Sunday, January 29, 2006

The things I come up with when I'm thinking about other things

If I could supply a visual for how my day has gone so far, it would be a Cold War-era poster with a Stalinesque-looking gentleman looking fearfully over his shoulder, and the caption would read:


My cupboards were a sad, sad mess. Everything was mostly in some sort of order, but I can't figure out who defined the order (it couldn't have been me - no siree! I'm a librarian! Everything is in perfect order in my apartment! Someone must have come in a moved things around when I wasn't home one weekend. Yeah, that's it!)

I took EVERYTHING out of ALL the cupboards*, grouped it by function, and am in the process of putting it all back now. I need to go finish it without further ado before those sneaky Socialists get in there again!

*Except the plates, cups, glasses, and pots and pans - they're all fine where they are.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Come into the kitchen - I'm just making a pot of tea

To everyone who's found their way here from one of the various Knitting Olympic blogs* where I'm also participating: Hi! Come in! I'm not really making tea, since it's late and it will probably keep me up for the rest of the night, but if you want something to drink, I'll see what I can do. Please excuse the wonky colour scheme and haphazard attempt at font standardization - I'm working on both at the moment and hope to have something new before I turn 80.

* Specifically, the Hurry Hard Handwarmalong, which I'm co-sponsoring, and Team Canada, in which I'm posting also.

(For everyone else, I'll try and keep the knitting angst to a minimum over here.)

Because I enjoy the experience of having lost my mind a while back, I'm thinking of joining Team Wales (motto: "The Jamaican Bobsledders of the Knitting World") for the Knitting Olympics. I'm not Welsh - not even close! - but I had a friend in grad school who was, and I have a Super Furry Animals CD. Does that count?

In non-knitting news... wait, where was I going with this? I have notes all over about things I want to post about, but I can't remember which ones were the important ones, that I need to get down before I forget them completely, or fall asleep. Which, really, is the same thing.

Okay - here's something I was thinking about this afternoon. When people ask me what I like the most about living in Sudbury, lately the answer hasn't been "the weather." For example:

Thursday morning, when I went out to my car, the temperature was hovering around -15, or below -24 with the windchill. And - as a good Canadian - I would like to point out that this was a dry cold, which means it's very crisp. My nostrils froze, the soles of my boots froze, and any exposed skin got rather nippy. There were a few difficult moments opening the rear driver's side door because the damn thing had froze shut again.

Friday? At noon? It's +4 out there. All the ice is melting, and there is slush and ice packs everywhere, which means my evening walk will be an absolute joy as I dodge puddles and half-melted ice. And it's all going to freeze again on Sunday. Wonderful!

I went to see Brokeback Mountain again tonight, right after work. Since it was an early show, there was no group of obnoxious teenagers sitting behind me talking all the way through the movie. In fact, I was the youngest person there! To prepare for this second viewing, I reread the short story last night and this confirmed my suspicion that the movie was an outstanding adaptation. I'm almost tempted to read something by Larry McMurty now.

And with that, I'm officially too tired to think of anything else.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Experiments with food

Potato pancakes

Don't those look good? Last week I made mashed potatoes, and I made sure I had enough left over to make potato pancakes later in the week. It's so simple to make - take the leftover mashed potatoes, add an egg (or two, depending on how many you have) and enough breadcrumbs to make sure the whole thing sticks together. Coat them with something, be it more breadcrumbs, flour, or cornmeal (as I did above), fry them in vegetable oil, and that's it.

There's plenty of room for improvisation. I always add grated cheese, and this time I also added tobasco sauce, dried parsley, paprika, pepper, cumin, and salt. If I have green onions, then I add them. But nothing is written in stone - feel free to add other things, like seasoned breadcrumbs instead of plain, for instance.

Potato and carrot soup

This was soup I made on Sunday night, and it was one of my successful experiments (they don't always end that way). My sister makes soup by roasting vegetables, adding them to stock, and then pureeing them, which, again - fast and easy.

The above soup is potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Seriously - it took less than ten minutes to peel and chop everything into bite sized pieces. Rinse them, put them in a big bowl, and drizzle olive oil over them - but not too much. Add whatever spices you want to add, which, in this case, was fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix the vegetables well, spread them on a cookie sheet, bake at about 400 for 40 minutes (or less - actually, ignore me; if you're going to try this, 30 minutes will probably do you, unless Rachelle wants to correct me).

