Labyrinth Sarah ballgown

Dream of the Dolphin

Musings of a geek girl in Toronto

Books in the Wild
Batsignal starry night
So the big news in friend-dom lately is that leahbobet has a book. Which is now on the shelves.

So I, being the biologist that I am, decided to see if I could track the book in its native environment. Oh, I know it's at Bakka, but what about less-awesome stores that don't actually know Leah? So I headed over to the Chindigo on my way home...

Oh look, there it is, on the Teen Fiction shelf under B! But teen fiction books have a habit of congregating out in the open, so I headed further in to see if I could spot it. And there, on the Teen Titles table, what might that be?

Oh ho! Content at my book spotting, I turned to leave, when something caught my eye. Sometimes, books like to display themselves in hopes of attracting readers. And what did I see?

All in all, I'd say a pretty successful book-spotting trip.

My Friend, Rob Paulsen
Big Giant Disclaimer: Despite the title, I don't know Rob Paulsen. I've in fact met him in person a grand total of once. But I've recently had the absolute pleasure of discovering that Rob Paulsen has a podcast. For those who are either young enough to actually make me feel old, or who lived under a rock during the 80s and 90s, Rob Paulsen is the voice of my childhood. And during his most recent podcast with April Winchell, they talked about something that pinged the "I need to blog that" reflex (which, I know, doesn't get pinged nearly often enough any more. Sorry.)

What they said that set me off was talking about how their profession is pretty much done into a void. At the end of the day, after all their work, it's hard to tell whether you're actually doing anything of significance.

And the thing is, I get that. In many ways, it's kind of the way I feel when I'm teaching. Especially in the type of teaching I do, where I get a class, spend 90 minutes with them expounding on the awesomeness of dinosaurs like a muppet on speed, and then maybe never see them again, I have no idea if I've actually made a difference to any of those kids. Maybe I ended up inspiring the kid who will one day grow up to discover the last remaining group of velociraptors living on a remote island somewhere. But I just don't actually know. Even with the classes I taught in England, I may have inspired one of those kids to love science, but it's hard to tell, and what really sticks with you is the hours you spent trying to put together the perfect lesson to awe and inspire them and teach them to really love science, only to have it end up in flames (literally) the next day. Pyromaniacs.

So this blog is kind of my response to that conversation between Rob and April.

When I was younger, I had a brief flirtation with wanting to be a voice actor, especially after that incident where I wanted to have my own kids' science program and that muckity-muck in Canadian broadcasting told me I was too fat to ever carry a show. My energies shifted away after I realized just how small and hard to break into the Toronto VA community was, and if I was to have any chance at it I would have to leave the city that I love and I don't think I can ever really get away from, but what set off my original interest in voice acting way back in elementary school was realizing very early on that behind the characters I loved and grew up with were real, actual people. And the first voice I ever learned to recognize was Rob Paulsen's.

Now, here's where I get into my first-world, white-girl problems. I know I was really lucky growing up that my family always had enough to get by, and my parents and I, by-and-large, got along well. But I was the smart-but-socially-awkward overweight girl in school, and I didn't make or keep friends easily (that got better once I reached university). There weren't many kids around where I lived, and I didn't really have friends at all until late in high school, so there were a lot of times when I was growing up that I was really, really lonely. So I'd come home from school, or wake up on Saturday morning, and watch cartoons.

And on almost all of them, there was Rob Paulsen.

And once I learned to recognize his voice, about grade 5 or 6, a funny thing happened. Every time his voice showed up, in whatever incarnation (and sometimes it took me a while to pick it up), I would start smiling. Because in a strange little way, it felt like I was bumping into an old friend. Even now, he'll crop up in this or that, and my reaction more often than not is "Oh, hi Rob Paulsen." Like I'm greeting a friend I haven't seen in a while. "Oh look, it's my friend, Rob Paulsen." And especially during those really awful days in high school, when my hormones were totally out of control and every minor setback was the end of the world, hearing his voice was just a little bit like getting a hug from someone I really missed. And small as that was, it was part of a system that helped get me through to university, when I was able to get my head on straight and start actually living.

Hey, some teenagers drink, some do drugs, some shoplift to deal with their issues. I had cartoons.

