Friday, August 31, 2007

Dental

I am not a fan of flossing. But if you have to, Plackers is about the best way I've found. With what few teeth I have left...

Photos

I tend to look at a lot of web sites that are oriented toward photography, and a fair number of those are erotic photography -- of which a small subset is out-and-out porn. Most are not. (I know: Subset -- yeah, right!)

I don't find a lot of sites that talk about the techniques used in photography, though, and thats really what I want to know. Nekkid wimmen? You bet -- but, um, how did you get that lighting? How did that pose evolve? Did you take fifty, of which this is the best, or five, or aim for just this specific one? How much input did you get from the model, if you used one? And where did you get that backdrop, anyway? Not too many sites talk about that side of photography. It's usually just: Here's my pictures, what do you think, if you want to hire me, give me a call.

All of this is a lead in to mentioning Marcus Ranum's site. I like his approach, and I like his imagery. It's thoughtful.

Blogger Virus

From the BBC:

Google's Blogger site is being used by malicious hackers who are posting fake entries to some blogs.

The fake entries contain weblinks that lead to booby-trapped downloads that could infect a Windows PC.

STORM WORM SUBJECT LINES
are you kidding me? lol
Dude dont send that stuff to my home email...
Dude your gonna get caught, lol
HAHAHAHAHAHA, man your insane!
I cant belive you did this
LMAO, your crazy man
LOL, dude what are you doing
man, who filmed this thing?
oh man your nutz
OMG, what are you thinking

Power

I assume that the overwhelming majority of people in no way assume that they can affect the Great Events of life -- the national poverty level, the number of people without health coverage, political coarseness, people laid off due to corporate malfeasance of one sort or another. The odd thing is, I do think I can affect it. I can't, I know -- but when I don't, somehow I feel like 'I should have'.

I think that the only answer is the classic 'think globally, act locallly'. Though I still don't know how to do that.

Friday

It's going to be an interesting couple of days, I do believe.

In no particular order --

My wife's working from home, so that she can prep the daughteroids hair for the first public outing of the color guard this year, which occurs late today. My wife's a tad distracted, as its not fun to be reminded that while she is working, the other half of the partnership is essentially able to do stuff around the house, bake, or just take a nap, as he chooses. Grr....

The daughteroid, who, having slaved through four days of school, now has the next four days off; oh, the trauma. She and I are going down to the eyeglass store to have her current eyeglasses' lenses inserted into a new pair. Always irritating when they don't tell you that the frames change -- they had to hunt the chain's other stores to find a pair, and overnight them up here from Nashville.

Later today, I'll be doing the shopping, and we've a bunch of errands to do, primarily involving a trip to Linens And Things, which is just across the street from a bookstore, so I imagine we'll pop in there.

This weekend is the Kipona festival, which is okay if you like tons of people in a small space buying badly made food (not all of it, but most) and kitschy crafts (not all of them, but most ), with no parking nearby, and no shuttle-bus service, either. We won't be going; or, if we do, not for more than an hour, which is my personal grief limit.

I did find this post this morning, about IBM and LEAN, which I liked, both it and the comment someone named Richard made there.

Maybe I'll go back to bed....without telling my wife, of course.

=================
Update: Should have. I took her to the glasses store, waited half an hour for the clerk to inform me that the lenses were damaged because she'd tried to glue them in (I don't blame her for trying), arranged an eye exam for replacement lenses, got home to find that we knew her prescription, and now I get to go back just to drop off the prescription.... and then get to go back again when they're in.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Joy of Sox

Some years ago, there was a commercial -- about what, I've no idea -- which ended with the husband sitting next to his wife and saying, with a smile "My wife -- I think I'll keep her". I picked up on that line about five years ago, only I changed it -- when I would mislay one of my socks, and it would turn up, I would say "My socks -- I think I'll keep them". My wife, who is a pretty good sport, would smile.

This morning, we were going out for a walk, and I mentioned that she would find one of my grey socks on the floor in front of the door. I had taken them off when coming in from mowing -- don't mow wet grass unless you're willing to have the clippings all over your legs -- and I had intended to shake them out and toss them into the bedroom hamper. I only grabbed one when I was going upstairs, though, and so the next time I went down there, I made sure to grab the other and toss it where I would see it when we came back in. To my surprise, it wasn't on the floor any more -- it was on the table next to the door.

My wife was already outside, waiting for me, so when I got out there, I asked her about it, and she told me that she'd wanted to make sure it didn't get kicked aside. "Because I know those socks are important to you", she added, with a straight face. "Yes", I replied, walking down the driveway. "They are very dear to me. In fact, they're right next to my sole."

She held her head in her hands, groaning.

Is she great, or what?

Not as Bright as I Thought!

I mentioned to a friend of my daughter's that my math instructors in high school were basically aimed at math geeks; if you weren't one, they weren't interested. Which is not really fair to them, but thats how it felt to an underachiever like I was. In fact, I said, it wasn't till I was 35 or so that I learned what 'polar coordinates' were.... at which point, there's not much use for them. So what are they? she asked. I gave her a quick description, but truth to tell, I could barely remember. When I got back, I did a GSearch on the phrase.

Apparently, mathematicians still can't speak English.... and I don't know as much as I thought I did.

Note

I mentioned a while back that I would stop putting political comments here, because I thought they might be scaring people off. What a hothead! Hope not, but maybe..... however, that doesn't mean that I don't still think about those things, or want to comment about them. If you're interested, those comments can be found here.

Oven-Bound

Doing a little baking today. The menu calls for home-made pizza, so I whipped the ingredients for honey-wheat dough together and put it into a warmed (but off) oven to rise for a while. Meanwhile, I'm also making some soft pretzels, but not for the obvious reason: my wife said that the last time I made soft pretzels, I saved some of the dough and made rolls of it, which she thought was pretty tasty. Problem is, I have two soft pretzel recipes, and based on their dates, I looked at both of them within the last month. Argh!

Both of them, incidentally, are below.

Auntie Anne's Pretzels Clone

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast (1 1/2 pkg)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp baking soda
To taste, coarse salt
2 - 4 tbsp butter (melted)

Preparation Instructions:

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.
While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 tbsp baking soda. Be certain to stir often.
After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope(about 1/2" or less thick) and shape. Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again.
Bake in oven at 450°F for about 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter and enjoy!

Toppings:

After you brush with butter try sprinkling with coarse salt. Or for Auntie Anne's famous Cinnamon Sugar, try melting a stick of butter in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the entire pretzel) and in another shallow bowl make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Dip the pretzel into the butter, coating both sides generously. Then dip again into the cinnamon mixture. Enjoy!

================================
German Soft Pretzels
Makes 1 dozen pretzels.

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons Baking soda in 6 cups water
Coarse salt

In a bowl , dissolve yeast in water.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the oil, and sugar.
Beat for about 3 minutes to make a smooth batter.
Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny(about 5 minutes) adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until double(about 1 hour).

Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured board,and divide into 12 pieces.
Shape each into a smooth ball by gently kneading.
Roll each into a smooth rope about 18 inches long, and twist into a pretzel shape.
Place slightly apart on a greased baking sheet turning loose ends underneath.
Let rise, uncovered,until puffy(about 25 minutes)

Meanwhile, in a 3-quart stainless steel or enameled pan (not aluminum) bring soda water to a boil; adjust water to keep water boiling gently.
With a slotted spatula, lower 1 pretzel at a time into pan.
Let simmer for 10 seconds on each side,then lift from water,drain briefly on spatula, and return to baking sheet.
Let dry briefly, then sprinkle with coarse salt (or butter, then sprinkle with salt) and let stand,uncovered, until all have simmered.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer to racks; serve warm with butter, mustard or even cream cheese. Or let cool completely,wrap airtight,and freeze.
To reheat, place frozen on ungreased baking sheets and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until hot.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Going

But, which door to use?

Personally, I'm fond of the ones in Iran, Korea, Edinburgh (Scotland), and Australia. Some of the others...well, I'd better not need to get in there in a hurry!

Sloppy, Sloppy

I don't know if I'm turning into my in-laws (you have to know a family story to get that reference), but today I thought a lot about food.

Mostly, I thought about recipes, and what I could find in one of the cookbooks that I have (its one I got from my mother for my birthday; its basic, but thats okay, cause thats the kind of cook I am). I had already listed out what I wanted to make for dinner tonight; this was just to see what else might pop up from reading that. Once I find whatever's in there, I'll digitize it and give the cookbook away to the local college for their book sale.

But I was also thinking: if I go to the CIA one week baking boot camp, I wonder if I could then start an informal school locally to teach kids how to bake? It'd be really basic things, mostly munchies (like the cookies I made two days ago) but also some things that'd be suitable for Christmas and such. Perhaps even a couple of baking-impaired mothers might want to attend... you think?

Food, overall, is going to be a problem for me, come about two weeks from now. From what I gather, I won't really be able to chew very much -- no biting at all for at least two weeks, and more likely 4-6 weeks -- as the bone graft takes root in my jaw. I'm thinking I ought to look for some liquid alternatives, like 'breakfast shakes' and the like that I can make at home. Many of those are for the health food and granola group, but not all. Gotta look.

As for dinner: I had said I would make Sloppy Joes, and thats what I'm doing, but instead of our standard (brown beef, drain, add chili sauce, done), I'm making this recipe, which I'd found on the web some time ago:

Sloppy Joes
Estimated Time: 30min


2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1/2 ea Spanish onion, diced
2 fl oz ketchup
1 c water
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 c sauce, tomato, about 1 can
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper, to taste
4 ea kaiser rolls, extra as needed


1 Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in beef and onions and cook until liquid has evaporated and meat begins to brown,
about 15 minutes.

2 Stir in ketchup, water, Worcestershire, mustard, cayenne, tomato sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has a thick, stew-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

3 While the meat stews, split rolls open and toast. Serve the mixture on the toasted rolls.


We'll see how it turns out.
==========
Update: not bad. I changed the recipe (not this copy) to double the ketchup, halve the cayenne. And I never did put the black pepper in, which I think was a good move. But we'd make it again -- pretty easy to do.

Quizzical Physics

I'm not going to say I understand all of this. But I like it.

Contractors

Contractors can be the bane of owning a house. They don't come when they said they would, or they don't do what they said they would, or they don't get done when they said they would.

But sometimes, you can get motivated, quick ones....if they have an interesting project....

iGotcha

I don't have much use for hackers, as a rule. I know that the original concept is 'people who figure things out', and creativity is a wonderful thing. I know that it became perverted by scum who use their skills, either actual or 'script-kiddy' type, to rampage through web sites for their own pleasure or for gain. Hacking isn't the unalloyed good that the practictioners want you to believe it is. Not even close.

But this, I like.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who Would You Rather Be?

From XKCD....



(funny, but not really safe for work, kids, etc)

Organizing

One of the things that I've been doing with my suddenly-copious spare time is getting all of the recipes that we have in multiple places into some kind of order. Primarily, that means categorizing them, tossing the ones we didn't like or won't ever make, and getting a digital copy. Of course, as soon as you say 'copy', you have the potential for a problem, where one copy says one thing, and one says something else -- which is why the Cincinnati Chili that we made last week ended up being a double batch. Good thing we like it.

Frequently, I'll find a recipe that I had typed up and put onto an index card, or a sheet of paper, but I don't have the original. After I laboriously retyped some of that, and once or twice scanned it (its a mark of our age that even OCR sounds tedious, sometimes), I wondered: if I got these from the web, are they still there? And since then, I always do a quick search before doing any other actions. And about 90% of the time, I find it -- either the exact recipe, or the original that I'd then modified -- as in the chili, where the original makes a big batch, but our notated copy said 'Make Half'.

Thus, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when Google doesn't find the original, so if I want to have a digital copy, I need to type it in. And since I wanted a digital version of recipe for the cookies I made today, I have to, so...

Chunky Chocolate Almond Shortbread

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lightly packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds
4 oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup sugar in a plastic bag

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, or leave ungreased.
3. Let butter come to room temperature.
4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into small bowl and set aside.
5. Cream butter, brown sugar, vanilla in medium bowl until light and fluffy (about a minute.). Scrape sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
6. Add the egg white and mix until blended, about 10 seconds.
7. Add flour mixture and ground almonds and beat for 20 seconds on low speed.
8. Scrape the bowl.
9. Add chocolate and coarsely chopped almonds; beat on low speed until incorporated
10. Measure rounded teaspoons of dough and roll into balls.
11. Put each dough ball into bag of sugar and shake to coat.
12. Place balls 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten each ball.
13. Bake until firm and crunchy through, about 21 minutes

Chaos: Theory and Practice

Well, the school year is only in its first week, second day, and already we're in a state of moderate chaos.

Part of it is because the color guard people have ramped up the amount of practice that they want to do, to a level that we think isn't sustainable. Apparently, its just supposed to be for one to two weeks, but its a lot, no matter how long. My daughter's already talking about dropping out. We think its that she's overwhelmed by the complexity of the routines that they do, and the amount of effort that they have to put into practice.

Also, last night, in the 'sectional' practice, she dropped a necklace. I told her that I would go over to the high school this morning and hunt around for it; fortunately, I asked if she'd like to come along, and she did -- and actually found it, which was quite the trick, as it was a dark cord necklace against grass and dirt. But thats half an hour of my life I won't get back.

Though thats really not fair, as I was up a little early to see if I could see the lunar eclipse. As is normal when I try to do things like that, I couldn't. When the Perseid meteor shower happened, I went out around 4AM, and was surprised to see that even around here, there was enough night-time glow from lights that the sky was faintly illuminated, wiping out the shower display. This morning was hazy, and I didn't see the moon at all, let alone, eclipsed. Unless you want to call haze an eclipsing event.

This morning, my wife's going to see a doctor about some swelling that she's had. This doctor checks her every six months or so for a blood problem, and thats one of the things he looks for, so she figured she should go to him. Makes sense to me, much as I hate doctors, period.

And in about two weeks, I'll have the bone graft surgery, which means about one to two months of chewing very carefully. I can hardly wait.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Community Activism

...at its finest.

Ballin'

Meatballs, in a sauce of grape jelly and Heinz sauce, cooked in a crockpot, has been a staple of our family ever since we got the recipe from a friend. Then, at the infamous Band Booster Meeting (I did briefly consider asking why it didn't say Color Guard, too, just to stir up the flames....but I didn't), one of the families made a crockpot meal of meatballs, in a mixture of barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and water. I wondered if this was one of those recipes that had started on a commerical site, and mutated, so I did a search for those terms.

Seven hundred and sixty eight pages! Yeah, I guess so.... but with all kinds of variations and additions -- pineapple, vinegar, mayonnaise (!), flour, cranberry sauce..... endless mutations.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Apple Meat Balls result

We were pleased but not delighted with the AMB recipe.

It seemed to take a bit to make. Part of it was more measuring, and part is that we just 'know' how to make the normal ones, so these, we had to keep checking the recipe.

Frying them (rather than baking, as we normally do) seemed to result in a softer MB than we like. We couldn't really taste the apple -- my wife thought she could, a bit -- and the potato chips didn't add more than a slight tang. The marinade (for lack of a better word) was okay but not great.

We'll try it again, though; next time, we bake, and we have it with a regular tomato-based sauce. Probably no potato chips, either.

Sir Vader



Made at Reasonably Clever....

Working

No, I didn't get a job. I was just thinking about working.

I worked for a major computer software company for a bit over twenty years, and then for another major one for about six years. I'd still be with the last one had they not been doing layoffs as a method of budget enhancement, which I suppose is a logical extension of the concept of the employee as a 'resource' -- ie, 'Human Resources' -- instead of a person. Costs too much, chop 'em.

Whats weird to me is that I kind of wish I was still working at that last company. Its weird because I don't want to work, full time, again. I was tired of that, so their decision to pitch me was timed fairly well. My plan, such as it was, ran along the lines of leaving next June, so they accelerated it by about nine months, given the severance package they laid upon me.

But whats weird, as I say, is that I'd still like to work there anyway. Not as an employee -- just because I liked being able to say that I worked for them. Though they're screwed up in some major ways, I just liked being part of that group -- liked having some things with the familiar blue logo, liked seeing that on emails and such. I liked being in a company with smart people doing challenging things, even if I never met them and my own stuff was grunt work most of the time. I even liked some of the trivia, like 'how many blue lines are in the logo', knowing which has no value whatsoever. I just liked it.

Weird.

Oh -- and, its 'forty blue lines, assuming a blue on a white background, and counting each slash separately; 26, if white on blue'. In case you wondered.

That Article, Again

I read that article again this morning. The names were different, the company involved was different, but the article and its content was the same.

Midwestern company closes its plants, people out of work, lives disrupted due to drastically reduced income, lost health benefits, unclear options, limited if any governmental assistance.

I know that there are good reasons for companies to close. I know that not all jobs are forever. I know that people need to understand this, and to prepare for life without the company, just in case.

And I know that when I read about this kind of event occuring, I want to find the senior executives involved in the decision to close the plants, put them on the bus, and take them out to the archery range.

As targets.

Art

You know what they say -- I may not know art, but I know what I like. And it'd be easy to say that it's obvious why I like this -- because it starts with an image that's got a naked woman in it. But that's not the reason. I like it because the image has a soft, flowing quality, and because, in the succeeding pictures, you can see it being created.

The naked's not bad. But the whole of it, from the Hubert Delartique web site, is pretty terrific.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mudslides in Pennsylvania

The first batch are out of the oven. My daughter's reaction upon eating the first one?

"I'm sorry. You can't have any."

From the CIA Baking at Home collection:

MUDSLIDE COOKIES

Flourless cooking spray for greasing
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon powdered instant coffee
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
7 large eggs
2 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups chopped walnuts
1. 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Combine the instant coffee and boiling water to make a paste. Blend in the vanilla extract.

Melt the chopped unsweetened chocolate, chopped bittersweet chocolate and the butter in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in 15- to 20-second intervals. Gently stir to blend.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar and coffee paste mixture on high speed until light in texture and thick, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture with the machine running on medium speed. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. Mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips until blended. Scrape down the bowl as needed during mixing to blend evenly.

Using a 1/4-cup measure as a scoop, fill it with dough, level it, and drop the dough onto a prepared cookie sheet, leaving 3 to 4 inches between the cookies. In batches, bake until the cookies are cracked on top but still slightly moist, rotating the pans as necessary to bake evenly, 14 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 24 large cookies.

MidDay

Well, for someone who was in a grumpy mood a bit ago, I'm not doing too badly.

Things were pretty good for most of the day. I added some dough to the sourdough starter, planning to bake it this afternoon. I had wanted to make a vanilla sponge cake this morning, and some 'mudslide cookies', both for the practice, but I didn't have enough eggs -- one called for 5 eggs plus 5 yolks, and the other called for 4 eggs. Ah, no. So I tabled that, went out at lunch, picked up the daughter and her friend at band camp....which is when things started to go downhill for a while.

Not big things --- just things like I wanted to say something nice to one girl about her camo backpack, and as I turned to do that, another hustling girl bumped into me, glared as if it were my fault, and then the girl with the backpack reacted as if I'd made a salacious proposal. My daughter leapt out of the car to get a friend, and damn near got hit by another car (okay, maybe it wasn't that close, but close enough). When she got back in the car, with her friend, I told her that I thought what she'd done was terminally stupid, and her friend started to ride her on it, which she didn't like (not that she was thrilled by my comment, either). After we dropped the friend off, I apologised to her; though I made sure she knew that I still thought it was dumb, I also made sure she knew why I was so incensed at that precise moment that I had to speak harshly to her even though her friend was there. Then we went off to buy her new sneakers (ouch, those are expensive), and as we left, she told me that 'Mom always takes the old ones home to decide if we'll throw away or give away'. Well, they were pretty ratty, and I don't much care for the idea of giving stuff to charity that looks ratty to me, but still, the comparison bugged me. We stopped at a bakery, behind an elderly indecisive man...and by the time we got home, the lawn was starting to dry, and looked ragged, even in the places where I'd mowed this morning.

So I was in a bit of a funk.

But after a piece of pizza, and some flabbered water, and then a piece of my own raisin bread (which, once firm, is better than I thought), I feel better. But now, I want to take a nap...even though I also want to bake, and mow. Nap first, I think.

Giving the Arm



I know zip, pretty much, about robotics, and even less about mechanical engineering. But this robotic arm, made to be the literal equivilent of a human arm (with all of the parts of a human arm) is, I think, quite cool.

From the Festo site, home of some very talented people.

One Liners

I had a wonderful conversation with my wife at breakfast. This is not unusual -- we frequently have conversations that remind me of what an interesting person she is -- but it just happened, and since I'm here, I wanted to mention it.

One of the things she told me, after we were through talking about the band meeting yesterday, was that the band people want the 'one liners'. It turns out that those are the phrases that will go into the yearbook -- 'Love and Kisses to Our Wonderful Daughter from Mom and The Wierd Guy She Lives With' -- but I told her that when I hear that phrase, I think of one liners: -you know, 'She's so fat, when she sits around the house, she sits around the house' -- that kind of thing. So, I said, I'd pay serious money for these one-liners --

After that band boosters meeting, if you think I'm ever volunteering for anything to do with this, think again, bozo!

Love and Kisses to our Daughter, and also that cutie in the third row of the marching band, who can make a quick twenty bucks by calling this number....

...
but she told me we couldn't do that. Even when I said that the twenty bucks was to mow the lawn. No..um.. really !

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bickering

Tonight I went to a pot-luck dinner held by the Band Boosters association, in support of both the band and the color guard. As part of that, a meeting was held to review and approve bylaw changes for the assocation. The meeting almost immediately dissolved into bickering, the thrust of which was a) 'I didn't hear about these changes until tonight', b) 'You reference Robert's Rules of Order in some places, but not in others, so this whole thing is invalid', and c) 'I don't agree with some/all of these changes'. After extensive back and forth, they agreed to table the motion, and to vote the next time. Along the way, several heated remarks were made. Some were justifiable, and some were not.

I despise confrontation, I despise bullies, and I despise rigorous adherents to procedures.

Mown Down

This morning, I dropped my daughter and her friend off at color guard practice. Their enthusiasm is beginning to wane, a bit. Good thing there's only three more days.

When I dropped them, I said that I'd be out mowing this morning, so that if she wanted to get me, she should call my cell phone, which I would have with me. So, of course, she called the house phone, leaving a message that she '..needed my stupid kstmm so bring it right away'. I listened to it twice before figuring out that the garbled word was 'costume', ie, her CG outfit that she'd just gotten yesterday. I recalled seeing it, and hearing her mother say that she'd hang it in her closet, so I dove into there, hunting for ten minutes before calling her mother and asking where the HELL it was....of course. Its in the plastic bag lying in a nondescript heap on the floor at the end of her bed, half-slid off the big pillow and partially covered by a pair of jeans.

So I whipped over there and discovered that it is freaking impossible to pick out one girl in a mass of color guard people, especially when they're marching back and forth in front of the band, who's also practicing their routines that integrate with the CG. I sat there for thirty minutes, occasionally walking back and forth, looking at the piles of bags that the girls had left for my daughter's stuff. All I could recall was that she has a blue and white water jug.

Want to guess what the most popular color of water jug is?

So I called her mother again, who said that she usually had a bright yellow bag, which I then hunted for, and didn't find. You'd think that the two women orchestrating the exercises would be curious about who this guy was, hunting through the bags, but guess not. So I sat some more, figuring that they'd be taking a break soon -- which they did, finally, the whole band trailing off, leaving just the Guard. None of whom seemed to be my daughter. What?

I decided to go back to the school, and as I'm driving slowly away, I stopped at a bright yellow bag. Hmm...that lunch bag looks like hers. So I got out and looked -- and yep, its got our name on it. No water jug anywhere in sight. I stuffed her costume into the yellow bag, and figured 'Better tell her its here'. Went over to the school, wandered the halls for a while, didn't find them. The hell with this. Came back out to the car through a second door, walked past the band members, saw some CG girls sitting on the curb, turned and looked at a second set -- and out of the corner of my eye, saw one casually waving from the first set. Not even bothering to get up. Can't be seen with Dad, I guess.

I told her, and left.

One other thing. Seeing some of those girls move -- both in the band and in the color guard -- I wished that I had my camera, just to capture their grace as they went through those movements. But if you saw a guy standing alone to the side of a group of teenage girls, snapping photos of them with a little digital camera, what would you think he was up to?

Yeah, me too. So, I think not!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Weird Thoughts

No, not the ones about the kangaroo, the mayonnaise, and the popsicle sticks. I don't tell anyone about those.

One is, I'm starting to wonder if I really want to go back to Australia in five years, when my daughter's out of high school. More accurately, do I really want to pay for the flight, at business class rates. For that same amount, we could all go to Europe, see multiple countries, stay in nice hotels or apartments.... Or, if we did really want to go (and, no lie, I really do want to go, I just want it...closer), would I be willing to risk terminal rigor or deep vein thrombosis by flying in steerage class for thirteen hours at a shot. Right now, the Europe option is ahead.

Another is, those ads you see on occasion for the high-wall bathtubs with a door in the side. We occasionally think of having one put in for my mother who lives with us, but today we found that they're pretty expensive -- we don't know how much, but one maker is offering a thousand dollars off. How much these things cost if they can offer that much off staggers the imagination. So, since my imagination was being staggered, I found myself wondering if there might be a more elegant solution -- say, a very small swimming pool with an under-water seat and a walk-in ramp. I'm guessing it would take about three feet for the 'tub' part, and about ten feet for the ramp. I wonder: is that even feasible? Its intriguing -- and I like the idea of a tub I could use. I'm not immensely large, but I am usually not comfortable in a standard tub. I can sit with my back up, or my knees up. No total submergence. Something like that might just do the trick. Probably not cost effective, though.

