Written by Anton Zuiker since July 2000
Why mistersugar? Why a pig?
UPDATE: Bora’s posted a more-thorough roundup of all the activity in the ScienceOnline community.
Registration for ScienceOnline Oceans, a three-day event in Miami in October, is close to full. It’s going to be a really good event focused on ocean science and conservation, and ways to use online communications. There’s still time to register — start here.
And, just announced this week but happening before the Oceans event: ScienceOnline Climate. This will be a two-day event in Washington, D.C. in August to explore the intersection of climate science, communication, and the web.
Like the ScienceOnline TEEN event last month, these events are the ideas of members of the ScienceOnline community. Awesome!
While you’re at it, mark your calendars for the big one, our annual winter gathering here in North Carolina. We’ve renamed it ScienceOnline Together, and it will take place February 26 through March 1, 2014 in Raleigh.
I’ve also been having conversations with various friends and contacts about a ScienceOnline event focused on food — food science, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, food writing or something in between. Contact me if you want to get involved or have ideas for what would make this a fun — and tasty — event.
Pretty exciting, all this. But we need to raise some funds to make sure we can make these events happen, and happen well. Please help by making a donation to our $20.14 from 2,014 donors by the start of 2014 campaign.
Oh, and on the ScienceOnline blog, I’ve asked for your stories about the impact our community has had on your life and/or career. Please share your story with us.
Also, the winners of the first ScienceSeeker Awards have been announced!
Last week, I was back at Cat’s Cradle to hear Josh Ritter again (my fourth time catching him in concert). Ritter is from Moscow, Idaho, and hearing him croon always makes me think back to my childhood in Idaho.
This time, I was remembering the summer I went with my baseball team to Ketchum, where we played in a tournament and slept in our tents in an open field between the mountains and moon. Ketchum is where Ernest Hemingway ended his life. I think I may have known that at the time. I was just 12 years old, and hadn’t yet read any Hemingway, but I knew that I wasn’t going to ever play pro ball so mine would be a writing life. That’s why I can’t remember anything about the tournament that weekend, but I do recall the moonlight that illuminated my tent in that grassy field.
Another Idaho memory came this week. This time, I was up in a tree.
In the grocery store a few days ago, I had picked up half a dozen apricots, and I ate them as they ripened. Each juicy bite had me remembering the apricot tree in front of Lincoln Elementary School in Caldwell, Idaho. I could run over there while my father was playing soccer on the fields across the street, and I’d search the ground for ripe apricots that had just fallen. Some Saturdays, when I’d ridden my bike to the public library nearby, I’d pedal by the school and climb up, reach out, grab a fuzzy orange fruit.
Josh Ritter’s new album, The Beast in its Tracks, is about a broken marriage and a new love. I’ve listened to it over and over and over. It’s good. There’s a song on the album titled A Certain Light, and it brings back those memories of Idaho, of silver moonlight and orange apricots.
This afternoon, driving south through Chapel Hill and down 15/501 toward Pittsboro, I was remembering when Michael Ruhlman was here in the Triangle in November 2011, promoting his book Ruhlman’s Twenty and telling a story at The Monti. In his story (he mentions it in Book Tour Blessings) he told about learning to kill a rabbit from Thomas Keller, chef at The French Laundry, one of the best restaurants on this planet.
I’d already been in awe of Chef Keller since reading about him in Michael’s The Soul of a Chef, but after hearing Michael tell the rabbit story that night, I figured there was no way I’d ever have a chance to meet such a star. And besides, I thought, he’s a chef, and surely he must safeguard his hands, so how could I ever shake his hand? (I like to shake hands.)
But this afternoon, after standing in line for an hour and a half in the warm but shady beer garden at Fearrington Village waiting to get the sumptuous Bouchon Bakery book signed, I was finally face to face with Chef Keller, and I was stunned when he reached across the table and warmly took my hand. His hand seemed large, and padded, and so gentle. I can’t say it was a shake, because I had the sensation he was holding my hand — maybe because I’d just told the Talk Story crowd on Wednesday about how Noel would hold my hand as we walked up the road to the Lironessa co-op (From There to Here).
Then Chef Keller was signing the book to the Zuiker Family, and pushing it over to co-author Sebastien Rouxel (he’s executive pastry chef for Keller’s restaurant empire). When I mentioned that Michael was a friend, and he is continuously inspiring me, Chef Keller reached out and shook my hand a second time. Michael had actually alerted him that I might be stopping by, and he relayed an endearing message that truly humbled me. I started to chat with Chef Rouxel, and my buddy Bora walked up (he’d just tweeted a picture of a goat to show me he was walking from his home nearby to meet up with me) and suddenly I was seated between the chefs and Bora was snapping a photo.
And then Chef Keller took my hand a third time, saying, “It’s really nice to meet you.” I walked away, happily holding the heavy, expensive cookbook, and I was thinking back to Michael’s story about the rabbits, about how Chef Keller shows enormous respect to the animals and ingredients and elements that go into his cooking. His handshakes seemed to impart that same respect to me today.
What a heavenly day in the garden.
