Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Happens at the Creek Stays at the Creek

For the second summer in a row, I was asked to serve as a facilitator for the Ignite Summit, an amazing leadership experience for incoming freshmen that teaches them traditions, values, leadership skills, and helps to orient them to the university. This year, Team Ten:

team 10 (1)

had these guys as their leaders:

team 10 (2)

and seemed to have a good time. I know that we did, and as an added bonus we had a total cabin upgrade this year, and nothing died in the bathroom!

In between the teambuilders and other activities:

candle crowd

there was also a little bit of free time to walk around the conference center and see the horses:

meadow and horses


horse and fence (1)

horse and fence (2)

but mostly I spent the free time sitting on the porch with some of my team, chatting and eating Starbursts.

And it was a great weekend.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Package of Misfit Toys

When my parents were here a few weeks ago, one of the places that I took them to was the giant indoor flea market at Sweetwater. They'd seen a sign on the highway, and they like flea markets, so it seemed like a safe bet to consume part of the afternoon. They got some snacks, I got some discounted Heroclix figurines, and Dad bought something metal and clanky from a tools and parts booth, but I have no idea what it was because it was in a paper bag when he caught up with us and I didn't ask. Just as we were about to leave, I also saw something odd and wonderful:

bootleg superheroes


My mom pointed at it, hanging from a peg in all of its seven dollar glory, and we both laughed at how awful it looked. After about a minute, though, I decided that I wanted it after all, and offered the lady at the booth five dollars for it. A minute later, the plastic superhero freakshow was mine! My original intention was to open it, maybe blog about them, and then just give the figures to Elizabeth and Ben's son, since he loves superheroes, and that would be it.

Now that I've opened them, though, I can't possibly give these to a toddler, for reasons which will become clear in a moment.

From the outside, they looked terrible, but not dangerous. The back of the package was as amusing as the front:

All Heroes Come (1)

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, some Power Rangers, and... uh...

the hulk man (1)

The Hulk Man?

a good question

I have no idea, She-Hulk. I was kind of hoping you did. He looks quite a bit like Mr. Incredible, but there's nobody in the package that looks like that.

Maybe he's one of the random guys that I think are supposed to be Power Rangers?

power rangers?

I could tell these would be kind of terrible but maybe funny while they were still in the package, since I noticed that the tabs in the back let you try their chest lights:

chest laser!

but I didn't notice how flimsy and poorly made they were until I opened it. That's when I discovered that their arms are hollow:

hollow arms

Granted, many action figures have hollow arms, but they usually fill enough of the mold to cover it. Not only are they hollow, though, but they're all falling apart, right out of the package. The yellow one, especially, was splitting from the first moment that I handled him:

splitting (1)

and then, when I tried to pose him in a sitting position:

splitting (2)

His leg fell off.

yellow cry for help

hollow red arms

Maybe Batman can help them!

With, um, you know, his chest laser:

batman's chest laser

The only purpose that seems to serve is to emphasize that his emblem is off center, but that's not even the worst part of fake Batman. The worst part is the face.

Gaze in terror for a moment:

batman's face

His eyes aren't painted where the eyeholes are molded. Not only that, but what the hell artistic style are they basing that on, anyway? Mad Magazine? And the chin: is Batman supposed to have whiskers, or did they just not have enough paint? I can't even describe the cape, mostly because I still don't know if it's plastic or fabric. I just know that it shouldn't be near an open flame.

Oh, and Batman's head is splitting in half, too:

batman's splitting head

Spider-Man is just as terrible:

double spiders

Regular Spider-Man has one spider on his chest, but this one is twice as spidery, I suppose. They might have put the extra emblem on the front to make up for the fact that there's no paint on the back:

no paint

And yet, even after all of this, Spider-Man, Batman, and the Power Rangers aren't the most terrible toys in the package. That honor is reserved for Superman:

not superman

Unless that creature is the Hulk Man.

not a beard

very pink skin


You tell them, Lois. You don't want any part of this, and neither do Ferro Lad or Invisible Kid. All of you, just head on your way, and we'll try to forget these toys ever happened.

leg question

Right after we clean up their pieces.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pickled Beets

Eight or nine months ago, I picked up a cookbook on clearance that was all about dips, sauces, spreads, and preserves. I thought it was interesting, but I found the preserves section somewhat intimidating. My mom makes jellymaking look easy, but I was dismayed by the amount of boiling and sterilizing and more boiling and oh God, if you screw this up you will give yourself botulism and die just like happened to a bunch of old people at a church picnic in an article I read in "Reader's Digest" at the doctor's office and I don't want to be those people with their respiratory paralysis and deadly toxicity, so I kind of ignored the whole preserves/canning/pickling section of the cookbook.

I want to live, damn it.

Last week at the grocery store, though, I found a "simple canning and preserves" magazine by the register. "Simple" sounded hopeful. Boiling water is simple. Pouring milk on cereal is simple. That Carnation "famous fudge" kit is supposed to be simple, but we all know that's a vicious lie. Could it be possible that preserves, pickles, and jelly could also be simple? People on "Chopped" are often making a quick pickled vegetable, and even though they're trained professional chefs they're still doing it in thirty minutes, so really, maybe it didn't have to be as difficult as that sauce cookbook made it seem.

It's not.

The magazine taught me about refrigerator pickles. All the intimidating parts of pickling are removed in this process, where you boil some vegetable, pour some hot pickling liquid over it, and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two. You can do it in a jar, or a bowl, or in something like this green Tupperware pickle keeper that my dad used to use all the time when we were little. (Mom, if you still have that thing and Dad isn't using it anymore, as I suspect he isn't since I don't recall seeing it in the last decade or two, can I have it? Or can you check with your Tupperware lady and see if they still make something like that?)

Armed with a recipe and a sense of ease (the recipe was so simplified, in fact, that it informed me that "the water is boiling when it starts to bubble rapidly"; how could I screw something up that's dumbed down this far?), I got to work boiling my beets:

boiling beets

and watching the color leak out of them. By the time it was done, the water was a dark, murky purple, but the boiled beets looked a little rough:

boiled beets

until they were peeled and sliced:

boiled and peeled

The recipe told me that the peels would slip right off, but this was a lie, and I ended up using a vegetable peeler. After that I sliced them thin, although my slices are a little uneven since I don't have a mandolin (and don't want one; I guarantee that I will slice a fingertip off with one of those) and it didn't occur to me to use the food processor to slice them. Thinking about it, the disaster potential of beet juice spraying across my kitchen means I'll just keep using a knife.

After the beets were sliced and piled in my jar, I boiled the pickling liquid:

pickling liquid

The pickling liquid is mostly vinegar. You should avoid leaning directly over it to take pictures of it boiling. Go ahead and take my word for that, and don't try it at home unless you have a sinus infection and really need your pipes cleaned out.

Once the liquid was boiled, I poured it into the jar:


(that's only half the liquid; I stopped pouring to take a picture) and ignored it for an hour and a half before coming back to see what it looked like:

pickled beets (1)

I sifted the slices out with a slotted spoon, and dug in:

pickled beets (2)

pickled beets (3)

The color against the white plate is so pretty, a mix of red, purple, and magenta depending on how deep it is. As for the flavor, if you don't like beets, this isn't going to be the dish that changes your mind. Cold beets have more intense flavor than warm beets (in my opinion), and there's also a tang to this that I found really declicious. It almost seems to have an undertone of citrus, which is odd since there isn't any citrus involved, but it might just be the acidity of the pickling liquid mixing with the sugar and sweetness of the beets.

As for that cookbook, there are some dilled pickled carrots in there that seem like a real possibility for deliciousness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dear One Million Moms:

Whenever something about comic books makes the national news cycle, I can count on a half dozen of my friends forwarding an email or tagging the story for me on facebook, and I appreciate it. Even though my google news alerts are set for comic news I do miss stories, but I couldn't possibly have missed the biggest story this week, which is that DC is going to reveal that Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of parallel universe Earth 2, is gay.

Alan Scott, Green Lantern I

Yes, yes you are.


Thanks, Batwoman.

This is what's known in comic circles as a reboot, where the company decides that the previous version of a character is no longer in continuity and no longer exists, and reinvents them as similar, but slightly different. DC did this with Batwoman in 2006, rebooting her as a Jewish lesbian rather than a bored socialite who wanted to marry Batman, and now they're doing it with Alan Scott, rebooting him as a young, gay, media tycoon rather than a WWII-era radio station owner with two wives and two kids. I have mixed feelings about this, but one thing I don't have mixed feelings about is this:

The stance that One Million Moms took on this issue is ridiculous.

For those who don't know, One Million Moms is an organization of (allegedly) one million mothers who are concerned about family values. The group is organized and funded by the American Family Association, which was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their anti-gay stance and continuous attacks on gay people and companies that they view as "pro-gay". On Friday, One Million Moms posted a "warning" to their members about Green Lantern's upcoming outing as a homosexual in "Earth 2" #2, and the backlash was so severe that they have (possibly only temporarily) suspended their facebook page.

