Craft Time! Pandemic Edition

It has been a while since I was feeling ~crafty~, but a rainy day seemed like the perfect time to pull out my sewing machine and my little bin of fabrics I’ve been accumulating. A couple years ago, I bought a bunch of these crafting squares when they were on sale. (I might have had had plans to turn them into pillow covers…but who can say.) What better time than a pandemic to finally use the things you’ve been saving for a rainy day?

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Book Review: Holly by William Aime

When I saw that the cover of this book features a giant axe, I was hoping I knew what the title of this murder mystery refers to. Holly is a retelling of (or at least inspired by) the fourteenth-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. If you haven’t read it, don’t worry: there is plenty else going on in this story.

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Garden Phase 1: Operation Onion

I am not an experienced gardener. My experience with growing anything edible before this was limited to basil plants, which I grew for a few years in a row. (More on that another time.) What I learned from that experience was that plants, in general, want to grow. All you have to do is give them the tools to do it.

In my third week of quarantine, when I had resolved to only go grocery stopping every two weeks, I came down to my last yellow onion. You, like me, may have seen some articles floating around about how to propagate vegetables from what you have in your fridge. I was waiting for vegetable seeds to arrive, so this seemed like a good way to start my garden. I used about three-quarters of the onion in a stir fry and saved the end with the roots still attached.

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So You Want a Worm Bin

I recently wrote a post detailing my adventures with a worm bin. Here are some questions I maybe could have asked myself before I leapt straight in. (Read about my worm bin adventures here.)

What is a worm bin?

A worm bin, also called a worm farm, is a container that houses worms. The worms used in worm composting are not not earthworms; they prefer leaf litter and vegetables to dirt. An established worm bin can break down your food waste in anything from a few days to a week. This process, called vermicomposting or worm composting, produces fertile worm castings that are are rich in nutrients. You can add them to your garden soil as a fertilizer, or you can use them to mix your own soil when you are getting a garden going.

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Worm Bin: The Beginning

In early March, I met a friend at her local community garden to help her and her husband plant a vegetable garden in their newly acquired garden plot. I arrived to find them unloading a wheelbarrow full of flats of vegetables and flowers, small packets of seeds, and a Tupperware container of ground egg shells to fertilize the tomato plants. The only gardening I had done in years involved trying not to spill dirt all over the floor when I moved my houseplants from one pot to a slightly larger pot. I had forgotten how nice it is to kneel in the dirt, sleeves rolled up, and watch wildflowers wave in the breeze. Fresh dirt is a really wonderful smell.

While we were planting marigolds and bell peppers, we started talking compost. San Jose does not have citywide composting for food waste: the city only collects yard waste. This had been a source of frustration for me since I moved here, since I had always been able to mix banana peels with yard trimmings in our green bin growing up. Luckily for my friend and her husband, their community garden had its own compost pile that they would now have access to. My solution so far had been to schlepp my accumulated banana peels and carrot tops to my parents’ when when I visited them every couple of weeks. This had been inefficient at best and smelly at worst.

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This photo was my first post on this blog. It inspired this little story.

When you’re walking directly behind someone, you cannot see anything else. All you can see is the hair at the nape of their neck and the dark sweat stain where their collar chaffs against the bony knob at the top of their spine. Even so, you can feel when you come close to a precipice – the great expanse of air, the emptiness, the sudden lack of a place to hide.

This was how Quinn felt walking along the edge of the road. Her boyfriend was not paying attention to anything other than the bright white line beneath his feet. Quinn was focused on not stepping into the road or on the backs of his shoes. The road was narrow and there wasn’t much of a shoulder here in the wooded hills on the outskirts of Portland. It was a residential neighborhood, but with mist rising through the trees all around them and no cars on the road, it did not feel like it.

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Cleaner Air

In September of 1989, NASA researchers published a paper titled “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.” This report, generally known as the NASA clean air study, concluded that common houseplants are able to remove harmful chemicals from the air. The pollutants studied include formaldehyde and benzene. These volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are produced by common household objects such as carpeting and certain plastics, and they have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems.Continue reading “Cleaner Air”

Books: Several Years In Review

I logged onto Goodreads the other day for the first time in years. Some of the books in my Currently Reading list were long finished, others I had abandoned and forgotten about. It was hard to think of books to put on my virtual shelves. I remembered the books I had read over the last few years that stood out: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Others that I thought I had read only a year or two ago were already in my shelves: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. Which each book I added, I found I had read more in my absence than I had thought. Time is elastic when it comes to books.Continue reading “Books: Several Years In Review”

The Alien Is the Real Love Story

Why Venom (2018) was pretty great.

[Spoilers! But not for the ending.]

I did not see Venom in theaters because I could not find anyone who would see it with me. The film was getting panned by critics, but I was hearing good things from people I knew. They said it was surprisingly fun, with a buddy cop-type relationship between Eddie Brock and his super(anti)hero alter-ego, Venom. Given that the trailer featured an oily mass with a very long tongue and sharp teeth biting off someone’s head, I wasn’t sure whether to believe them.

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Rising Through Fear

This still from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is CinemaGrids’ Frame of the Year.

Why Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is easily one of the best films I have seen in a long time

[No spoilers, other than general plot information.]

I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for the second time yesterday. I had first been drawn to the film’s animation style and premise, but I hadn’t expected the story to capture me the way it did. It is a joy to watch, and I found even more to love about it on a second viewing. Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenager who has grown up in a New York where Spider-Man routinely saves the lives of its citizens. When Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, he discovers that there is more than one Spider-Man—in fact, as he finds out when the Spider-people from five alternate universes are transported into his New York, a lot more than one.

What is immediately apparent from the film’s opening sequence is that the art direction of Into the Spider-Verse is fantastic. The film’s unique style evokes print comics while making full use of the flexibility of CGI, something we do not see in the animated films made by other major studios. The pride the animators take in their work is clear on the screen as well as on social media, where many of them have taken to sharing their favorite scenes on Twitter.

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