When they came out of the oven, I sauteed half a sweet onion in butter, added the roasted vegetables, some dried chilis and parsley, and a cup of chicken stock, plus three more cups of water. I let that simmer for 15 minutes (which is the amount of time I needed to make biscuit dough and get it into the oven), then pureed it. Now, how smooth or chunky or thick or thin you want the soup will depend on how long you puree it for and how much water you add. I like mine smooth and not too thick, so I ended up adding another four cups of water and pureeing it for about ten minutes (this also will vary based on what you use to puree it - I use on of those Braun wand thingies.)

I've been eating it for supper and lunch every day this week*. It was delish!

*I also had an unexpected root canal on Monday, so I couldn't chew anything anyways.

It's time to start campaigning for the next election

I know it's slightly hypocritical of me to complain about the results of the election when I never spoke about it in the first place. Hell, I have a BA in Politics, so it's not like I didn't know what was going on or have some insight into the whole damn fiasco. The least I could have done was to tell everyone to go vote.

To say I'm disappointed with the results is an understatement. I've lived in Ontario for all but two years of my life, and I vividly remember what having the Conservatives in power meant (granted, they're a slightly different party than the Conservatives at the federal level, but they shared a lot of the same policies). And I'm old enough to remember what it was like under the federal Progressive Conservatives, with Mulroney at the helm. (Would someone please tell him to shut the ever-loving hell up already?)

A great deal was made about how the Liberal party is corrupt, but really? It wasn't the whole party - it was only a group of people, most of whom aren't around anymore. And it's not like any party who has had the chance to be in power is squeaky clean. Also - I never really saw the Gomery inquiry report as that big a deal - the government wastes ten times that on a daily basis, so what's the big deal?

My greatest concern is what this is going to mean for us as a country. Under the Liberals, we've done pretty good for ourselves as a nation. It's not to say I don't want to fling things at Paul Martin occasionally, but I'm much less worried about who we align ourselves with on the international stage. The last time we had a Conservative Prime Minister, we had the mass sale of public holdings, NAFTA, and Free Trade. This time - who knows? Participation in the quagmire that is Iraq? A deepening of NAFTA? And this is just my concerns about what's going to happen to us on an international level, never mind the monumental foul-up which will go on at the national level. (When you get the outcome the Republican Party is hoping for - start worrying!)

The only consolation out of this is that the Conservatives only have a minority, which means they have to play nice with the other parties. And that - joy of joys (I say sarcastically) - this won't last five years because minority governments never last long.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Challenges schmallenges

Update: If you're finding your way here to learn more about the Hurry Hard Handwarmalong, we also have a blog specifically for the project, too!

When Stephanie (of the Yarn Harlot) challenges her readers to anything, hundreds of us respond. Witness the TSF from last year - $83,000 and still growing.

Now, she has issued another challenge for which hundreds of us are signing up. The Knitting Olympics - the gist is that we will all cast on a challenging project on the day of the Opening Ceremonies (February 10th), and the project will be completed by the Closing Ceremonies (February 26th). And because I'm a sucker for punishment I sincerely believe I can do this, I'm going to be participating as well.

But I'm not doing this alone - oh no. J. of CanKNITian and I will be making the Hurry Up Spring armwarmers at the same time. This stems from a discussion we had about the fact we both bought Noro (a type of Japanese yarn) over the holidays to make the same thing. This evolved into a discussion about possibly doing a mini-knit-a-long with this (for all y'all non-knitters: a knit-a-long is when a group of knitting bloggers all work on similar projects, and post pictures and progress reports on their blogs).

However, once we heard about the Knitting Olympics, our purpose was clear - roll our mini-knit-a-long into this bigger knit-a-long, and give it a clever Olympic-sport related name. Oddly, we both said "curling!" at the same time. And because we are one complete sane person between the two of us, we're opening it up to anyone else who wants to join. Naturally, there is a button.


If you want to join, email either me (rlarocque *at* gmail dot com) or J (canknitian *at* gmail dot com).

Tear jerker

Normally, I don't cry at movies. I can count on both hands the number of movies that made me cry, out of all the movies I've ever seen, ranging from a few sniffles to outright sobbing.

The scene in The Empire Strikes Back, when Leia shouts "I love you!" to Han Solo, and he says, "I know" is always a good one to elicit a few sniffles.

The whole Carmen storyline in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but especially towards the end. It was hard not to shed more than a few tears.

From the very first time I saw it, The Last Unicorn. Like, every time! I've seen it more than two dozen times, and every time, I get all choked up at the end. Even worse - in the last few years, the scene where Molly says to the Unicorn, "Where were you when I was new? When I was one of those innocent young maidens you always come to? How dare you! How dare you come to me now, when I am this!" has really gotten to me.

Within the first ten minutes of the opening scene of Truly Madly Deeply, I was openly weeping. Then again, about halfway through. And at the end. I cried more watching that movie than any other.

I've never seen all of Iris, but whenever it's on TV, without fail, I will flip to it the scene before the scene where John looses his patience and goes into the kitchen, then sees Iris watching him through the French doors, so he goes and reads to her from a book, and she stops him and says, "I wrote?" and John says to her "Yes, my darling, clever cat! You wrote books." I don't remember what the scene before that is because I've already started with the waterworks at that point.

Embarrassingly, the scene in Titanic, near the end, where the ship is really sinking and there's a priest or a minister surrounded by a group of people and they're reciting Psalm 23 ("the lord is my shepherd..."). I was holding on until that point, then I lost it. Worse, I didn't have any tissues.

Tonight I went to see Brokeback Mountain, which FINALLY opened in Sudbury yesterday. The scene where Jack tells Ennis "I wish I knew how to quit you!"? Sad, heartbreaking, but not as sad and tear-jerky as the scene where Ennis goes to visit Jack's parents. Oh, how I wish I wasn't being distracted by the losers sitting behind us who talked all the way through the movie. Even with the oh-so-clever commentary which only 16-year-olds can provide, it was, without a doubt, the scene where I should have lost it. If I hadn't been distracted, mind you.

Alright - I've laid my soul bare. What movies made you cry?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Book Television Presents Naughty Librarian Week

Book Television Presents Naughty Librarian Week

Oh, how I wish I got Book Television. However, if you, like me, don't have that option available in your cable package*, I'll do what I can to be naughty next week.

Well, not full-on naughty. Mischevious, certainly. Evil, without a doubt. Unseemly if at all possible.

*Maybe I do and I just don't know. Whatever.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Liner notes

I'm doing a CD exchange with a friend, and here are the liner notes for the disc I made:

A Good Idea (Sugar) - best song from high school years. Great bass line.

Luckily I Keep My Feathers Numbered For Just Such An Emergency (King Cobb Steelie) - Chaos never sounded so funky.

Come Ova (Bumblebeez 81) - I believe I've mentioned this one before. Still buzzes along quite nicely.

Ages & Stages (The Meligrove Band) - So new, it still has that new-song smell to it. What happens when you give the emo kids instruments of mass distraction.

Feels Just Like It Should (with New Middle 8) (Jamiroquai) - Recreational drug use has never sounded so funky.

Galang 05 (M.I.A.) - If more people danced to this song instead of fought wars, the world would be a better place.

Stand Back (Stevie Nicks) - Do not piss her off. Ever.

Northern Lights (Super Furry Animals) - Just when you thought the Welsh were all about Dylan Thomas, it turns out they like bossanovas, too.

When I Get To The Border (Linda and Richard Thompson) - Everything will get better when you get to the border.

Tiger Lily (Luna) - My theme song throughout high school.

Baby (Martha Wainwright) - Fragile. Oh so fragile. Like spun sugar castles.

The Grace (Neverending White Lights featuring Dallas Green) - I'm still in awe.

Decara a la Pased (Lhasa) - Best saved for rainy days.

Oleander (Sarah Harmer) - An Apalachian-esque ode to a plant.

Get Up (Starkicker) - Long before Alexisonfire and The Trews, there was Starkicker.

Workin' Class Blues (Zildo Ildo) - Are you pushing the paper or is the paper pushing you?