Bothered by a sore back from touching up the paint on the house over the weekend, and crushed by all the projects and work tasks I’m juggling, I went to bed a bit early, thinking I’d get a good night of sleep. I set the alarm for 5:30 a.m., and planned to spend an hour writing and sipping tea before the family’s morning routine kicked in.
But sometime during the night, Oliver had crawled into the bed between me and Erin. He tossed and turned and kicked me in the face. I should move him back to his bed, I thought, but didn’t. When the alarm sounded, I rolled out of bed, not as rested as I wanted to be.
A hot cup of tea got me going, but no writing. Still, faced with the stresses of deadlines and responsibilities, what did I focus on? Another idea.
‘I wonder how I can get the BlogTogether Awards finally going,’ I thought. I’ve long wanted to grow the community service award — I gave it to David Kroll in 2011, and he gave it to Karyn Traphagen in 2012 — into a set of awards that we would give to others across the country who have bootstrapped communities, facilitated conversations and promoted the golden rule and the four Cs of inspiration.
The day is rolling along. Just wanted to get that idea onto the blog. One of these days, maybe with a full night of sleep, I’ll wake up and make this idea happen.
Not yet 5 p.m. as I begin to write this on Mother’s Day 2013, and we’ve just finished a most delicious dinner to honor Erin.
“A lovely meal,” she said, finishing the last of the molten chocolate cake that I’d drizzled with the homemade grenadine and topped with sliced strawberries that Oliver and I had picked after work on Friday.
Earlier, we’d sent Erin away for a massage and time to shop on her own. While Oliver and Malia watched a show, and Anna rested (she was away all yesterday on a band trip to Carowinds amusement park), I sat on the back porch drinking tea and reading the delightful Cooking in the Moment, by Lantern chef Andrea Reusing. (Andrea, an award-winning chef, had crafted a most memorable evening for our Long Table dinner with Michael Ruhlman in November 2011.) Cooking in the Moment is filled with really nice essays on food and farmers and friends and family. I especially like the way she writes about involving her daughter and other children in the process of gathering produce and cooking and eating.
As it happened, one of the reasons we’d sent Erin away was because Anna and Malia, my daughters, were going to cook with me today, following Mark Bittman’s Operation: Mother’s Day. Before we set to doing that, though, I followed an inspiration from Andrea and made ginger syrup. When Erin got home, I handed her a cocktail with muddled strawberries (the same fresh batch picked by Oliver), lime juice, vodka and the ginger syrup. “Oh, this is good,” she said after the first sip.
Soon after, we were seated around the dining room table, marveling at the deliciousness of the roasted-beet salad with goat cheese (beets and chevre purchased yesterday at the Carrboro Farmers Market, and lettuce picked from our backyard garden boxes this afternoon), the braised chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers, and that molten chocolate cake (made in ramekins borrowed from a neighbor in exchange for a jar of the ginger syrup). There wasn’t a single complaint from the kids.
Indeed, Anna and Malia both said that each dish was tasty. I’m sure that having helped over the course of a few hours to prepare and plate this meal, they appreciated the good food in front of them. Anna and I had learned how to separate a whole chicken into eight pieces, Malia learned how to melt bittersweet chocolate into melted butter, and together we practiced separating egg yolks from their whites. For a while, at least, we also followed the ‘clean as you cook’ rule to keep the kitchen tidy. A quick glance over at the counter now tells me we have room to improve. Still, a fantastic cooking experience today.
So, thank you, Anna and Malia, for working beside me in the kitchen, and a hearty thanks to Mark Bittman and Andrea Reusing for their inspiration and guidance.
And, thank you, Erin, for being the amazing, beautiful, loving, patient and generous mother to our children.
For his usual Friday cocktail blogging, Michael Ruhlman went with another drink that uses grenadine. This one also uses key lime, gin and applejack brandy. He’s calling it the Key Sunrise and in his recipe, he was nice enough to suggest using “Mister Sugar pomegranate syrup or other quality grenadine.” He links over to my 2008 post, In the mix, which I’d recently updated to include a howto paragraph about making the pomegranate syrup. And, the accompanying, awesome, photo by Donna Ruhlman features the bottle of grenadine I gave them at Christmas.
In an email exchange with Michael, I explained that I use the grenadine along with Cruzan rum to make the sunburned rum runners mentioned in that earlier post. As soon as I typed that to Michael, I was recalling the smell of molasses.
When I was 13 years old, I lived on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For the first few months there, we lived in Frederiksted, and to get to school each morning, we had to drive by a place where the Cruzan Rum distillery processed molasses. The pungent smell lingered in our car. When I visited the historic Annaberg Plantation on St. John later that year, I was sure I could smell molasses in the old sugar mill ruins.
In the St. Croix airport, in the corner of the arrivals terminal, Cruzan Rum kept a welcoming pitcher of rum punch. I recall walking up to the stand with my visiting grandfather (Frank the Beachcomber) and watching him enjoy a small cup.
Soon after I moved to North Carolina, I discovered that the ABC stores stock Cruzan Rum, and I always have a bottle on hand. Sometimes, I pay extra for the older single-barrel rum. I sip that neat, or with an ice cube. And when the bottle is getting low, I get a few vanilla beans, slit them, put them into a jar and cover them with the remaining rum. Four months later, I have vanilla extract, and when I use it for baking, I smell the vanilla and the rum, and I remember the smells of molasses and the Caribbean.
