Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eating nothing

It’s really hot today so I’ve been thinking about ice cream, naturally. A common ingredient in ice cream is soy lecithin, which Mani noticed is found in most of the other things he also considers delicious. So what is soy lecithin? It is an emulsifier that stabilizes and thickens the components that would otherwise separate in foods like chocolate.

In the past decade, chefs have been experimenting with soy lecithin to make flavored foams or airs. I haven’t yet tried an air, but I have heard it described as all flavor and no food. You take a bite and there is an intense taste of, say, tea, but the substance vaporizes instantly in your mouth, leaving nothing behind. Pictured above is “white chocolate air,” a dish from Ferran Adria’s restaurant El Bulli, near Barcelona.

On a related note, I also learned that the taste of ice cream will vary depending on the condition of the emulsion. When ice cream thaws, the emulsion is compromised, and the tiny ice crystals within begin to combine into larger crystals that ruin the texture of the ice cream, making it hard, sticky, and dry. This is why a dairy’s fresh-made ice cream tastes better than any pint of premium ice cream, which has usually suffered through a range of temperatures on its journey from manufacturer to your bowl.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Even nothing is something

Is Singingbee's black background hard on your eyes? I know it takes my faulty eyes a fraction of a second to adjust before I can read the text easily. However, that little delay is important – I think it requires that the reader commit to reading the page. I only noticed this delay because I've been thinking about a painting by Ad Reinhardt at the Walker Art Center. I noticed (over several visits) that most visitors ignore the painting because it looks like not much more than a simple black square. However, when you do stop and commit to looking at it for a few seconds, you see there is more to the painting. (Here is another at the Tate Gallery.) You discover, among other things, that what you thought was black is not black.

Similarly, when astronomers look at the night sky, they are often less interested in the stars that we see, and more interested in the most obscure patches of black between the stars, which to our eyes seem empty. Only a telescope trained for days on these small patches of nothingness can capture the light of the thousands of galaxies that lie hidden there. These distant things hint at the universe’s earliest history.

None of this is to suggest that there is anything hiding in the black of Singingbee’s pages. Or is there?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The view from our porch

I just wanted to note a minor detail. I am not as enthusiastic about our apartment's porch as Julia, but there is one thing I admire about it: the cast iron railing. The metalwork is stylized but recognizable as the young tendrils and woody stems of interlocking vines. I'm somehow grateful for any instance in which something artificial makes some sort of tribute to the nature that it replaces. Not shown in this picture are the little pea tendrils in the planter that echo these vines.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I’m reading The Name of the Rose, which takes place in the 14th century at an Italian abbey that contains a library designed as a labyrinth. So I was excited to explore a garden of forking paths not far from our house, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I had been imagining something like the maze at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna or maybe the tall hedges in The Shining, but instead found (after a very interesting walk through the arboretum’s gardens) an unthreatening mix of wooden doors, plastic tunnels, and easy exits. Julia became separated from us, as she had chosen one door while Mani and I chose another. We decided to look for the dead ends rather than the right-way-outs. Unexpectedly, we found Julia sitting in one nook of the maze, on a bench, reading a novel.

Mani's site

Mani has his own site now too. It contains treasure maps, important dates and numbers, and more. It's all top secret, of course.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More website news

Now most of the other pages in the website have the new look as well! Unlike before, the site also looks OK on the mobile web.

Happy 70th birthday to Larisa! Hopefully we will see her creative work on Singingbee as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hello and peaches

Hi i'm eating peaches and they are a little bit red and white. I hope you have a nice day. I love you everybody! - Mani

Singingbee revised!

I hope you like the changes to our front page. More changes to come!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not shy

Mani managed to coax this butterfly onto the palm of his hand at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum


Julia and Mani are growing basil behind the house. Mani has been yelling at the ants: "Don't eat the basil!"

Mani's manuscript

Mani has been working on a novel about numbers. In Chapter 14, our hero, Four, is about to run into her arch-enemy, Five, after breaking into his house...

Things askew

All day today I seem to have had trouble with our things. I found myself trying to talk to Dad on two different phones at once. We were disconnected. When I tried to call back, the phone dialed someone at a bank instead. I checked the phone's log -- I did dial the right number. I went to exercise but after an hour, the computer on the stationary bike sputtered, sparked, and died.

We've all been thinking about our relationship to things as Julia prepares for her "Things Don't Like Me" class.