Finals are over! Thank goodness. I survived the stress and even managed to get good grades.
This past week, I dealt with stress with a project that included both mindless work and chocolate, two things which I find to be very helpful when trying to calm a burned-out brain. I had some pretty nice chocolate in my apartment: individually-wrapped Toblerone pieces and individually wrapped Lindor truffles. Looking at the colorful wrappers, I found myself thinking about gum wrapper chains. I was fascinated by those chains in elementary school, but my braces prevented me from chewing gum. By the time they came off, the colorful wrappers had disappeared from gum packages and I was very disappointed.
Anyway, after a long day of studying, I found myself savoring chocolate and idly folding the wrappers into the familiar chain links. It didn’t take long before I ended up with a pair of bracelets.
I like them. They’re colorful and fun and the links are easy to change around if I decide I want to change the color scheme. Plus, chocolate wrapper bracelets are classy as long as it’s foreign chocolate, right?
It’s finals week. I’m stressed out beyond belief and have almost no time that isn’t devoted to reading textbooks, redoing homework problems, or going over exam solutions. I do need mental breaks now and then, though, and I like doing something mindless during these breaks. I like projects that will occupy my hands without utilizing any additional brain cells.
I have a shirt that is far too big for me, which I marked to cut into a tank top if I ever get a sewing machine. Along the bottom was a good five inches that could be cut off. I snipped off this excess and cut it into inch-wide strips, which I connected as though making fabric yarn. Then I did some finger weaving and came up with a bracelet.
I like three-finger finger weaving. It’s more aesthetically interesting than two fingers and less bulky than four fingers.
I might make more of these with some other fabric I have lying around. We’ll see. Maybe after I drill degenerate perturbation theory into my brain…
Anyway, good luck on finals to any students reading this. I hope you have a survival kit to help you pull through. XD Tell me, what do you do to de-stress after a big exam?
Reading books which describe food in great detail has the tendency to make me insatiably hungry. The Hunger Games was pretty bad in this respect. Game of Thrones is far worse. But no series has ever made my mouth water more than Redwall. Feasts are abundant in every book and every course is described in mouth-watering, excruciating detail.
Brian Jacques, the author of the series, wrote a cookbook which features many of the foods described in the books. I got it and have made many recipes with it. They were all delicious, but one greatly disappointed me: shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup. It was nothing like what I expected: it was heavy on milk, light on broth, and not spicy at all. Maybe it’s my Jewish heritage, but when I read the word “hotroot,” only one thing comes to mind: horseradish.
I decided to mess around with ingredients and make my own shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup.
Isn’t it lovely? It still wasn’t spicy enough, so I’ll have to think up what peppers would taste best with the other ingredients, but here is the recipe I created.
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 cans no salt added diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish*
1 pound pre-cooked shrimp, shells and tails removed, thawed if frozen**
1 avocado, diced (optional)
Pour enough olive oil into a dutch oven to just coat the bottom and heat over medium heat.
Add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften, about 8 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, and horseradish, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes. ***
Add shrimp and stir, cooking until heated through.
Ladle soup into 4-6 bowls and top with avocado if desired.
*I used prepared horseradish because you can’t find fresh here unless it’s Passover and you find a Jewish grocery. It isn’t nearly as strong as the real deal. If you can find it, fresh horseradish run through a food processor has a much stronger, purer flavor and I highly recommend it.
**I used the smallest shrimp I could find, which were 70/91 count cocktail shrimp
***If you prefer your soup soupy and not chunky, cook the vegetables an extra few minutes and use a blender or an immersion blender to make the soup smooth. If you do this, you may also want to chop up the shrimp before adding it.
In the books this soup was always enjoyed hot, but it tastes great chilled, as well.
Enjoy, my fellow book and food lovers! And remember what old Methuselah told Matthias, “Feed the body, nourish the mind.”
I get a lot of free magazine subscriptions. Because they’re free, I’m not always very picky when it comes to signing up. For a while I was getting Marie Claire magazine because I was told it had interesting articles. I quickly realized it was a fashion magazine primarily, with the few articles usually about “rich people problems,” like if it’s socially acceptable to not get botox. Needless to say, I quickly became bored with the magazines, but they were good for one thing: the fashion pictures and ads were very colorful. I decided to put those pretty colors to good use when I found a tutorial for making a bowl out of magazine pages.
