The last day

Movers are here. Cat is dispatched to new, temporary, home. Everything is upheaval, chaos. Day is beautiful San Francisco, warm and sunny. View to Mt. Tam and Marin, with Golden Gate Bridge, aches my heart. No time for reflection. Off to Paris in 24 hours. The end of one phase and the beginning of the next. Good-bye San Francisco. Good-bye.

1880 Census Data Online

The 1880 US census data is now online and available for free searching. I spotted this the other day via Metafilter and did some quick poking around to see if I could find any ancestors. Lo and behold, I turned up Charlie Curtiss (living at the time with Henry Coolidge and family). Charlie would go on to marry Henry's daughter Lizzie in 1886. My great-grandmother Lottie Curtis would be born six years later. I also turned up Charlie's father (my great-great-great grandfather) Sumner Curtis living with his wife Angeline (Rice) Curtis in Vermont but the site is so overwhelmed I can't get that data to load now.

It's pretty cool to be able to find this stuff online, and also interesting to see the discrepencies in the data. Our family bibles (from which I built branches of my family tree several years back) lists "Charlie Curtiss" as "Charles Sumner Curtis" (one S). And "Lizzie D. Coolidge" is recorded as "Lizzie Gray Coolidge." I can almost picture my great-great-grandmother say "G" with a strong accent that caused the census taker to write down "D" instead. It's amazing what stories I can concoct for these ancestors just by seeing their census data online.

From the NYer: The Duel

There's a wonderful piece in this week's The New Yorker by Jesse Lichtenstein called The Duel, a series of letters in which President Bush demands a "Gentleman's Satisfaction" with Saddam Hussein to settle their differences. If you've ever read any 18th century correspondence (Thos. Jefferson's, for example) this may delight you even further. In addition it contains the phrases "seditious Moustaches" and the Shakespeareian-sounding "Cankerous Blight."

Adaptation Screening

I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of Adaptation at SFMOMA last night (thanks New Yorker Nights series and Rebecca for the tip!) and it was really something. Having read the book it was sometimes difficult for me to relax and enjoy the flow of the movie, my brain kept jumping ahead to "what was next." Of course, my brain was often wrong because the movie, at least the first half, does not proceed like the book or chronologically. It jumps back and forth between years and decades and centuries to create its story and only becomes more linear as the film heads for the finish. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again when it's released. There was too much richness to absorb in one sitting.

The true delight of the evening was meeting Susan Orlean. She was just as I imagined she would be — ebullient and gracious and wonderfully at ease while the hubbub of a movie fictionalizing parts of her life swirled about her. Now I am paying the price for such a wonderful evening: I'm exhausted and I have a zillion things to do in preparation for our move next week. Guh.

The Wedding Cake

I haven't had the time to write-up my experience making a wedding cake for my friends Lane and Courtney's wedding but I've finally found a photo of it to which I can point you: the wedding cake in action. Outside is rolled fondant, inside is Red Velvet cake. And when I say red, I mean red. For a first wedding cake, I don't think it turned out too badly. But I'm not sure I'm up for doing another wedding cake, at least not anytime soon!

Cake baking tips

Do you bake cakes a lot? Hate to grease and flour those cake pans? Then do I have the recommendation for you. There's this amazing product called Baker's Joy (it's no misnomer) that's a simple spray, a la Pam, but with flour included. I was skeptical but I used it last week when I baked a wedding cake (three 12"x2", two 9"x2", and two 6"x"2" batches). It worked perfectly! Took less than five seconds to coat an entire pan and the cakes flipped out perfectly when done. Not one bit stuck inside. Two thumbs up. If I had any more thumbs, it would get a higher rating.

Tip two: Magi-Cake strips. You soak these puppies in water then wrap them around the outside of the cake pans. They prevent the outside of your cake from cooking too quickly (causing it to rise unevenly) and the result is a perfectly level cake. My cakes, after coming out of the pans perfectly, were as flat as boards. No messy leveling required!

If you bake at all, I highly recommend both of these products. I found the Baker's Joy at my local Andronico's and the Magi-Cake strips are available at Sur La Table.

The End of the West

There's an interesting article in this month's Atlantic by Charles Kupchan, The End of the West. The premise is that, "[t]he next clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest but between the United States and Europe–and Americans remain largely oblivious" Kupchan posits that the USA/EU similarities are superficial and that fundamentally the two superpowers (if one can call the EU a superpower at this point) hold quite different values and belief systems. His analogy for the power-shift and rivalry? Rome and Constantinople and the fate of the Roman Empire after its division into eastern and western halves. Something interesting to think about, especially next month when I'm in Paris experiencing the EU life first-hand.