Thursday, February 24, 2011

One of those slightly random too-long posts filled with peculiar stuff not to mention a recipe for Wil Wheaton

I'm delighted and really honoured to announce that I've been made a Patron of the BookEnd Trust in Tasmania. As they explain,

The Bookend program seeks to inspire students and the community with the potential of building positive and effective environmental careers and solutions.

We achieve this through a diverse range of projects, including scholarships, documentaries, school visits, public presentations, on-ground field courses and the award-winning Expedition Class adventure learning program.
I loved being made a part of it. I've been fascinated by Tasmanian wildlife since my first trip to Hobart in 1998.

You can read all about it at, learn about the BookEnd Trust and see some amazing photos. Here's a BookEndTrust YouTube video of me and Amanda getting close and personal with two echidnas named Eric.

People ask why this blog doesn't have comments enabled, and it goes back to how old it is. When I started blogging, blogger didn't do comments. And by the time it did, well, I liked it just how it was, and had no desire to change anything. Over on Facebook, there are comments, so I got to see something close to a flame war break out over whether, when I had posted a photo of me with an endangered Tasmanian Land Crayfish, I had meant "crawfish" or not. (I should have just said "Yabby.")

And I thought, yup, that's why I've never turned on comments here.


Sometimes I think that when I die, or perhaps as I am dying, I shall be confronted with my characters.

Not the ones you would expect, the ones who had their stories, but the other ones. The characters whose stories I planned to tell but never did. There was the girl who never made it into Season of Mists (was her name Carmen? I think it was) who talked about herself in the third person and described herself as "hard as effin nails", and the lonely journalist trying to investigate the Bender family in Kansas and elsewhere in the Michael Zulli Sweeney Todd story, and Jenny Kertin who is waiting for me to take her to the village of Wall and wishes I'd hurry it up...

Them, and a few dozen others, the people from the tales I never told, who have waited on the boundaries between the potential and the actual, in a ghostly limbo. They'll be so disappointed when I die. And I have no doubt I will feel guilty, for all the stories I'll never write.

Not that that'll be happening for some time to come. But I've been talking to friends of mine who are writers at the end of their lives, and it makes me think.


I mentioned on Twitter that I'd made a Sweet Potato/Tamarind/Tofu/Polenta casserole and that Maddy has astonished me by liking it, and Wil Wheaton promptly asked for the recipe. Which is much too long for Twitter:

What I like doing with recipes most is ignoring them. Or at least, going "Well, yes. Although I don't have any of those things. But I do have something a bit like it..."

The idea came from a recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite For Reduction. (Incidentally, I'm now comfortably wearing long-forgotten jeans from the size 31 tub, and do not plan to lose much more weight, because there are only two pairs of jeans in the 30 tub.)


I'd learned from various books on making tofu less boring that you can slice it and put it in the freezer. It freezes, and also dries out a little. If you then drop slices of frozen tofu still frozen into cooking liquids, you get a slightly chewier tofu that tastes more like the cooking liquid and less like nothing very much at all than tofu normally does. (There is a reason why the expression "As tasty as tofu!" is not in everyday use.)

So I had a bag of slices of firm tofu in the freezer. (According to the place I found the info, it doesn't work for silken Tofu, BTW).

In the fridge I had some buckwheat-millet polenta. I'd cooked some buckwheat and millet the day before in the rice cooker with more water than I'd use for a grain, to get a porridge. Then I'd put it in the fridge and was slicing some off it as I needed it.

I had a large sweet potato and, oddly enough, in a mostly empty fridge, in the cheese drawer I had a block of tamarind paste...

1) Slice the sweet potato and put it aside. Slice some mushrooms...

2) Mix about 1/4 of a cup of lemon juice and about 3 tablespoons of tamarind paste up, and start to simmer, stirring. Add the sliced mushrooms. Add a pinch of turmeric and cumin and paprika. Add a tablespoon of maple syrup. Add about half a cup of vegetable stock. Keep stirring. When the tamarind has all dissolved into it, add the frozen tofu strips to the mixture. (They thaw and absorb moisture and flavour as they do so, becoming incredibly Tamarindy tofu strips.)

3) Non-stick-spray a casserole dish. Put the sweet potato in. Pour the tamarind sauce and tofu over it. Stir it until all the sweet potato is covered with the sauce. Put a lid on it. Put it in a 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Then take it out, stir it around to make sure that nothing's sticking to the bottom, put it back in the oven for a final 30 minutes.