I’m surprised I never blogged about this, but I did find this definitive tweet:
Tonight, pomegranate seeds in sugar. Tomorrow, homemade grenadine syrup. Friday night, rumrunners with grenadine and Cruzan rum.— Anton Zuiker (@mistersugar) November 7, 2007
Erin and I and the children have embarked on an ambitious spring cleaning of our home, and I’ve spent many hours sifting through sheafs of papers — so many old bank statements and school notes and holiday cards and junk mail has accumulated, in file cabinets and boxes and piles on the floor. Feels good to discard all that crap, and the house is looking really good.
I joked at one point that I’d love to have an airlock at the front door that incinerated any papers before they could enter — and clutter — the house.
But, amidst all the worthless paper, I’ve found a lot of my writings and other documents worth saving. One stapled set of papers was an article about influenza that I had written for Cleveland Magazine. I’d forgotten all about that. Another paper was a draft of an essay I’d written about the television show Survivor Vanuatu. I scanned the essay, but couldn’t recall where I’d published or posted it.
A couple of days later, I got a cryptic email message from a Duke colleague, saying he now understood my connection to the city of Durham. He directed me to the Independent newsweekly, where I found that editor Lisa Sorg had written a fun Illustrated Encyclopedia of Durham. For Z, she’d selected me to bring up the end of the alphabet.
If you follow Anton on Twitter (@mistersugar) or his blog (mistersugar.com), he’ll fill your head with lots of scientific esoterica and random thoughts that add up to … something. Zuiker (it means “sugar” in Dutch) co-founded the annual ScienceOnline Together conference. He also hosts Talk Story, a live storytelling performance similar to The Monti.
While I was at the Indy’s site, I searched for a couple of other times that I’ve been in the paper, and that’s how I found that my Survivor Vanuatu essay had run there in December 2004.
I have other essays and newspaper clips, as well as college term papers and poems written when I was in Hawaii, spread across boxes and binders and folders. For the longest time, my high school papers were in the attic in two yellow cardboard banana boxes that I’d gotten from the supermarket behind my house in DeKalb, Illinois. In the closet, a big plastic bin contains most of the letters that Erin and I wrote and received when we were Peace Corps volunteers in Vanuatu. And, this blog has 13 years of my thoughts and observations. What does it all add up to? I’m not sure, but a couple of months ago I started to ponder if a redesign of this site might help us all find out.
Meanwhile, I’m actively using the new Fargo outliner, and so I’m watching with interest as Dave Winer explores Blogging 2.0. I imagine he and Kyle Shank will develop something important. In fact, I used Fargo this week to keep track of the news items and memories and observations that I wanted to write here on my blog. The previous, and coming, entries are some of those items. (I didn’t use the Fargo-to-Wordpress functionality because this blog uses Textpattern, but I think there’s a way for me to connect it soon.)
Out shopping this morning for the Mother’s Day meal the kids and I will cook tomorrow, I picked up five more copies of the Independent. For my archives. And that’s how my house gets filled with paper.
But it gave me something to blog about.
Another news report I heard this week on WUNC was that Campbell University now has a Homeland Security degree to teach students about “domestic and international terrorist groups and delve into the background of countries where terror organizations have historically formed.”
More than 20 years ago, I took a class at John Carroll University about the psychology of terrorism. Thomas Evans, who had profiled terrorist groups for the CIA, taught us about the various groups and individuals — Carlos the Jackal, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, Red Brigades, and others — who were behind bombings and hijackings and killings around the world. Professor Evans is still teaching at Carroll. I’m sure his terrorism classes are as interesting, and timely, as ever.
The class I took with Evans was taught in the Bohannon Science Center, an ugly building that was replaced by a parking lot when the new Dolan Science Center was built. I wrote about that in my Northern Ohio Live innovations column. I also blogged about the seismograph that was in the Bohannon foyer, the machine of one of the Jesuit priests who was an earthquake expert.
Cleveland was in the news this week, with the dramatic discovery that three young women had been held in captivity for nearly 10 years. Here in our home in North Carolina, we’ve talked about that around our dinner table, reinforcing messages of safety and trust and how to respond in moments of danger.
We’ve also talked about punishment. On the radio, we heard that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty is considering the death penalty for the perpetrator of these crimes.
I was thinking about McGinty recently. Back in 2000, I helped him edit an article that he submitted to a law journal. I used the money from that to buy a computer (made by Pony Computer, where I was working at the time on the PlanetKnowHow startup). I wrote the first few years of this blog on that computer, and I rebuilt it a few times with updated software, new hard drives and even a new motherboard and chipset. But it’s been sitting in a box in the closet for quite a while now, so I took out the hard drive and prepared it for donation. The box has been bumping around in the back of the van, and this week I’ll drop it off to to the United Way of the Greater Triangle.
Over at Medium, I’ve posted an essay about having dengue fever and what I realized last week about my role in research. Have a read: Bitten by the research bug