s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: June 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Holier than thou

Since I avoid eggs, milk, and meat, some people have erroneously concluded that I'm vegan. Actually, I'm allergic to eggs, sensitive to dairy, and I don't like most types of meat. Plus, I can't eat corn or potatoes, which doesn't fit under the "vegan" label at all.

Of course, there's no fun in giving up foods without drawing some sense of moral superiority from it, so I set about to figure out some sort of politically correct reason not to eat corn or potatoes.

Potatoes and corn are both new world foods, so I decided that the next time someone offered me, say, tater tots, I would give them an icy stare and say "In protest of the historical treatment of the indigenous population of the Americas, I don't eat new world foods." (Just to be clear, for those who don't know me well, I would never actually do this. I just think it's a funny idea. The crazy thing is if you said this kind of thing in somewhere like Chaimpaign-Urbana, they'd take you completely seriously.)

Of course, I'll also have to avoid tomatoes, in order to properly complete the new world trifecta, but it seems like a small price to pay. (Plus, in light of the recent salmonella outbreak, I'm temporarily off tomatoes, anyway.)

What I really need, though, is a name for this new type of dietary restriction. Any suggestions?

Monday, June 16, 2008

In which I put my finger on something

I think that one of the things that bothered me about living in Utah is that I'm a very private person, especially when it comes to matters of faith. I get irritated at being constantly surrounded with all those people being so publicly Mormon.

(Get a room!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cat. & Reference: Serial complications

When you're cataloging serials, it's nice to have a volume/issue numbers and a date for every issue. The volume/issue numbers let you know if you're missing any issues and can help you figure out the frequency of publication. The date can be used as a volume number, if necessary, or just to indicate the general timeframe of the materials in question.

I've been cataloging a lot of serials lately for our special collections department, but yesterday I ran across a serial with dates that left me perplexed. Here are the issues we own of the journal "Tale Feathers":

vol. 1, no. 1 - Year of the Thunderbird, Great Spirit Moon
vol. 1, no. 2 - Year of the Thunderbird, Melting Snow Moon
vol. 1, no. 3 - Year of the Thunderbird, Promise of Nature
vol. 1, no. 5 - Year of the Thunderbird, Strawberry Moon

It helps to know that "Tale Feathers" is a journal of Wabanaki culture and literature, so the dates are presumably traditional Wabanaki dates. Which is all very well and good, but I need to be able to translate that into standard Gregorian calendar dates that our patrons and our catalog system can interpret. (I should clarify that I have no intention of replacing the traditional dates with the Western ones, rather, I'll add the Western dates in brackets, for clarification. It would, after all, be an ironic gesture of colonial arrogance to impose the white man's numbering system on a journal celebrating Indian culture.)

I've seen charts which give equivalents for Hebrew or French Revolutionary years, but googling "Year of the Thunderbird" just gives me results about cars. Happily, the postmark on the fifth issue is legible and reads Jun 15, 1977, which gives me a year to work with, and a good guess at the date for that issue.

Given that several dates include the word "moon," I assume that this was a monthly publication, which means that I could count back from the 5th issue to estimate a start date of February 1977. However, the Wabanaki probably counted in lunar months, which means that their months wouldn't exactly match up to ours. I'm not sure exactly when the Wabanaki lunar month starts, but this website says that Jun 16, 1977 was a new moon. If the publication of each issue was tied to the new moon, then the first issue would still have been published in February, but closer to the end of the month.

I also found this page, which gives names for the Abenaki months (the Abenaki being one of the tribes in the Wabanaki confedration). Unfortunately, the translations don't really match up with what I have, so I can't draw any firm conclusions.

If anyone out there can give me more concrete information about the Wabanaki calendar, I'd be happy to hear it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

F is for food (which looks better than yours)

My dad has this ability to make his food look better than anyone else's. I don't mean in terms of cooking — although he's a pretty good cook — I mean that somewhere between the pan and the plate, his food ends up looking like it came out of a magazine spread.

If we're eating, say, mashed potatoes and green beans, we all end up with got a glop of mashed potatoes and some drippy green beans while he has a fluffy mashed potato mountain with a perfect butter pat slowly disappearing into a melted butter lake which gently breaches the starchy dam to drip down the side of the mountain into the green bean foothills, while a generous sprinkle of black pepper floats in the lake or lands on the mountainside. (He has a fondness for pepper which could rival that of the Duchess from Alice in Wonderland.)

He has a variety of techniques at his disposal, but temperature seems to play a big part, especially in terms of getting butter or syrup to just the right level of viscosity. (We're both temperature eaters, although I don't put ice cubes in my milk because I don't like the watery milk which invariably results.) Oh, and I should add that his meals don't just look better, they generally taste better, too. The best thing, though, is that if you ask very nicely, he may be willing to fix you a plate, too. (Hold the pepper, please!)