4) The buckwheat/millet polenta? Slice it up. I heated it in the pan I'd cooked the tamarind up in a few minutes before the casserole was ready.

I added the Polenta at the end of cooking, stirred it all up and served it. Maddy wolfed it all down, although she wasn't a huge fan of the tofu, and she raved about it afterwards and today.

There you go, Wil. Let me know how it turns out.


I love this photo because I didn't mean to take it. I was trying to figure out if the camera was on on the phone, and it took it all by itself. It seems very unfair. I never take photos that look like that when I'm actually trying to.

The two photos below are for people complaining that the blog is turning into a white dogs in the snow tumblr. They are, of course, quite right. (Although it's not as doggy as the real thing.)

I love the way that Lola always sits or lies down for photos, the way that Cabal always stands.

Things are very sad in the world of bees. It finally warmed up here (ie got above freezing) and there were no bees out doing the things bees do as soon as they get warm days. Also the snow had not melted around the hives.

So we checked and all the bees were dead. Five hives, all gone. It looked like they died at the start of the winter, when temperatures plummeted into the minus 20s, as their honey stocks were pretty much untouched.

We're getting some Russian bees this year (finally), which are meant to be hardier, and we'll insulate the hives earlier in the autumn, but I don't actually think there was anything we could have done, which makes it better and which also makes it worse.

Hello there,

Having touched on the subject a few times in your blog, I thought you might be interested to know a number of Prisoners of Gravity episodes are now available on the TVO Archive web site, in what appears to be reasonably good quality:

Cheers and good will!

Not just up, but in great quality too, which is a huge improvement over the ones that have crept up online so far. Here's the half-hour SANDMAN episode from 1993. Yes, we were all babies back then.

The one I would love to see again is the 1991ish episode of Prisoners of Gravity where they handed out awards. And they gave one to me for being their favourite guest. Dave McKean had too much fun directing a whole set of acceptance speeches for me. It was (the way that I remember it anyway) very funny.

Dear Neil,

I would like to reference something you said in one of you journal entries. Specifically,

"(It was mostly my then-fiancee Amanda Palmer's fault. She had said something like, "You go to these things and you don't actually meet people." And I'd said something along the lines of, "Hah. Actually a whole Roller Derby team is coming to see me talk in Indianapolis." And she had said, "Yes, but you won't really get to meet them." Which was so true that when I got off the phone I told my assistant Lorraine to tell the Roller Derby team that I wanted to know if they would like to have dinner.)"

I would just like to let you know that if you wife is ever giving you grief about not actually meeting people, I would be happy to help you appease her. You are welcome to offer me dinner any time you happen to be in the Los Angeles area. I should warn you though, my girlfriend would definitely want to be invited too.

You don't need to thank me, it's really no trouble.


P.S. The thought just crossed my mind that you might actually have some rather strange fans that would say what I just said and think that they were actually doing you a favor. I would just like to clarify that I sent this mostly in an attempt to be clever and mildly humorous. And since I'm being honest, because of the tiny chance that you would take me up on the offer. Which would be awesome.

That's very nice of you! It probably won't happen, only because my visits to the LA area are always too short, and I never get to see all the people I already know and miss.

But thank you.


And for our next February Trip Down Memory Lane...

Greetings Neil from the Santa Cruz Mountains!

I adore the blog post regarding Koumpounophobia. I am curious though, is that your canning jar full of buttons?

Jan 29 2008

It is indeed. The film crew had arrived that day with a script that they had written about mothers, how people thought mothers were nice but really they could be creepy. I read it, and shook my head and said "This would work brilliantly if it was for Hitchcock to walk around the Psycho set with, but I think it's wrong for Coraline. I don't want kids to be scared of their mothers, after all. What about..." And then I saw a jar filled with buttons I'd been given a few weeks earlier by some fans. "What about something about being scared of buttons?"

"Great idea!" they said. "You'll need to have your script ready in 20 minutes."

And I said I'd hoped they would write it, and they said that, no, it was definitely going to be me. So I wrote it, and used the jar of buttons as a prop...

So from Thursday January 29th, 2009, Here's the Button Trailer.

And yes, this was shot in my house -- in the front room I don't use much, and in the downstairs library.


Actually, two years later, I'm using the front room as my bedroom most of the time -- I started doing it this time last year when Cabal couldn't climb stairs -- and using my real bedroom as a workout space.

Labels: , , ,