It took a lot of pages and a lot of time, but I like the way it turned out. I sealed it with two layers of Mod Podge, so hopefully it will last a while. It’s pretty tall, so it should hold a lot.
It looks pretty cool from the top, as well.
It makes me think of cartoons when somebody is being hypnotized and they show that constantly moving swirl.
This weekend, I’m volunteering at Spring Fling, a four-day carnival run buy student clubs and organizations to raise funds for their future projects. A social change club I’m in, the Harry Potter Alliance, has teamed up with a leadership club on campus, Blue Chip. Together, we’ve decided to be known as the Blue Alliance.
While volunteering at the club, we wanted a way to show our connection as a team and what better way than with t-shirts. We combined the Blue Chip logo (a blue square) with the idea of Harry Potter and created a simple stencil that could be spray-painted in blue onto a white t-shirt.
It’s simple, clear, and just a little bit artistic. I am actually wearing this as I type, having recently come back from a full day of volunteering. Maybe wearing it around in public once in a while will prompt people to ask questions, so I can inform them about these two great organizations.
Fans of the webcomic xkcd may have seen Randall Monroe’s impressive movie narrative charts. The first time I read Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, I thought about how much easier the story would be to follow if I had one of these charts. This past winter, I reread the book and made note of where every character was at the beginning and end of each chapter. Then I grabbed an 11”x17” sheet of paper and drew out the narrative. To make it a little easier to see, I colored each character with house colors. Starks are grey, the Night’s Watch is black, Greyjoys are gold, Lannisters are red, Baratheons are yellow, Tullys are blue, Targaryens are maroon, Dothraki are brown, and those free from the constraints of houses are green.
A warning before you click to the full sized picture, though: this does, of course, contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the book or watched the first season of the HBO show click at your own risk.
Clicking the image from your dashboard might not take you to the full-sized picture link, so click over to the post itself if you want to see all the details.
Recently I ran across a campaign run by Save the Children. It’s an attempt to raise awareness about global hunger and increase activism around the world. The campaign includes making a jigsaw puzzle piece and sending it in to connect with a travelling art installation. I loved the idea, so I grabbed a scrap of fabric, found an inspirational quote, and whipped this up.
It’s far from perfect, but it gets the point across. Nobody should have to go hungry. Please spread the word and become a piece of the puzzle that will solve the problem.
Well, I crossed over to the dark side. I love books and I love to read, but I’ve always stayed away from e-readers. Reading is such a tactile experience for me, the coldness of using a computer just seemed wrong. Recently, though, I booked a trip to Germany for PCIM, an engineering conference. It was pointed out to me that the time in the air traveling one way is more than 18 hours. That doesn’t include layovers or traveling to and from airports. We’ll also be going back and forth between multiple countries, which means long train rides. You can only pack so many paperbacks, so I relented and got a Kindle Keyboard.
Of course, what does any gadget need? A snazzy case. Last school year, I used a hardcover Moleskine academic planner. At the end of the year, I ripped out the pages (the blank ones are what I’ve been using to practice calligraphy) and set aside the cover in case it could ever come in handy. It turns out that it’s the perfect size to turn into a case. A cereal box, some fabric and elastic, and a lot of glue later and I was set.
Not long ago, Starbucks had a booth open on campus where they were giving out free Doubleshots. I’m not a fan of caffeine, but I was exhausted that day so I walked over and took one. At the same time, the girl at the booth was handing out USB sticks, so I ended up with one of those. It was a perfectly serviceable 1 GB drive, but it was pretty boring.
I’m also not enough of a fan of Starbucks itself to walk around advertising for them, so I decided to dismantle the drive and create a new cover for it. It took a little while, but I was able to pry open the plastic case with a butter knife and pull out the chip itself, then peel off the dried hot glue which had been holding everything together.