I met him once. Jen and I had gone to see a taping of Mike Bullard in Toronto, and while I think pretty much most of the audience was there for whatever other guest was on, I was there to see him. Yes, he sang Yakko's World. It was awesome. And I don't actually remember if I ever got the chance to talk to him after the show. I honestly don't. I think I was probably too shy and insecure. What I do remember was how nice he was to Jen. She introduced herself and the fact that she worked for Disney Toronto, and he seemed truly delighted about that and had a whole conversation with her about the voices he'd done for Disney. What stuck with me for years was how very gracious he was to my friend who'd had a hard run of things, and how he made her feel really important that day.

I think part of why I'm enjoying his podcast so much is that it's a little bit like having that feeling back again. Seriously, check it out. Be warned, though, if you listen to it while commuting, you may end up losing it completely in the middle of the subway. Though it does clear the seats on either side of you.

"When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there."
--Jim Henson
People who actually read this blog are probably sick of this quote by this point, but this is the quote that really informed what I decided I do with my life. It's what I try to do with my teaching, and it's what I hope my writing will be someday. And if someday my work can do what Rob's did for me, if I've made even that small a difference in someone's life with the creative efforts I send out into the world, I think I'll have done it.

So Rob Paulsen, if you're reading this, it may be small and silly in the grand scheme of the universe, but you made a lonely little girl feel like she had a friend, even if it was just for a half-hour at a time, and her grown-up self is very grateful for that.

And I won't lie, on days that are rough and I'm away from my usual support network, I still curl up with a warm blanket and watch cartoons.

In which I discover Awesome in a Cup
amazed cat
So I have two simple drinks I like to make when I need something warm and comforting.

Ginger Drink

Grate about half a large ginger root into a small pot (enough that 1 pot fills 1 mug). The ginger should cover the bottom. This is largely to taste.

Fill the rest of the pot with water.  Bring to a boil. Pour through a sieve into a mug and add honey to taste.

Mulled Cider

Fill the same pot with apple cider. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little honey. Bring to a boil and pour through a sieve into the mug. (For the tipsy variant, add a little white wine at the start).
Today, though. Oh today I combined the two. I'd gotten the ginger into the pot when I wondered what would happen if I added cider instead of water. I added the honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the juice of half a lime.


Now what the heck do I call this drink?

Random updatey things
let's be friends manatee shark
So it turns out when you take the World's Best Meat Sauce recipe from the grain-free gourmet book and, while it's simmering (I like to make it super-thick), sautee a bunch of chopped up mushrooms and garlic in butter, and then once the mushrooms have been all butter-spongey, dump the whole shebang (including the butter-garlic-mushroom juice) into the meat sauce, it makes it even more awesome!

Work has been somewhat frustrating lately. While on the whole, things are much better, there are one or two individuals who seem to be doing their damndest to ruin it for everyone.  I keep trying to ask myself, unironically, "what would Jim Henson do?", largely to try to stay positive in the face of negativity, because I don't want to contribute to that atmosphere. And holy crap, it is HARD.  Why is it so easy to get sucked into a negativity storm, but so hard to propagate a positivity one?

I've also been watching a lot of my favourite movies as a way to cheer myself up on particularly bad days, and in doing so, I inadvertently stumbled across a lot of alternate endings. The first that I found fascinating was the original ending to Little Shop of Horrors (embedding is disabled, so you have to go there and watch it. I'll wait.  Done?  Okay.)  Now, Little Shop and I have a long history together, and I love the ending I grew up with. I want Seymour and Audrey to have their happy ending.  But this ending? You have to admire it for the sheer epicness of it.  The puppetry is incredible.  This was the ending of the original Broadway play, and I get why they changed it (test audiences HATED the note it ended on), but... yeah. By the end of this clip, I was grinning like an idiot.

The second original ending I stumbled across was the original ending to Lilo and Stitch.  Now, bearing in mind that Lilo and Stitch opened 9 months after 9/11, it's obvious why they changed it.  But... well, just watch it.

It's funny, there's actually not that much that's different about the final sequence. But the original ending was SO MUCH COOLER. I know that given the timing and the content, they had to change it. But damn, do I regret that the timing worked out the way it did because I want THIS version to be part of the movie instead!

