 finishes: sheer, shimmer and riche.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grilled Cheese Alert

Turns out that the birds missed out on the grilled cheese sandwiches today, cause the squirrels beat 'em to it. Better luck next time, birds.

Amy Winehouse, Time Traveling Hero

If I ever get a hold of a time machine, I want Amy to terrorize the bullies from my childhood too! And afterwards sign a few autographs, natch. (I'll have to explain to the kids that she will be famous in the future):

The children at North London's Southgate school in Barnet Monday got a celebrity visitor: an infuriated Amy Winehouse, who was on the warpath, headed toward a girl she believed to be the bully of her 13-year-old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield.

Winehouse, 26, showed she can put a middle school bully in her place, spitting on and insulting her goddaughter's supposed torturer.

A bystander eventually broke up the incident, at which point Amy signed a few autographs and took off.

Boxing a Glacier: The Slow-Paced Charisma of Lon Chaney Jr.

And the winner is...the Wolfman!

The Wolfman was portrayed most famously in film by Lon Chaney Jr. as "Larry Talbot," which has got to be the best monster character name ever. I love the idea of a monster named Larry.

My exciting "Who Is Your Favorite Halloween Monster?" poll (in which I myself voted twice) was stuck in a dead heat for a few days, until I personally asked some friends to break the tie, and John Anderson heroically stepped up to the plate.

Ann had voted for Frankenstein because she finds him poignant, but John's reasoning was based on different criteria. He reasoned that the Wolfman should win for being more alive and less, well, dead, than the other three contenders, the Mummy, Frankenstein, and Dracula.

A lifelong Dracula fan, Guy valiantly argued on his behalf that vampires are technically "undead" and thus, arguably less dead than the living, who will in fact eventually die.

This argument gained no traction with John, who is nothing if not stubborn, and he boldly cast his vote for the Wolfman, thus securing a winner.

However, if John had recently viewed Lon Chaney's film work, he might have reconsidered his assessment of the Wolfman's "alive" quality.

You see, Lon's portrayal of Larry Talbot does not exactly convey "feral beast" so much as "community theater actor, laboriously delivering dialogue loud enough for the back row to hear." His good-faith attempts to portray intensity and emotional angst unfortunately come across more like ineffectual wheedling.

Last night, Guy and I finished watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It offers an interesting contrast of speech patterns: the rapid-fire banter of Lou and Bud had absolutely no effect on Lon, who continued to plod methodically through his lines at his own leisurely pace. It reminded me of what Stephen Colbert said about interviewing Jesse Jackson: "You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier."

Yet in the final analysis, you really wouldn't want Lon Chaney Jr. to change a thing. His weird bad acting grows on you, and has its own endearing charm. After spending some time with Larry Talbot, you know that nobody else but Lon could ever fill those large, hairy shoes.

So congratulations, Wolfman! You'll always be a winner in my book.

Sandwiches for the Birds

Last night, I accidentally made too many grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner so I figured I would just bring them into work today and feed them to the birds (and sqwerls).

Guy helpfully designed this paper bag for customized sandwich transport.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Signs of Stupidity

Some people I like very much do some of these things. But if you do them all, I'm sorry, you're in trouble.

1) Terrified of / excited by Swine Flu.

2) Wears red kabbalah bracelet. Primarily for Hollywood celebrities, as in, “Oh, look [famous starlet] is wearing the kabbalah bracelet. I didn’t know she was a moron!”

3) Favorite conversational topic: traffic and morning commute.

4) Forwards every email warning about totally unlikely “health hazards” (such as “do not lick envelopes, the glue contains poison, etc.”).

5) Thinks everyone should have children. Childless people are selfish.

6) Votes Republican.

7) Talks on cell phone while walking and smoking.

8) Collects something dumb but expensive as an “investment” (like Thomas Kinkade paintings).

9) Insists on hyphenating her name upon marriage, even when both last names are difficult and cumbersome, such as Oldswaang-Veerwanathan.

10) Uses the word “gal” seriously.

Painting by Dan Lacey, "Painter of Pancakes"


In the course of her volunteer work as a "cat squeezer," Ann stumbled across this little angel fallen down from heaven. Her name is Moonbeam. [Insert squeal here.]

According to Ann, Moonbeam has an equally cute brother named Jujubean.

More little slices of heaven at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009


My favorite nail polish brand is O.P.I. The quality is excellent, they offer a huge range of colors, and the price is a bit splurge-y but still acceptable (especially if you buy it online or at Fred Meyer--don't buy it at a salon because salon prices are ridiculously inflated).

But the best thing about O.P.I. is that they are constantly launching new collections which always have a theme--like "Psychedelic Summer" or "Garden Party" or "Holiday In Toyland." And every color within each collection has a doofy name that is usually some kind of tortured pun in reference to the theme.

For example, the "French" collection offers: Louvre Me Louvre Me Not, Parlez-Vous OPI?, You Don't Know Jacques!, Tickle My France-Y, Bastille My Heart, I'm Fondue of You, A Oui Bit of Red, We'll Always Have Paris, and Eiffel for This Color.

The Indian collection includes: I'm India the Mood for Love, ElePhantastic Pink, Black Cherry Chutney, Keys to My Karma, MonSooner or Later, Moon Over Mumbai, Yoga-ta Get This Blue, Get Me To the Taj On Time, and Curry Up Don't Be Late!

The Russian collection (shown below left) includes: Boris & Natasha, Siberian Nights, An Affair In Red Square, Russian Navy (Guy bought me this one), Vodka & Caviar, Ruble for Your Thoughts, Catherine the Grape, Cosmo-Not Tonight, Honey!, Midnight In Moscow, Suzi Says Da! (I used to have this color too, it's a very pretty brown, but I gave it to a friend who loved it even more), Kreme De La Kremlin, and St. Petersburgundy.

Well, you get the idea.

The newest innovation in nail polish this season is a completely matte, unshiny nail (photo below right). O.P.I. launched the "Matte" collection in July. I've read online that it was a huge success, but I haven't actually noticed anyone wearing it. Maybe it's just because Seattle isn't a fashion town. The company is following it up this Fall with the "Suede" collection. While I admire their risk-taking, I'm just not sure if I'm really onboard with this. To me, nails should be shiny. But maybe I'll change my mind.

O.P.I. is constantly discontinuing collections and inventing new ones. But luckily, it's very easy to buy discontinued colors online. The official O.P.I. website doesn't do any online selling--and it's not very easy to find a big selection in stores--but there are many, many online vendors selling the old shades. If you're worried about ordering from someplace you've never heard of, just do a search on Amazon and order it through them instead.

The colors that are next on my list to buy are: Parlez-Vous O.P.I.? (smoky lavender), and 2 shades from the Princess Charming collection: Pink-Ing of You (light pink), and I've Got a Date To-Knight (slightly lighter pink).

"Oh, Please, Please, Please!"

Dr. Seuss Stamp

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mural Update

The mural is progressing, with the addition of some icky new colors (like this sick shade of green) and a trompe l'oeil "window" on the left, mimicking the real one at right.

Guy pointed out that the colors seem suspiciously like I'm-just-using-up-leftover-paint (rather than these-are-really-great-color-choices).

It's not looking too good so far, but we'll continue to monitor the situation. Who knows? Maybe the final result will be a success.

The artist couldn't do any painting today because it rained pretty much all day.

To be continued...