Ami Robyn

Geekery, Art and Nonsense

Aerial Adventures

Reviews 130 Comments »

Feeling brave, I signed up for a term of Introduction to Aerial at Circus Oz.
I’ve done the tumbling course before (I’m impressed that the tumbling coach remembered me!), and had a fabulous time. This time I decided to step it up and try aerial. See if I can find my abs….
Week one was wonderful. Warm-up was just as I remembered it.
Aerial started with rope (climbing, basic inverts) and static trapeze. Most of the content was the same as covered at the “come and try” day I did last year at NICA. Still, great fun, and I did find a few new muscles.
The one new trick I am yet to master is the hip key:
Aerial Silks – Hip Key
Very tricky to get your head around lifting to the side… but I am determined to master this!

Plum Dumplings

Recipes 228 Comments »

- knegli – knedle s sljivama -
Plum Dumplings

Amazingly, I just discovered zillions of ripe plums growing on the tree in the backyard. Apparently it is such a good season that all the birds in the country have got fussy, and will only eat the plumpest, juiciest locusts, turning their beaks up in disgust at the slightly under-sized but otherwise perfect fruit growing unnoticed in the backyard.

I was told I’m not allowed to make plum cobbler, so instead turned to the Internet for plum dumpling recipes.

My usual method of finding recipes is to do a google search and average/combine my three favourites from a random selection of the results. In this case, plum dumplings could be German, Hungarian, Austrian, Czech, Croatian or Slovenian – proving once again that good food has no nationality.

The recipe tumbled out as follows:

16 plums, fresh off the tree
3 potatoes, mashed and cooled
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plain flour
16 sugar cubes
butter
bread crumbs
sugar
cinnamon

Combine mashed potatoes, egg, salt and flour in a bowl. Mix, adding a little extra flour if required, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Pitt the plums and replace the pits with sugar cubes.

Divide the dough into sixteen portions. Roll each portion out using a floured rolling pin, place a plum in the centre and enclose in dough, squashing until the plum is enclosed and the dough even with no seams.

Drop dumplings into boiling water and cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter and add breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon to taste. When cooked, drain dumplings and roll in buttered breadcrumbs.

Cooked dumplings are rolled in buttered breadcrumbs

Voila! :)

bini

Reviews 61 Comments »

Bini Gallery
62 Smith Street, Collingwood

Look what I got for Christmas!
Bracelet from bini

Bini’s Gallery, a new addition to Smith Street’s art scene, is a mix of gallery and jewellery shop. The pieces are interesting enough that I will pop in frequently or stop to peer through the window just to see what is on display. Happily many of the pieces are also affordable enough that I can acquire them.

The pieces are by a range of artists, and are mostly imported from Italy. The glass pieces are particularly stunning, but there are other interesting mediums that caught my eye, such as old-fashioned lace tatting enclosed in metal shapes, and vinyl records heat-warped into wearable shapes.

The store itself is quite sparse and temporary-looking. I hope Bini settles in and becomes a more permanent fixture. I enjoy the eye candy.

Imagination: “the fount of all invention and innovation”

Uncategorized 130 Comments »

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination – A rousing commencement address by J.K. Rowling to the Harvard graduates of 2008.

Imagination: “the fount of all invention and innovation”

Recently I have found my tolerance waning for those of my acquaintance I would tag as “unimaginative”.

The Easter long weekend – four consecutive days off work – is a haven for most. A chance to break from the daily grind and touch base with the things that are important to you personally. Family, friends, Easter eggs.

When one of my co-workers asked another how he planned to spend his long weekend, he replied:

“I think I’ll come to work. It’s such a long weekend – I’d get bored.”

To me, this epitomises the unimaginative. If I believed he loved his job, then it would make sense. But I’m confident he doesn’t appreciate our workplace or the work he does any more than the rest of us. What a sad, bleak prospect it would be, to be so unimaginative, so uninspired in my existence, so empty in my personal life, that I could not think of a single thing to do with myself over the long weekend.

I am grateful for my life – my family and friends, my hobbies and interests. The inspiration in the world around me. Art, music, food and roller derby. At any given moment I could name a hundred things I would like to do – places to visit, people to spend time with, experiences waiting to be captured. The problem is always that there are too many ideas and not enough time to devote to them.

Maybe that is why a lack of imagination strikes me as almost offensive. A waste of potential. Surely there has to be a point where you give meaning to your existence. A point where you actively question why it is that you do what you do. Why you live the way you do. What it’s all for. I wonder… without imagination, what point can there be?

Julie & Julia, Nigella and Food Porn – Reprise

Books, Movies 175 Comments »

One of my favourite people in the whole world gave me a copy of the “Julie & Julia” novel for Christmas.

I think I have even more in common with the Julie of the book (and thus potentially the real-world Julie) than I do with the Julie of the movie. For starters we are both Buffy fans. :) Why on earth did they leave that out of the movie?? There is a lot more sex in the book than in the movie. Not just the act itself, but lots of insinuation, comparison and general sexualisation. Julie spends a lot of time comparing food preparation with sexual acts and discussing the sexiness of cooking.

“Somewhere along the way, I discovered that in the physical act of cooking, especially something complex or plain old hard to handle, dwelled unsuspected reservoirs of arousal both gastronomic and sexual. If you are not one of us, the culinarily depraved, there is no way to explain what’s so darkly enticing about eviscerating beef marrowbones, chopping up lobster, baking a three-layer pecan cake, and doing it for someone else, offering someone hard-won gustatory delights in order to win pleasures of another sort. Everyone knows there are food that are sexy to eat. What they don’t talk about so much his foods that are sexy to make. But I’ll take a wrestling bout with recalcitrant brioche dough over being fed a perfect strawberry any day, foreplay-wise.”

She also takes the time to talk about Nigella – a point that was not lost on me:

“… And I thought that Nigella and Julia, Isabel and I knew what sex was really about. We knew sex was about playing with your food and fucking up the sauce from time to time.”

I have definitely considered cooking as an alternative to eating (for example it is common for people suffering anorexia to cook a lot). I’ve never before considered cooking as an alternative to sex. Or as foreplay, for that matter. Generally after an afternoon spent up to my elbows in mince, flour in my hair, chocolate under my fingernails, the last thing in the world I want to do is eat. I don’t think I really rock the flour-in-hair look enough to call it sexy. That said, I do concede Julie’s point: it is intensely satisfying to serve food to your loved ones. I’d even go so far as to admit that kneading dough is a sensual act. I don’t think I’m ready to join the ranks of the culinarily depraved just yet.

Python: BeautifulSoup, Growl

Geek Chic 112 Comments »

Summer and the holiday season work slow-down have prompted me to write yet another fairly useless tool. Today’s forecasted top temperature of 43C prompted me to set myself an arbitrary task as follows:

Create an ap to notify me when the cool change arrives

  • Use python to scrape the BOM website for the current temperature
  • Use Growl to alert me to temperature fluctuations
  • Make everything runnable both from work (Windows) and home (OSX)

The scraping is child’s play. BeautifulSoup is a simple, elegant python module for parsing XML. Let it be known I am a BeautifulSoup fan. So easy. :)

A basic python script to scrape the current temperature of Australia’s capital cities looks something like this:

import urllib2
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup

try:
	page = urllib2.urlopen("http://www.bom.gov.au/")
except URLError, e:
	if hasattr(e, 'reason'):
		print 'We failed to reach a server.'
		print 'Reason: ', e.reason
	elif hasattr(e, 'code'):
		print 'The server couldn\'t fulfill the request.'
		print 'Error code: ', e.code
else:
	soup = BeautifulSoup(page)

	print "Current Temperatures"
	for temp in soup.findAll('td', title="Latest temperature in degrees Celsius"):
		print "-------------------------"
		print temp.parent.contents[1].a.string + ":    \t "
			+ temp.string.replace("°","C")
	print "-------------------------"

Not the most elegant method of obtaining the city, but I haven’t worked out how BeautifulSoup siblings work yet.

Since I do some of my development from home, and some from work, I’m aiming to end up with something that works both on Windows and OSX. Growl is a tool I’m familiar with for Mac, but a simple Google search turned up Growl for Windows, which suits my purposes wonderfully for the work-top.

Then I needed my script to be able to detect what OS it was running on. I achieve this thusly:

# detect what system this is running on
import platform
thisOS = platform.system()
...
if thisOS == "Windows":
...

The script scrapes the BOM homepage once every minute:

# run every minute
while 1:
    prevTemp = scrape(prevTemp)
    time.sleep(60)

If the scraped temperature has changed, a notification is sent via Growl:

if prevTemp == 0:
	defaultTitle = "Current "+CITY+" Temperature"
else:
	if myTemp > prevTemp:
		defaultTitle = "Getting Warmer!"
	else:
		defaultTitle = "Cool Change!"
...
# growl parameter setup
...
client.send_growl(options, myTemp)

Growl Temperature Notification

Seriously, who doesn’t love weather watching? As much as it’s derided for being a bland topic, I for one am truly fascinated by the weather. And now I get to follow temperature fluctuations without a) navigating to the website myself, or b) stepping outside. Geek win!

No Internet Censorship!

Geek Chic 145 Comments »


No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

The Government has disappointed me again with their push for legislated, mandatory internet filtering. I have written letters to the following people:

  • My local: The Hon Lindsay Tanner MP (280 King St, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
  • Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy, Hon Tony Smith MP, (Suite One, 1 East Ridge Drive, Chirnside Park, VIC 3116)
  • Family First Senator Steve Fielding, (255 Blackburn Road, Mount Waverley, VIC 3149)
  • Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, (212 Grenfell Street, Adelaide, SA 5000)
  • Australian Greens’ spokesperson for Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy Senator Scott Ludlam, (8 Cantonment Street, Fremantle, WA 6160)
  • and the villain himself, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, (Level 4, 4 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC 3002)

My sentiments went something like this:

Dear Minister,

As an Australian and an internet user, I have serious concerns about the Government’s push for mandatory internet filtering legislation.

I am deeply concerned by what seems to be a very poorly conceived plan to use a blacklist to filter out refused classification (RC) content. I am concerned by an apparent lack of understanding regarding the technical issues involved surrounding the speed, accuracy and effectiveness of the filter. The Government seems determined to push ahead, without adequately addressing any of the issues brought forward by industry experts. It takes only a moderate knowledge of IT infrastructure, or 10 minutes on Google, to learn of a number of ways to bypass the proposed blacklist filter, rendering it nothing more than a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Senator Conroy constantly touts the plan as necessary for improving the safety of Australian families online. But what, precisely, does he wish to protect us from? The ill-defined banner of RC content extends far beyond content that it is already illegal to access or possess (such as child pornography), into a myriad of contentions topics about which the public has a right to be informed. Freedom of information is the very principle underpinning democracy in this country. Given the amount of Internet content available, the Government will never be able to classify it all and filters will always result in an unacceptable level of over-blocking.

Yours etc.

The Wily Apostrophe

Uncategorized 196 Comments »

Yesterday’s blog post made me question the use of the apostrophe in “men’s shirt”. I was confused, because I know it’s acceptable to remove the apostrophe for possessive plurals where the apostrophe signifies “for” rather than “belonging to”. For example it’s acceptable to write “girls school” instead of “girls’ school”. But since “men” is plural without an “s” I got thoroughly confused.

Luckily I have a clever sister who sent me this wonderful link:
How To Use An Apostrophe
Click the link – there’s bacon!!!

So the up-shot is I was correct to put the apostrophe in. Yay my amazing grammatical instincts!

While we’re on the topic of bacon: 6 Reasons Bacon is Better Than True Love

How to re-size a men’s [geek] t-shirt

Sewing 58 Comments »

I adore geek t-shirts, but it makes me sad when I find a really cool one that’s only available in men’s sizes. :`(
I just couldn’t resist the LOLCat t-shirt from thinkgeek.com, so I decided to buy a men’s medium and re-size it.
t-shirt resize - before

Requirements:

  • One oversized geek t-shirt
  • One correctly fitting t-shirt for sizing, preferably of the same stretchiness as your geek shirt
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • General sewing supplies: scissors, pins, matching thread, iron

Step 1. Turn both t-shirts inside-out. Using the correctly fitting shirt as a template, mark a new outline for the t-shirt body (without sleeves) on one side of the geek shirt. Add a 1.5cm seam allowance. Hold the front and back in place with plenty of pins.
t-shirt resize - using a template
t-shirt resize- using a template
add seam allowance

Step 2. With reckless abandon cut out along the seam allowance, and sew the new side seam from the hem to the armhole. I used the triple stitch on my sewing machine, as it’s got a bit of stretch to it.

Step 3. To make sure the re-sized shirt will be symmetrical, fold down the middle and use the completed left-hand side as the template for the right-hand side.
ahh, symmetry
Pin, cut and sew the other side-seam. The great thing about t-shirts is that the fit doesn’t have to be perfect. Close enough and you can’t really tell the difference.

Step 4. Use the template shirt as a guide for marking out sleeves. Make sure the hemmed edge lines up, so you don’t have to re-hem anything.
sleeve template
Sew up the bottom edge of each sleeve so you have little tubes to attach to the shirt body.

Step 5. Insert sleeves. It’s a good idea to pin both sleeves on and check that they look symmetrical before sewing anything. If you need to adjust here and there to make them fit, keep the top of the sleeve in-place, and adjust at the arm pit, where it will be less visible.
insert sleeves
armpit seam

Step 6. Ta da! Turn right-side out and admire your shiny, new, well-fitted geek shirt!

t-shirt resize - after

Julie & Julia, Nigella and Food Porn

Movies, Recipes 246 Comments »

I am roughly one third of my way into the new movie “Julie & Julia” and I am in love. Julia Child is said to have brought French cooking to the American audience. In the movie Julie, who uses cooking as escapism for her unfulfilling job, decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over 365 days, and blog about her progress. The story is so charming. Not only that, but I am noticing more and more parallels between Julie and myself.

In her 29th year Julie poaches and eats her first egg. “I was a wilful child,” she says. I, too, was a wilful child, and to this day have never eaten an egg. Sure, I eat them in things, provided the ‘things’ aren’t too, well, eggy. I’ll eat cakes and meringue, but not quiche or soufflĂ©. Who knows – perhaps before I turn 30 I will feel similarly adventurous.

Julie’s relationship with Julia is somewhat like my relationship with Nigella Lawson. Nigella was my first introduction to “food porn”. She always looks absolutely fabulous, with her hair and make-up flawless, sashaying around the kitchen, pouting into the camera, sticking her ample buttocks out and exposing her cleavage as she bends over a mixing bowl, dipping a perfectly manicured index finger into freshly made ganache and licking it up without smudging her lipstick. Who else can make food so damn sexy?

Julia Child and Nigella Lawson

Julia Child and Nigella Lawson

Nigella is often referred to as a food stylist rather than a chef – an irrelevant distinction to me. Boning ducks and cooking live lobsters does not appeal. I’d much rather gain my accolades from mixing chocolate with condensed milk. It may not take as much skill, but the results are still enjoyable. Let’s face it – most people work full time on top of a string of other commitments. Who has time to shop at the markets every day, then spend three hours every night cooking dinner? I also love that Nigella is not shy about callories. In an era where every other recipe book and TV cook is obsessed with kilojoules and servings and carbs, Nigella, like Julie/Julia, cannot have enough butter. :) I’m perfectly happy to cut corners and use ready-made ingredients if it means I’ll end up with enough time to cook something that still tastes good.

Maybe I should take a page from Julie’s book and start using “Nigella Express” as the conduit for a life update. I cook very rarely these days. I eat exceedingly poorly. I’m rarely home, and when I am the last thing I want to do is treck down the the store to buy fresh foods. It’s unsustainable. So, this morning I opened to the first page of Nigella’s hefty pink volume and wrote down the ingredients for Smoked Cod and Cannellini Beans. I have never cooked fish before, and never even eaten cod. I plan to pop down to the fish market during my lunch break.

I don’t imagine I’ll be as graceful as Nigella or Julia. I don’t wear lipstick or pearls (even in the kitchen). I don’t have the drive, passion and insanity of Julie. But at the very least I’m sure I can feed myself once or twice a week, instead of living on Mei Goreng and gelati.