I could go on about the nebulous state of stories, and how little changes can affect so much, and how much the "eye of the beholder" plays into it, but I'm blogging on my lunch break and running out of time. So instead, I'll throw it out there. Any other examples of endings you wish you had seen instead of the ones that were actually put there?

stitch head wall
I am going to try to be better about updating. Really I am.  In the meantime, a rundown: 
  1. I finished writing the book. I need to edit the book. I need to do a crapton of research before I can do so, but my goal is to find time before April.
  2. I have a boyfriend. He is awesome.
  3. Life is crazy. Work is moreso, and threatening to get even crazier. Free time is nonexistent, and I still have no money. How does that work?
  4. My health, a year after going on SCD, is awesome. My weight loss levelled off (being the shallow creature that I am, I wish it had chosen a lower levelling off point), but given that I wasn't actually trying to lose weight, and I'm still not, this is still pretty impressive. I have not had a prescription since going on the diet.
  5. I have awesome friends.
I am aiming to make Thursday nights update nights. We will see how well I stick to this resolution.

and sometimes, days are just good
zim gir hugging pig
We've all had those weeks where nothing goes right. I've been having them pretty constantly lately. But today was absolutely fantastic.

It started off meeting up with my parents for the Christmas Carol reading at Church of the Redeemer. Sean Cullen started off the show,  and man, can he tell a story. Bob Rae took up next (before going off to get elected somewhere), and Loreena McKennitt closed out the first act, as well as providing two of my favourite Christmas songs of hers for musical accompaniment, with the help of Hugh Marsh and Brian Hughes. Marilyn Lightstone took up act 2, to be finished off by the emotional and moving Cedric Smith, who had tears in his eyes at the end. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've heard Professor X read Christmas stories

Following the excellent reading, we headed out to dinner at Bier Markt on the Esplanade, where I actually got an amazing  meal. That may not sound like much, but when you're living the SCD life, such things happen rarely. Usually, I present my list of foods I can and can't eat to the chef, and I'm lucky to get an eye-roll and a plate of wilted spinach. I often bring hard-boiled eggs with me when going out to dinner in anticipation of just such a thing. But the Bier Markt didn't let me down. In the words of the gentleman who brought me my meal, "we're all foodies here, and we want everyone to enjoy themselves."

So instead of plain vegetables with all the flavour steamed out, I got a veritable feast. For my dinner, they made me beef tenderloin with sauteed onions and mushrooms on a bed of buttered spinach, carrots, and asparagus, with a red wine reduction (yes, they actually checked my alcohol list to see what they could do) that catapulted it from good into "oh my god."  The table was even graced with the Bacon Dance, normally only reserved for bacon. It was absolutely amazing. The rest of the family tried some of the leftover reduction on their fries, and Mum summed it up nicely. "Oh, wow. Flavour."

And they didn't stop there. For dessert, they made me a cheese plate with berries and blueberry honey. I left the restaurant incredibly happy and absolutely full -- another thing that almost never happens. 

Bier Markt is now in the good books, and I'm immensely grateful to the chef and everyone there for a phenomenal experience.

You might be a creeper...
feminazi women are people
Yeah, I had One of Those Days and needed to get this out of my system. And we have a con coming up.

So I love my fandom. I love it dearly. But as someone who was greeted at her first-ever con by a very nice and well-meaning individual with "you write science fiction? But you're a GIRL!", I'm the first  to admit that 1) it's still very much a boys club, despite the inroads women have made, and 2) you will inevitably run into creepers. That's not to say you should put up with the creepers. On the contrary! You can do something about them. SFWA has an official sexual harassment policy now, but there's something more you can do. You can take this quick and easy test to see if you might yourself be a creeper, and learn these simple lessons to fix that pesky problem.
You might be a creeper if...Collapse )

For further useful and instructional reading on How Not To Be A Creeper (and How To Stop Other People From Being Creepers), see this post here.

Moroccan Chicken Stew
zim Gir YAAAAY
So this is kind of becoming the SCD food blog, but I made something new and awesome and need a space to share it. :o)

First off: SCD curry.

4 tsp. ground cumin seeds
4 tsp. ground coriander seeds
4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp.'s ground cardamom

Stir ingredients together well, and store in a small glass jar

Next, the curry/stew/thing:

4 lg chicken thighs or breasts

1 lg onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups. chopped celery
1.5 cups strong chicken broth (I used 2 cups of my chicken zucchini soup)
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3-4 tsp. SCD curry powder
1 small ginger root (2 branches)
½ tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I use true cinnamon)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp paprika
3-4 tsp chili powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp pepper

coconut cream

1 bunch spinach
1 cup SCD yoghurt
  1. Chop the onion, celery, garlic, and chicken and toss them into a big pot on medium. Whoosh it around until it starts to cook a bit.
  2. Add the chicken broth.
  3. Grate the ginger root in a fine grater and squeeze the grated ginger through a sieve.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients up to pepper and heat until bubbling. Then turn the heat down to a low simmer.
  5. When the stew/curry/thing has simmered for a bit and the chicken is cooked, adjust the salt, honey, coconut oil, and coconut cream to taste.
  6. Continue to simmer until the desired consistency is reached.
  7. When the stew is just about done, add the yoghurt. Start with 1/2 cup and continue to add to taste. I ended up with almost a cup in mine.
  8. Add the bunch of spinach until it cooks down, and voila. Awesomesauce.

