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The pleasure and the privilege is mine

Spent a productive morning cutting back the tomato plants, which both grew monstrous in the ten days I was away. They were already tall before I left, but still neat and trim. The night I got home, I was utterly horrified to see from the window that the larger plant had effectively snapped in three places, yet was still growing and alive. Hedging on the idea the plant is now basically immortal, I've been trying to prop up the bent branches as best I can. I've run out of cable ties -- will need to buy string, unless I can figure out where the one ball we had went to. Or maybe see if we still have any Christmas ribbons left. Unfortunately, although I left the plants with about 30 flower buds waiting to emerge, none of them seem to have fertilised in my absence. It's still sprouting flowers, and everything about growing these tomatoes has been slow, possibly due to a combination of the EarthBoxes and the dappled sunlight we get. I'm still hoping I can get some kind of late harvest out of these things, but it may well be that my efforts were for naught. My enthusiastic trimming accidentally sacrificed a couple of small flowering branches, and snipped off some branches that were helping support the plants' weight, but it's now totally shot through with sun and leaving some for the herbs to boot.

Today was a blessedly slow day. Reading Charles C. Mann's 1491 voraciously. It's on the part about how the Amazon is primarily a human construct, essentially vast tracts of heirloom orchards gone fallow. The parts about building fertile planting soil out of red tropical clay is fascinating. There's all this stuff about scientists formulating land rescue packages from charcoal, organic compost and microorganisms based on studies of ancient farmland that may eventually help save impoverished, ruined farmland elsewhere in the world. The idea that the Amazon is not an untouched Eden, that its peoples were vastly more advanced culturally and intellectually than we ever suspected or care to know, makes me more keen than ever to research the ancient kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago, and particularly how they affected or worked in tandem with the native forest populations. Malaysian history's narrative is pockmarked all over with English colonial suppositions and the equally damaging moral highbrow of Islamist opinion, but we clearly had relatively cosmopolitan and advanced Buddhist trading nations before either power arrived. More than that, our forests were clearly inhabited by the different native peoples of Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, who couldn't possibly have been spending the past 2,000 years sitting on their hands. What were they doing, and what were they like before they were chased out and made to 'join civilisation'?

Dorian and Sif are finally shaking off the anxiety of being left alone. Sif is still the soft, fluffy cat who likes equally soft, plushy places to sleep with people on. She seems more clingy than she ever was, but she's still the same Sif. Dorian was aching to run around outside and stake his claim against the little black cat again. Now that he's had a couple of days to actually be in the sun, he seems to be calming down. He's been keeping us up at night with his howls of, "Outside! Outside!". I have no capacity to discipline my cats, or any other fluffy animal for that matter, so Seth has had to take the burden of locking Dorian in the study overnight and doing all the cuffing. I feel bad, but I just have no talent for staying angry with my creatures longer than maybe a few minutes. That said, we are now fearing our bathroom will never smell all right ever again. Indeed, we wander past wondering what terrible catastrophic cat error we missed somewhere. I'm hoping some weekend mopping will work. Vinegar? Cat urine remover? We only have about five different brands hiding in our cupboards. (Sif didn't entirely come to us with the best bathroom manners, and she still has terrible eye to tail coordination.)

My cheerful mood calls for cheerful music, meaning all manner of things that would not usually get played while both of us are at home are played. Selections from Jesus Christ Superstar, various replays of There is a Light That Never Goes Out and Love Will Tear Us Apart in a variety of covers, my cheerfully gloomy love songs. I had clam chowder for dinner last night, and the bread bowl that it should have gone in was turned into French toast, because I was craving it with maple syrup we brought back from Vermont. My father-in-law clued me into purchasing a crate of Orton Bros. Cookie Buttons (maple-flavoured, of course), which is strongly under consideration. My basement needs more emergency supplies. countlibras also reminded me it is mooncake season, which means ordering Eastern Bakery's delicious four-yolk lotus paste cakes.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
The Tagari institute has a lot of good permiculture studies for the region.
Aug. 30th, 2012 05:47 am (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for reminding me I'd meant to read _1491_ someday. My dad was meanderingly doing his thesis on pre-Mayan agriculture methods.

I think we used to use hot water something like 3:1 or 4:1 on fabric the cats peed on, and a blacklight is of course invaluable.
Aug. 30th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC)
Mmmm... mooncakes... :)
Aug. 30th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
I just emailed in my order. :) Hopefully, this year it's a go. Also trying out their winter melon paste mooncake, as I don't think I've ever tried that kind before.
Aug. 30th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
oh! tell me how the winter melon tastes!

I thought about trying it but then my mom kind of gave me the stinkeye for suggesting it. XD
Aug. 30th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
Will do! :)

It's funny, but even though my mom may be an even more raging foodie than me, we almost always stuck to the standard Cantonese-style mooncake with thin baked skin and lotus paste/egg yolks. Very occasionally, we had the "crystal/snow skin" mooncakes (refrigerated mochi-like mooncakes with more jelly-esque fillings). I think I only ever had the mixed nut mooncake once before moving to SF. I don't remember trying the crust pastry skin mooncakes at all (though they probably taste a lot like the similar pastries served at dim sum).

My point being, man, moms can be really opinionated about traditional food. :)
Sep. 4th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
>>moms can be really opinionated about traditional food

haha, so true.
Sep. 4th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
Mooncakes have arrived! So happy!
Sep. 4th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Sep. 7th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
I've tried both the melon paste and lotus paste mooncake now! Report on flavours follow:

1. It seems like the mooncakes this year are a lot softer than last year. At least, the batch I got was. The lotus paste mooncake holds its shape a lot better when everything is fresh and tender than the melon paste.
2. The melon paste is super sticky and gelatinous. It's quite a different experience! Seems a lot sweeter than lotus paste, but this is probably because lotus seeds have a natural bitterness to them that tempers the huge amounts of sugar. Candied melon pieces can be used in themselves as a sweetener, so the paste is only tempered by the salty egg yolk.

I think after trying them both, I still prefer lotus paste. Incidentally, I talked to my mom the other day, and it turned out she likes the idea of melon paste mooncake. I now think we just never had it when I was a kid because the local bakeries just didn't make it! It's a bit weird, since Malaysian bakeries aren't against trying all kinds of other weird mutant mooncakes. When I was growing up, we had pandan and durian paste for example.
Aug. 31st, 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
That's it, I've got to wander down to Grand and find out if any of those restaurants do proper mooncakes.

For the bathroom, consider giving the shower curtain a little spritz, and maybe chucking any towels out into the wash. Not saying Sif's aim is that bad, but sometimes fabric seems to hang onto smells.
Aug. 31st, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
For mooncakes, you'll want either an Asian (Chinese or Vietnamese is best) bakery or grocery store. Chinese restaurants in my country do sell in-house mooncakes, but those require the sort that sell dim sum, which may not be customary out here in US.

And yeah, I'm washing out our towels today. I washed them before the trip, thinking I'd have fresh towels to use when I got back. They instead absorbed all the death and woe. Sif and Dorian now share the same box -- Dorian out of convenience. Dorian doesn't miss so much as exuberantly try to cover after himself, throwing bits of wet litter all over the floor.
Sep. 4th, 2012 08:33 am (UTC)
In the fashion of odd things that cheer an Afi up, would this qualify?

little_details, "a community that helps writers with their research and fact-checking," received a question on inbreeding in humans, with lots of talk about genetics, statistics, mutations, etc.
Sep. 4th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Mutations! Extra chromosomes!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )