Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My secondary career in baking

Some people know me only from my articles, essays, and book, but I'm still enjoying small crumbs of notoriety for  the official Banana Slug cookie I developed for UC Santa Cruz, pictured below.

When I say "developed," I am speaking only of the cookie's shape and design, not the ingredients, the frosting or anything else. I had no say in the butter content, amount of sugar, etc. I developed the Banana Slug cookie cutter by buying a very cheap cat-shaped cookie cutter and hitting it with a hammer until it looked more or less like the Slug mascot of UCSC. Then I sent specifications and the cookie cutter to The Buttery bake shop, telling them where to place the eyes, the smiley mouth, and so on.



You are probably wondering why I am flogging this same old news on my blog once more. Well, here is the reason: Recently, Chancellor George Blumenthal mentioned these cookies (prominently) in his list of Top 10 happy moments during his years on campus. He read the list out loud during the recent Alumni Weekend festivities. To mark the occasion, the Buttery baked up a brand-new batch of these cookies (photographs below.)

Here is the chancellor's list, verbatim. The cookie is mentioned in item number six.

UCSC has been my happy place for 41 years. Here's a Top Ten list that captures just ten favorite memories:

#10: My very first visit to campus, as a UC San Diego grad student attending an all-UC conference. It was amazing. I'd never seen a campus like this.

#9: Cold dark matter. This campus allowed me, as a researcher, to make a significant contribution, for which I will always be grateful.

#8: The moment the elevator I was stuck in opened on October 17, 1989--45 minutes after the Loma Prieta earthquake struck.

#7: The East Field is one of my favorite places. The view is spectacular; it's where my investiture as chancellor took place, and this is where commencement takes place each spring. It's a very happy place.

#6: The day in 1986 when students made the Banana Slug our official campus mascot. The slug prevailed, besting the sea lion in a campuswide vote. On the 25th anniversary in 2011, the Buttery made special-edition banana slug cookies, and the City Council proclaimed September 27th the "Day of the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug Mascot." How far we've come!

#5: The first time I biked up to campus. I made it to the top, but it wasn't easy!

#4: I have had the pleasure of knowing all four of UCSC's alumni regents: Paul Hall, Alan Goodman, Gary Novack, and Ken Feingold.They've all done great work for the campus and the university, and they make me proud.

#3: I'm pleased to have played a behind-the-scenes role in securing a staff advisor to the Regents. The story includes a hushed conversation with a UCLA staffer that took place behind a potted palm—I felt a little like James Bond!

#2: This one goes back to 1983 or so: The day I gave my professor's inaugural lecture at Oakes College was a very happy moment. Making full professor and being introduced by Herman Blake was a winning combination!

My #1 happy memory from this happy place is pretty recent: On February 1, I had the honor of accompanying astronomy professor Sandy Faber to the White House where President Obama presented her with the National Medal of Science. What a moment. It's one we can all share and in which we can take great pride."

Anyhow, thank you, Buttery Bakery, for keeping my cookies alive. As graduation draws near for UCSC, look for more of my cookies at the bakery. They should have them as a seasonal offering for at least a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Golem in Manhattan

Congratulations to my friend Helene Wecker on the publication (today!) of her first novel, The Golem and the Jinni. I just recorded a detailed Q and A with Helene, who told me all about the development, writing process and research that led to this marvelous new book. Look for that this summer (I will share the venue as soon as I have the specifics.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coming soon: intensive memoir workshop with author Micah Perks at UC Santa Cruz

Methods and Materials: Memoir is an intensive, advanced creative writing course in memoir writing. For students in the creative writing concentration or by permission of instructor.

June 24-July 5, no class July 4, 1-5 each day, five credits. Sign up begins April 15 through UCSC summer session office. Email Micah Perks, meperks@ucsc.edu for more info. Micah Perks is the author of a novel, short stories, and the memoir, Pagan Time, which is available in paperback, ebook and audio from audible.com. Her personal essays have appeared and are forthcoming on The Rumpus, an online arts and culture magazine.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mollusk melt: introducing the world's first Banana Slug/Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Get a load of this! Kirstin Guinn, my co-worker here at UCSC, has designed what must be the first Banana Slug/Grilled Cheese Sandwich. No actual slugs were harmed in the making of this gooey concoction, but I'm proud to say that Kirstin used my home-made banana slug cookie cutter to stamp out these two slug sandwiches, which are lying right beside each other on the orange plate. You'll notice that the slug in the foreground has capers for eyes, a bread body, and pepper-jack cheese dripping out of his midsection.

Anyways, I asked Kirstin just now: what possessed you to make this particular sandwich? "One of the things I do as a social media manager is find weird holidays and then figure out how to celebrate them online, usually with photos as that makes everything more compelling," she explained. "When I found out from a fellow social media manager that today is National Grilled Cheese Day, I immediately knew this was one to celebrate (as all college students love grilled cheese almost as much as they love Ramen). I started thinking about making grilled cheese so I could photo the sandos and post them and then I walked past your office and saw the outline you made with your banana slug cookie cutter that hangs in your window. I love it when a plan comes together . . . . "

Sharp-eyed blog readers will notice that the slugs are resting their sleepy heads on a bed of freshly plucked cilantro. Yum.  Stay tuned for boll weevil quiche and broccoli-cricket ice cream!

Food photography by: Kirstin Guinn

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

UC Santa Cruz's boogie-woogie sea lion dances to Earth, Wind & Fire, and the Backstreet Boys

Normally I don't upload videos but I made an exception for this one.      

  Next week: see what happens when they cue up a Slayer CD!

Just kidding. Speaking of 'just kidding," this video was released on April Fool's Day, but I can assure you that it's real.