On 75 Years of Jim Henson
Labyrinth Sarah ballgown
It's no secret to anyone who knows me, has read my journal for a while, or even knows what I use as my usual default icon on most websites I sign up for, that Jim Henson has been a big part of my life for a long time. Now, on the 75th anniversary of his birth, I wanted to take time to remember why that is.

Some of the earliest memories I have are of Jim's work. Not just Sesame Street or the muppets, but of the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The Dark Crystal was one of the few videodiscs that the library had available on a regular basis, and I watched it time and time again. When Labyrinth was released, I was hooked. Here was someone who finally, finally understood how my imagination worked, and helped shape it from its early form into what it is today. Today, reading back over the novel I have just finished, I can see Jim's influence there, buried deep within the images that populate the novel. Jim Henson taught me how to wonder, to imagine, and to dream, and I will be forever indebted to him for that.

But it goes even further than that. His work continued to encourage and inspire me, even after his death. Some people have the most vivid memories of where they were when the Challenger disaster happened, or JFK was shot. For me, it was when my mother told me that Jim Henson had died. It was a warm day, a year or so before we moved from the house on Timothy. I remember leaving the room and standing in front of the window in the upstairs hall. I can still feel the warmth of the hardwood under my bare feet as I stood in the patch of sunlight, looking out the window over the backyard and crying. For what we had lost, and also for the fact that I would never now get to meet him.

I was twelve.

And still, his importance to me continues. As I moved from childhood into my life as an adult, I became fascinated with his work behind the scenes. Struggling to proceed forward in my career, I have been to many interviews now in which I am asked to describe my leadership style. And in almost every way, I aspire to be like Jim. Listen to the remembrances on the Henson Company homepage about what it was like to work with him. This was a man who cared about the people he worked with, who loved what he did and wanted everyone to love it just as much as he did, and especially in a day and age where one can turn on the TV and see interviews with Donald Trump talking about the cutthroat world of business and how you can't afford to be soft with your employees, here is the living testament to a man who led by giving it his all, sharing his kindness and generosity, and letting his example inspire others to reach places they hadn't thought they could go. It's Not Easy Being Green is a wonderful book, full of quotes like these, and it gave me something to aspire to as a human being. I'm not saying that I live up to it every day -- he was truly a remarkable man -- but I do try. And every so often I go back and reread that book, to remember what kind of person I want to be.

"When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.

It's a wonderful life, and I love it."
--Jim Henson

As a storyteller, a leader, and as a human being, the world could use more people like Jim. And despite the teasing I sometimes get, I think, all things considered, I picked a good one.

Happy birthday, Jim. We miss you.

*GASP* An update!
Labyrinth Sarah ballgown
So, yeah. Stuff has been happening.

First thing, part of the reason there has been so little activity here is that I've been far more busy planning museum_girl. Much of the reason for that is that Museum Girl is now part of the ROM social media team, and my first blog entry and contest related to said blog entry just went live. Museum Girl also has a twitter, flickr, youtube, and facebook.

This month marks six months on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and I have to say it's the smartest thing I've ever done. I feel better, my energy is up, my focus is up, the horrible digestive problems I used to think were part and parcel of being me are pretty much gone, and, well, here's my weight since December:

No, I don't weigh 41 pounds, I number shift my tallies so that I'm focused on overall trend rather than obsessing over numbers. Pretty positive, all things considered.

Summer club is ramping up, and I'm really excited about my How to Train Your ROM Dragon course. I will no doubt be blogging about it, so stay tuned. I've also decided that this year is going to be the year I do my General Skills for ATS and possibly my Outdoor Education AQ with the Ontario College of Teachers, so I will be alternately a) busy and b) broke. But I think in both cases it will be worth it.

And in parting, here's a quick look at an SCD breakfast: