I wanted to share a neat observation from my planting this weekend. When I soaked my basil seeds they developed a sticky, gelatinous goop ball around them. The goop is mucilage – you might remember it from your primary school craft project glue. The seed surface is covered in polysaccharides, long sugary molecular hairs that tangle up water molecules and become a sticky mucus (similar to the way long chains of lactose make yogourt firm and polyglycerides make body wash slimy).
Why would a seed want to surround itself in gross plant snot? A lot of desert and Mediterranean plants, like Basil, or Chia, don’t want to be spread far and wide on the landscape – because they grow in really inhospitable areas. Better to stay close to home, where your parent plant originated, because at least you’re guaranteed a shot at growing up in its place. This sticky reluctance to travelling is called Myxodiaspory, or “mucus spreading”.
It also greatly increases the water available to the seed during germination – in areas where water may be scarce, capturing rain water and holding it close gives the seed a chance to survive short-term droughts while it’s getting a foothold into the soil.
The gardening season starts today at our place. With three feet of snow still covering the garden, you might think it’s a bit early for starting seeds, but I have a secret weapon that I’m looking forward to revealing shortly. (No, not the flamethrower, although that’s tempting.)
This year we’re going to focus on tomatoes and herbs, but we have a few thick greens (chard, kale) to plant inbetween. Should be good eating in a couple of months!
The two of us got creative at breakfast the other morning and made Dutch Baby pancakes! I’m still not entirely sure about the mechanics of what’s happening in the pan since chemically the recipe is not far off of a “normal” pancake, but I think something about blending the ingredients into an airy froth encourages the batter to expand around the edge of the pan into a big curly crust. It’s so delicious – hit it with butter and icing sugar (we missed a few times) and a handful of fruit (blueberries!) and you’ve got a tasty german breakfast fit for a Ferdinand.
I’ve been on airplanes a lot lately, getting caught up on my movies-to-watch list.
The Maze Runner – Garbage : I was excited for this one since mazes are such a rich subject in fiction, there were so many places for this film to go. The premise is really cool – kids keep appearing (by elevator) at the gates to a huge maze with no memory of their purpose, and there’s a kind of lord-of-the-flies maze-cult society that emerges. I hate giving a bad rating because there were lots of things I really liked about this film, but the big twist reveal at the end was so, so incredibly bad that I felt it ruined the whole thing.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Super Fun : If you haven’t already seen it, I thought this was the best spectacle film of the summer. The writing is snappy and fun, the action sequences are well thought out and hilarious, and the visual effects are bombastic. There’s a bit of material in here that I’d be hesitant to show to a young kid, but it’s pretty intelligent humour and there’s some real heart in the film. Hollywood take note: this is the first example of a comic book film I can think of where the origin story of all of the characters doesn’t take up the first hour – we’re willing to take a talking tree, bipedal raccoon, warrior princess and beserker at face value (and even care for them). Please please stop retelling the origin of Spider-Man.
The Italian (L’Italien) – So good : This is a very clever French fish-out-of-water situation comedy about an Algerian muslim man who, in an effort to avoid discrimination, pretends to be an Italian while living in France. The ruse gets tricky to maintain when his father, from his hospital bed, begs him to observe Ramadan. For a film that has something serious to say about racism, this is way more fun than it ought to be. The writing is hilarious, and the situations he gets into are totally absurd. Loved this one. Really good.
The Imitation Game – Really great : This Hollywood adaptation of Alan Turing’s contributions to decrypting the Nazi ‘enigma’ codes was surprisingly watchable. Even as an secret code enthusiast I was expecting the material to be a little dry, but Alan Turing was such a compellingly eccentric character that there was lots of human story to tell. The film had a more than a few hollywoodisms – this shouldn’t be considered a bio-pic so much as a dramatization of events that really happened. But it was well put together, especially neat to see the replica Cryptographic Bombe machine running.
I took a walk around Confederation Park with Natasha one night when it wasn’t too cold out, and admired this year’s crop of beautiful ice sculptures. I think my two favourites were this ice cherry blossom tree (in a snow zen garden) and this screaming eagle – the detail and texture in the wings is incredible. Super fun – I’d like to carve some ice soon (it’s pretty easy to find!) but I have to admit I’m not sure I’d have the patience to scrape away at a frozen block for hours in sub-zero temperatures. Maybe if I lined up a chain of hot chocolates and beaver tails to fuel me through the ordeal.
We took an extended holiday in early January and hopped a plane to Las Vegas to take in some sun, shopping and spectacle! The strip is amazing! You can spend a week just drinking in all of the over-the-top sights – dancing fountains, roller coasters, volcanoes, ferris wheels, wax museums, pinball arcades, chunks of other cities reproduced in the desert in the middle of nowhere.
I’m so inspired by the technology behind all of the spectacle – it’s given me that push to figure out the little missing bits I’ve got to work out to do some spectacles of my own.
We stayed at the Paris! Las Vegas hotel – which was, in my opinion, a super lucky pick. The hotel was lovely, but more importantly it was situated almost right smack dab in the center of the strip, between Planet Hollywood, The Bellagio, and Bally’s, so we were in walking distance (and boy did we walk!) to just about everything. There’s a replica half-scale Eiffel tower out front, as well as an Arc de triomphe – it’s almost like being in the real Paris! The rooms were nice and clean though, and the service was pretty good. I’d definitely consider staying again!