Size of a Cow (Wonderstuff) - Please make sure your tongue is firmly in cheek and your trays are locked in the upright position.

Angel of Montgomery (Leslie Split Tree-o) - Another oldie. Country after a hard night's drinking.

Pressure Drop (Toots & the Maytals) - Ending it on a mellow note.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Absences explained

Sorry for the silent running recently. I've been working on a few blog-related projects which have been taking up a good chunk of my time.

The first is my raging jealousy of other people's ability to add categories to their blog posts. It's a regular feature in other blog software, but is not an option in Blogger. For most people, this might not be a problem, but as for myself and some others, it's a feature we would like. In most cases where bloggers using Blogger add categories to their blog posts, they've used Technorati tags, which - okay, if it works for them, then by all means use it.

However, I find Technorati slow and slightly unwieldly. Sure, if you want to tag your post so that anyone searching for a particular tag will find it, then it's useful. But it's not all that useful if you want to be able to find all the posts on a particular topic on *your* blog. But how do you accomplish that?

One solution I saw was to use to tag the posts (unfortunately, the blog I saw it on is no more). You can create tags which are unique to your blog, you use them to tag your posts, and then you can post a list of all the tags on your blog. If a reader wants to find all your posts on, say, knitting, they only have to click on that tag and it will take you to the page of that tag, where you will see all the other posts about knitting. Following me so far?

So this is what I've been doing for the past few days. Everything up until the beginning of January has a tag, but I haven't listed the tags I applied to each individual post. I will have to go back and do that, if only so you can see how I've labeled them. I will post a list of the tags. In the meantime, here's the link for the page of my tags.

The second thing I've been working is my book review blog. Wait - hold on! Come back here for a sec! I haven't actually updated anything over there recently! But don't think I'm not feeling considerable guilt about that! And I do intend to rectify that matter over the next few days.

I can't in good conscious start posting reviews of the books I've read so far this year until I finish posting reviews for the books I read last year. What I may end up doing is posting a bunch of short reviews in one post, just to get it over and done with. In the meantime, I've been taking and making notes on what I've finished, so I at least have some idea why I assigned something a 7 when all I remember is that it probably wasn't that good.

I must apologize for being crappy about keeping it updated. It got off to a rocky start, what with all my bouncing the blog around from place to place, so it ended up I spent more time playing around with it than I did writing reviews. My bad. I'll try and do better this year. (Actually, I have a draft of a post about my reading habits last year which I need to finish.)
This story, about a man who lost everything when his partner died, makes my heart break. The short story is, a gay couple in Oklahoma had lived together and built a life together over 25 years. One of the partners died, and due to a technicality on the will, everything - EVERYTHING - was divided between his distant relatives, who kicked the surviving partner out.

And now they're suing him for back rent. That makes the Baby Jesus cry. THE BABY JESUS IS CRYING, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND SWEET IN THIS WORLD!

(As seen on Towleroad.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Book Club Verdict: Kite Runner

The good news is that we all loved this book. It was powerful, moving, emotional, and well-written. We spent a great deal of time talking about how we felt about each character's actions, and their motivations for taking them. The three of us also discussed the relationship between the father and son in Afghanistan and when they fled to the US, and how we were relieved that the son didn't become a wimpy person. However, we did spend some time discussing whether or not he intended to adopt Amir's son when he went to get him. Overall, we spent a lot of time talking about what we liked, which is always a good sign.

The bad news is that we all had some type of disturbing reaction. Karen admitted to not being able to stop thinking about the "what ifs" and certain scenes. Stephanie and I both had nightmares. I finished reading the book Christmas Day night, and spent the rest of the night dreaming about soldiers and invasions and sorrow. There are certainly some graphic parts, and surprisingly, none of us questioned the need for those scenes. But they did affect us, and I would caution anyone who reads this that a lot of bad things happen to good people, and not much bad happens to bad people.

But it was sad to read about the old Afghanistan, the one that no longer exists and will never return. Thanks to the Soviet invasion and the Taliban, so much of the culture has been lost. Almost two generations have been born into violence, and know nothing else. We can't even begin to understand how much has been lost, not just in objects, but in knowledge. The people who kept the traditions and culture alive are dying or dead, and there's no one to carry it on. I was listening to a program on the CBC a while back, and they were talking about how there are very few recordings of traditional Afghani music, and how the music was outlawed by the Taliban, so there are very few people left who can perform it.

But the sorrow was transcendent - there was redemption and the promise of hope for the characters in this book. Whether or not this is true for the country of Afghanistan, remains to be seen.

Monday, January 09, 2006

So much knitting

Remember these?

New mittens

They look like this now.

Lopi mittens

And this sock?

Fleece Artist sock kit sock update

I'm this far along the first one.

The Fleece Artist sock kit

They're still doing the icky pooling thing, and when I finish both socks, there will be much rejoycing.

And you saw this one, albeit briefly?

Alpaca wrist warmer, unfinished

The first one is done!

Alpaca wrist warmer, finished!

The outside.

Alpaca wrist warmer, inside

The indside.

Really, it's not a lot of knitting done, but it's a good start.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Help me, Obi Wan Internets, you're my only hope

Well, I could try and find the answers to my questions, but I've been looking and I can't find anything. They're both programming/code questions, so put your thinking caps on!

The first question is, how do I get a new window to open to a certain size, without toolbars or other status bars? I think I used to know, but I can't find the piece of HTML anymore (or are all the cool kids using java or something like that these days?)

The second question is a visual one. See the column on the far right? Okay, now look underneath the booklist, where I have my list of blogs. What I want to know is how do I get more than one of those lists? I don't mean a nested list - what I want is another hidden list which can be opened or closed by the user. Any time I try to replicate the effect by modifying the code, it ends up doing strange things. I think I might be doing it wrong, but I don't know much about java(script). (The code I'm using to make the drop down list is here - it's something I cobbled together after reading two Blogger hints about showing/hiding comments or posts.)

If you want to leave the answers in the comments, that's fine, but if you think it might be a somewhat long answer, you can email any comments or responses (rlarocqueatgmaildotcom).

Oh, and don't worry - Darth Vader isn't after me, so if you don't have an answer, I'm not going to be held hostage and tortured for the location of the rebel base or anything.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In French, it's pronounced "boo-tay"

(All the picutres from my trip can be found here.)

I arrive home the Thursday before Christmas, and this is how may cat, who hasn't seen me in over two months, greets me:

Bean's greeting

Fuzzy lovable lump.

Then, I find this on the counter.

Santa's snack

For a second, I thought my dad was practicing for Christmas Eve. But then I realized he was leaving it for my grandfather, who was bringing Rachelle home.

Denise and Mike came Friday, and we put the tree up. Every year, we argue about who gets to put the star on top, and this year was no different. Denise won.

And the star is up!

I also went to the library where I worked, but no one I knew was working. I did some other puttering, and came home to get ready for mass. Oddly, Mike didn't put up a fight this year, and came willingly.

After mass, we had the whole family over for the traditional Christmas Eve meat pie (my grandfather's family's recipe; every French Canadian family has a different one - this one involves stewing beef and a really rich crust), fruit cake (not the stuff we made this year, the well aged stuff from last year), and plum pudding. This year, we also had perogies, courtesy my aunt and cousin.

Christmas morning, 7am, Denise wakes everyone up. I think she might have held off until 7:30, but that would have been torture. In our family, we do the present opening on Christmas morning. We make a pot of coffee, nosh on leftovers from the night before, and take our time.

Denise and Mike went to Newmarket to see his family, and we went to my grandfather's. Happily, this year I didn't overeat.

Monday was spent vegging and watching movies and knitting. I'm reasonably certain we didn't eat anything healthy all day.

Tuesday I did my Boxing Day shopping. The stores are usually too busy the first day after, so I wait until the next day, but this year I didn't even make it to a mall. I did hit the Book Depot, but it was way nutso, and I could only find one book I wanted, so I left. My aunt had told me the bead store had moved, and there was a new yarn store in that location, owned by the same people. I wasn't expecting great things, but I was overwhelmed. Yarns I had only heard of on other people's blogs! Debbie Bliss! Rowan! Noro! Fabulous alpacas and silks! I was overwhelmed! And went nuts, basically. (If you're at all interested, the pictures of my haul are here, here, and here.) Then I went to the bead store, and was reasonably sane.

Rachelle had some friends over for a pot luck that night, and Dad went out, so Mom and I laid low.

Wednesday Mom had some of her teacher pals over, and it was loud but fun.

Thursday, I went to help my grandfather with some computer stuff, and we had lunch together. Somewhere along the way, he'd caught a cold.

Friday, we taught my cousin Rachael how to knit. She's keeping up with it, but it's tough since all of her teachers left after the holidays.

Saturday, Denise took Rachelle home, and I went back out to do some more shopping. I found a Starbucks where I could go online with my laptop. That night, we had the traditional New Year's Eve dinner - steak, potatoes and veggies on the barbecue, and fried mushrooms. Dad had come down with an awful cold, so he was pretty low key. We watched the World Junior's hockey game, and then Mom and I watched a tribute to Steve Martin on PBS. Which is how we rung in the New Year. Yeah, party animals, I know - the neighbours had to call the police because we were too quiet this year.

Sunday, we went for a walk, made dinner, and had the family over again.

Monday, I left to come back to Sudbury. I did make a pit stop at Ikea, and set a new record - less than an hour and less than $100! Julie, aren't you impressed?

And thus ends the exciting tale of how I spent my winter holidays.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Minor miracles

I don't know exactly how, but I got my two computers to talk to each other tonight. It remains a mystery what combination of keystrokes did the trick, but I opened my laptop while waiting for the desktop to do something, and lo and behold, I could see the desktop on the laptop.

I should have been finishing the post I started before the holidays where I reflect on my reading habits last year. I should have been telling you about my extended visit home. Heck, I should have been editing and uploading my Christmas pictures. But now I can do all of that from anywhere on either computer, provided they are both on at the same time.

More witty and inciteful posts later. I'm going to go celebrate now with a cup of warm milk!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Not quite a resolution, but close

Things are slowly getting back to normal here at Chez Moi. I haven't taken down any of the three Christmas decorations I put up, including the lights on my balcony, but I have changed the picture on my desktop. To something with puppies and kittens frolicking. There are no hunky, semi-clad ranch hands on my desktop. No siree.

Last night I went to bed completely stressed out because I felt like I hadn't accomplished anything all evening. It was to the point I woke up with a headache and had to take an Advil and have a 30-minute power nap before I could function normally. I've started going into work a half hour earlier than I used to because it means I can leave half an hour earlier at the end of the day. It's part of my plan to turn over my leaf*.

So, I get home a half hour earlier and now I have plenty of time to be productive and do important things. Except that I don't accomplish a third of the things I wanted to do, and feel like a failure and how/when am I going to get all that crap done?

But then I though about what I did accomplish. I finished a book I was reading. I unpacked my suitcase, which was the last thing I needed to unpack. I made a slightly elaborate dinner - Cajun-spice blackened salmon with mashed potatoes and spinach salad. I blogged a little. I edited a bunch of pictures I took over the holidays. I went for a walk. Really, I did pretty good.

I don't have any formal resolutions for this new year. I supposed I could resolve to be less harsh on myself if I don't get everything done that I want to in the evening. Or, I could ratchet back my expectations about what I can reasonably accomplish in the seven or so hours between getting home from work and going to bed. Or, I could spend more time relaxing when I get home and worry less about Getting Things Accomplished Because I Must Be Productive Every Second Of The Evening.

I'm liking that third option. Housework and suchlike can wait until the weekend, anyways.

*See, I'm not sure I understand the expression "turning over a new leaf" fully. If by turning over a new leaf, you mean you are going to try change the way you do something, you're still doing to old thing, but in a new way, right? Therefore, you're not really doing a new thing, so you don't need a new leaf. Really, you're just turning over the old one.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Smart ass

Last night, I bought a bag of Smart Spud potatoes.

Smart Spuds

Turns out they're not all that smart.

Smart Spuds

Stupid potatoes. They don't even mash all that good, either.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A joke I heard on the way home

If the left side of your body is controlled by the right hemisphere of your brain, and the right side of your body is controlled by the left hemisphere of your brain, then...

...only left-handed people are in their right mind. Ta da!

(Special thanks to the perky blond barrista in Barrie who told me that joke this afternoon, who happens to be a south-paw and whose uncle is a biochemical engineer.)