At this point, I started looking around for case ideas. My dad is an engineer and in his lab he has all types of odds and ends, most of which don’t match anything, but he keeps them around just in case. Digging around, I found two copper caps, a copper coupling, and a few inches of a thick gauge of copper wire. I also found a plastic cap from a different USB drive which was no where to be found. I immediately decided that my USB drive was going to become a Steampunk USB drive. I started by cutting out the top of one of the caps so the USB could fit through it. This was a pain. If you do something similar, I suggest using a high-quality dremel tool and not a creapo one like what I have.
Next, I spent a long time aging all of the copper pieces. I did a ton of different things, so I can’t really give concrete instructions. This is what I remember doing for sure:
The wire I dipped in vinegar and baked, so it turned a dark russet brown. The whole copper cap I rubbed over with a salt paste, then placed in a sealed plastic bag with a small amount of Windex (because I didn’t have any straight ammonia on hand and I wasn’t about to use the natural ammonia from my body). I left this for several hours. The top of the cap turned a red rust color, while the small strip which was in the Windex turned green. The cut cap and the coupling I sprayed with vinegar and hung from a piece of floss, so that they weren’t sitting in a puddle. They turned a streaky, dull green with the copper color still clearly visible underneath.
Next I dug out an old sheet of Shrinky Dink material to make a cover for one end of the coupling. I decided on a Shrinky Dink because I wanted it to be transparent. There is a small LED on the end of the USB when it’s working, which I wanted to be visible. Baked, uncolored Shrinky Dinks look similar to frosted glass. It took me a few tries to cut a circle the right size and I needed to shave the finished product down slightly with a knife, but I ended up with a round, thick piece of plastic which fit inside the coupling. At the same time, I used a knife to shave down the plastic USB cap until it fit inside the normal copper cap.
Finally, I put it all together: I hot glued the cut cap and the coupling together and hot glued the USB chip inside them. Next, I hot glued the Shrinky Dink inside the open end of the coupling and glued the plastic cap into the remaining copper cap. Then I wrapped the copper wire around the main body of the drive and glued it in place.
Here is the finished product. I’m quite proud with it. The top piece, of course, is removable.
When I plug it in and turn it one, it still works and the LED is still visible.
It would be pretty easy to do something similar with whatever you have lying around the house. Take apart a watch and use the metal pieces as decoration or cut apart a wire hangar instead of using the copper wire. Large nuts could have the threads drilled out with an ordinary drill and be stacked together instead of the coupling. The top of a tin can could be cut into small circles for end caps, with a rectangle cut into one to fit the end through. Have fun, go crazy, just make sure you don’t rust anything so far that it falls apart.
I’ve been insanely busy recently, so I’m uploading a project I did years ago.
You may or may not be familiar with the movie Repo!: The Genetic Opera. If you’ve never heard of it, I suggest you at least look it up. R!:TGO is a rock opera, which means everything in the movie is sung, mostly songs which would be classified in the rock genre. The basic premise of the movie is this: In the future, mass organ failure makes organ replacement surgery needed often. A rich company makes these surgeries financially easier by allowing them to be financed, the same way you would finance a car or house. This new ease of payments causes organ replacement to become a status symbol, with designer organs on the market. The big twist: just like your car or house now, if you default on your payments the organs will be repossessed.
I’m obsessed with this movie. I love everything about it: it’s an incredible satire, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s thought-provoking, it’s original…I could go on for a long time, but I’ll stop here. Seriously, go look it up, especially if you like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog. Anyway, on to the craft.
The best-known symbol for R!:TGO is a barcode, symbolizing the barcodes found on financed organs.
Years ago, my sister bought me cross-stitch supplies for some holiday (I forget which). Among those supplies were blank bookmarks made of aida. A day with some graph paper, markers, and thread left me with a unique, eye-catching bookmark, which I think follows the original symbol quite well. The only change I would have liked to make would have been to add an extra row on the left side of the “R” in “Opera,” but I ran out of room.
I use this bookmark a lot when I’m out reading in public. I can always identify a fellow Repo fan by the tell-tale squeal, followed by the singing of a favorite song.
With that, Tumblr, I leave you with the trailer of an amazing movie. Watch, learn, enjoy.