People have a right to protest, but my problem with their stance is two-fold:

1) Their vulnerable, impressionable young children shouldn't be reading "Earth 2" anyway. The book is flagged right on the cover with a T (appropriate for readers age 12 and over) rating:

"Earth 2" #1 (1)

Children who are too young to know that gay people exist and kiss each other should probably be reading books with an E (age appropriate for everyone) rating rather than a T.

2) One Million Moms didn't issue a warning for their members over "Earth 2" issue #1, which means that they are fine with children seeing everything that happened in it. Let's just page through, and see for ourselves exactly what the conservative Christian family-values crowd thinks is totally ok for their kids.

How about the scene where Wonder Woman gets impaled?

"Earth 2" #1 (2)

This is followed by a panel where the sword has been withdrawn and you see the gaping wound in Wonder Woman's torso.

Or the one where Superman is torn apart and then disintegrated?

"Earth 2" #1 (6)

How about the scene where Batman dies in a fiery explosion while his crying daughter watches and screams for her daddy?

"Earth 2" #1 (3)

If the violence isn't enough, surely One Million Moms objects to Jay Garrick and his girlfriend's frank discussion of their premarital sex:

"Earth 2" #1 (4)

or to Jay Garrick's subsequent binge drinking as a coping mechanism for the breakup with his girlfriend:

"Earth 2" #1 (5)

Except that One Million Moms didn't see any of that as objectionable enough to issue a warning about.

To sum up, in "Earth 2" #1: Wonder Woman cuts someone's head in half on the cover, Wonder Woman slices someone's jaw off on page 2, Batman sticks a bomb to someone's chest on page 3, Superman punches someone's head off of their body on page 4, Wonder Woman cuts someone's head off on page 4, Superman crushes someone's windpipe on page 5, Wonder Woman cuts off someone's head and hand with the same sword swing on page 5, Robin shoots someone to death on page 7, Wonder Woman cuts someone's leg off on page 7, page 10 has a trifecta of Superman punching someone's head in half while Wonder Woman impales someone and Batman shoots somone in the head, page 12 has Wonder Woman decapitating someone while Superman rips one person in half and shoots his heat vision laser beams through someone's body at the same time, Wonder Woman impales someone on page 13, Wonder Woman decapitates someone on page 15 before being impaled herself in the panel above, Superman is torn apart and disintegrated on page 16 just before we see thhe gaping torso wound in Wonder Woman's corpse on the same page, Batman dies in a fiery explosion on page 20, Jay Garrick and his girlfriend discuss premarital sex on page 25, Jay binge drinks on page 26, and page 27 features Hermes, a naked pagan god, and the conservative Christian concerned mothers in One Million Moms had no objection to any of it.

In "Earth 2" #2, two men will kiss, and the conservative Christian concerned mothers in One Million Moms sent out a press release and warning to all of their members.

And that, frankly, is ridiculous.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pictures of May

Another month has come and gone, but I don't really have that many unposted pictures this time around. For most of May, I didn't get out much. I also had a pretty bad cold, and my parents came to visit, so I really didn't spend a lot of time wandering around taking pictures like I usually do, and I posted most of the ones I took when my parents were here.

There are some leftovers for the month, though:

1) The Treaty of Holston Park:

The Signing of the Treaty of the Holston

I didn't know that we had a statue or a park honoring the signing of the Treaty of Holston, but apparently we do. I also didn't know what the Treaty of Holston was, but wikipedia has informed me that it was a peace treaty between the Cherokee nation and the United States, signed by William Blount and later addended by Henry Knox.

For those from outside of Tennessee, they are both notable historical figures around town.

2) Rollin' on the River:

The Living and Learning Communities on campus celebrated the end of the year with a dinner cruise on the Star of Knoxville riverboat, and I was invited to attend. A sunset cruise on the river didn't really make for a lot of good photos, since the sunset was behind us and then it was just really dark, but I took a few photos.

I really liked the light in this one:

waiting area

And there's the riverboat, from the front deck:

star of knoxville

In looking at that photo, I realize now that I favor that particular angle/arrangement a lot, based on this random sampling of older pictures:



3rd floor observation window

I'm sure there are more, but those are the three that popped into my head.

To wrap up the cruise, there was also a brief moment of horror:

blocked preservers

How are we supposed to get the life preservers out with all those chairs in the way?