Monthly Archives: May 2009

clay's ark

clay’s ark is the last book in octavia butler’s patternist series, yet it is the beginning of the story. clay’s ark tells how the mutations in the human race started, leading to the complex race and power struggles that evolve in the series. the book is too short, the plot never takes shape, and you never get a good feel for the characters. character development is usually one of octavia’s strenghts. the ending also seems abrupt, almost like there really wasn’t one, the story basically just stops. clay’s ark is a good compliment to the series, it clears up some of the backstory, but is not essential.


a couple of weeks ago leslie and i set out to make our own tofu. we got the idea because mark bittman’s how to cook everything vegetarian made it sound so gosh darn easy. aside from it taking much more time than he suggests, it was pretty easy.

first we had to procure fresh soybean juice, the recipe doesn’t call for it, we both thought it would be good. thinking it would give it a fresher, beanier flavor. to get the fresh juice we took a trip to the uwajimaya, the asian superstore.

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now that we had the fresh soybean juice,  we went to leslie’s and broke out my fancy new thermometer. (now that i have it soon i will experiment with making yogurt, dairy and soy). once the foul smelling soybean juice was up to temp, we added lemon juice, the only other ingredient, as our coagulant.

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after a little simmering the curds started forming. this it the part that took at lot longer than suggested, the recipe said it would be ready in 15 minutes, ours took over two hours. you are suppose to simmer till the liquid is clear and the curds are fully formed, a detail not  mentioned in the recipe, we did some internet research after the first hour of simmering.

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after the curds were formed we strained them into a cheesecloth lined false bottom double that we decide to use as a mold. then some weight was put on to force out the excess liquid.

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a half hour later we pulled back the cheesecloth and had tofu!

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unmolded it looked similar to some kind of aged cheese.

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after letting it cool completely in the fridge we cut into it, it looked great. it had white stripes in it and held it’s shape.

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i ate my portion a couple of days later, it was amazing. i marinated it in a soy based sauce and you could still really taste the bean. and the texture was unlike any tofu i’ve ever had, spongy and moist.

next time i make it i’m gonna try putting some flavors into it, like seaweed or green onion. i need to think of a better straining/mold system also, i think we could have pressed it more, and that was difficult in the false bottom double boiler.

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this is the third installment jamie stewart’s subscription series. i expected a lot from it since it’s wrapped in my favorite color. the album sounds like jamie discovered his sampler and mixing board. this is the first of the series to go into the realm of noise albeit with a heavy influence by philip glass. so what we get is big electronics with repetitive cycles, slow gradual builds, cacophonous climaxes, and subtle digressive closes. at times the album sounds like a rhythmic factory. you could almost dance to some of the tracks. it also has a retro, almost sixties production style that i appreciate.  my favorite of the series so far, yellow keeps it’s good name.

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mama i’m swollen, curisve’s first album in a couple of years, suffers from the same problem that its predecessor (happy hollow) had. it’s just not that original or memorable. in the early 2000’s they released a string of fantastic albums, domestica, burst and bloom and the ugly organ. each album was different, building off each other, they defined a cursive sound (loud, angular, post punk). they weren’t afraid to experiment and expand their sound. this album seems to revert back to a sound they had in the pre-domestica days. i fear that cursive is in a rut, and doesn’t know where to go.

part of me wants to blame the good life, tim kasher’s more indie rock side project. i never got into any of the good life’s albums, despite kasher’s brilliant songwriting. i found them not at all interesting, too strait forward.for a while he bounced between the two groups,  he gave up the good life shortly after cursive released happy hollow, but the damage was done.

mama i’m swollen is not a bad album, on shuffle it fits nicely in the the cursive catalogue. kasher’s songwriting is still excellent, the personal is still his strong point. he even touches on how he is at a good point in life and has nothing to write about. the musicianship is solid even with the muddy production and levels that seem wrong to me. still, several of the songs, “i couldn’t love you anymore”, “let me up” and “we’re going to hell”, give me hope that they can get it together and still produce another great album.


morgan’s aunt lent me many books last year, most of them were part of the vorkosigan saga by lois mcmaster bujold. the series centers on a the character miles vorkosigan, who was born mutated because of a noxious gas his mother was exposed to while she was pregnant. he has a photographic memory and a quick intelligence, unfortunately he was born with some physical challenges. he is on the short side with weak disproportionate bones. coming from a royal family,  father is a lord and a war hero, his mother a princess from one of the outer colony planets.  he has a very pressured existence. the series tells his story of growing up, going through military school and into his misguided luck as a mercenary leader.

i’ve read ten of the books in the series, and that’s a few too many. the books are good, some are quite excellent, i just got tired of lois mcmaster bujold’s writing style. the narrative gets in the way and the conversations seem clunky. also the sci-fi world she created is not that creative with a standard future primitive planet life, and a  space life that is full of cliches. the plot and character development that saves this series. the plots are full of political and class commentary and often twist into unexpected directions. bujold has a good sense of whimsy and knows when to use it.

there are several books in the series i would recommend, the one that stands out is young miles. really a collection of two books and a short story, they fit together and make a great story arc.

if you’re a fan of the ender series, you’ll probably like this series. if you don’t know the ender series i would suggest reading those instead.


i finished this book a while ago, i’ve talked more about sheep: life on the south dakota range than most of the other books i’ve read recently. i got a lot a questions about the book every time i read it in public. the most common question was “is that as boring as it looks and sounds?” sheep is a keen explanation of the details of a sheep herder’s job in the early 1900’s. i now know that a sheep herder is different than a shepherd. and my favorite new sheep factoid is that they are like turtles, if they roll on to their backs they can’t right themselves. if they are not flipped back within a couple of hours, they could die from a gaseous reaction that happens in their intestines.

written in the 3o’s, archer b. gilfillan writes in a style that is similar to a this american life contributor, he has a dry charm and subtle wit.

i couldn’t help thinking about brokeback mountain while i was reading this. it was like i was learning about what they were doing, when they weren’t busy falling in love.

even if you don’t like the book, it is a great conversation piece.