The raisin bread turned out well enough for people at my wife's office to ask for seconds. That's goodness. Now I'm looking for a different bread to make. I'm enjoying this, got to admit.

Everything Old...

It seems that my former employer -- the one I worked for for over twenty years -- has a need for people who happen to know some old computer skills. These are ones that I learned when I started there, before all of this interweb nonsense. And they want to know if I'd be interested.

On the one hand, why, sure -- chance to earn some money, doing stuff I know how to do, no travel, either work from home or commute with my wife (probably) -- whats not to like?

One the other hand, gee, I don't know -- I'm getting to like being at home, not being part of the corporate grind, plus this would screw up going to that baking course, not to mention interfering with some medical things I have planned...

I do so love indecision. At least, I think I do.

Interfaces

I've thought for quite some time that computer interfaces need a lot of work. When I was employed as a mainframe performance tech (and I realize that saying 'mainframe' not only dates me but puts serious doubt about the level of my technical skills), I used a product called Omegamon, from the Candle Corporation (since acquired by IBM). Its primary interace was a text-based display whose sole nod to current interface possibilities was multi-colored text, flashing text, and crude text-based graphics. When the product went through two levels of upgrade, to the Omegamon II and Omegamon Command Center levels, the basic interface didn't change much -- the graphics were still fairly crude, though better than they had been, and the underlying engine was still the original Omegamon. Candle/IBM has come out with a new, improved version of the product, called Omegamon XE, which is client/server based. That gave me hope that they'd finally hired some smart, creative folks to built a better interface, but that didn't really happen. Its pretty kludgy, and, of course, not nearly as powerful, intuitive, or effective in the monitoring and control of system operation as the marketing literature would lead one to believe.

By contrast, this article , titled Doom as a Tool for System Administration, outlines a delightfully innovative and damn creative method of performing that function. In it, the author describes a project he executed to configure and use the Doom game as a metaphor for the operation of his system. His intent was to create a simple, intuitively obvious interface to a cluttered, powerful system, so that the user didn't have to know the system internals; they simply (and I know that this wasn't simple) had to know what they wanted to do with the system -- what actions they wanted to take. If you understood how Doom was intended to be used, you could control this fellows system, because the metaphors were virtually (no pun intended) the same. The author went on to make several interesting points about problems and considerations. I'm fascinated by this, and wish that this level of programming insight were more common.

Additionally, this article, which is from the BBC news service, describes a series of events in the popular World of Warcraft game, wherein a plague struck the simulated community. The participants reacted as they would have in the solid world, aiding other players, or running away from possible infection, or even deliberately infecting other players. The article includes comments and observations by a researcher from Tufts University, which hopes to use further 'real simulations' to evaluate disease propagation and response models. This is not so much interfaces as the other article, but it is still the use of artificial worlds to perform real world functions and analysis. As such, it is fascinating work, and I'm delighted to see it.

rain dancer

The other night, while it was raining quite heavily, I went down and opened the garage door, the idea being that when my daughter was dropped off, she could come quickly into the garage, rather than having to fiddle her gear in through the house's front door. It'd save about a minute, if that, but when you're getting rained on...

I stood there for a while, just watching it rain, and after a bit I grabbed a folding chair we keep in the garage and sat, watching the rain -- seeing the sheets of water sluicing down the driveway, hearing the splashing on the steps, the gurgling in the downspouts. It was pretty peaceful, actually, and I enjoyed it. After a while, I started thinking about the whole process of getting out of a car while its raining, and how people sometimes put up carports in front of the garage, to ease unloading during inclement weather. I wondered if we'd ever be able to have something like a force shield that you could energize when a car arrives that'd form a clear barrier against the rain, giving a dry path into the house from the driveway. You wouldn't keep the shield up all the time, because those things would take a lot of power -- unless you had a home nuclear power unit, which is a different technological fantasy -- but for periods like that, it'd be useful.

Course, then I wouldn't get to sit in the darkened garage and just watch the rain.

'Murrican Medical

This is part of a story on the SusieJ site (which is well worth reading anyway). The story's about a relative of hers who was in a serious automobile accident, and the superlative medical care that he received:

He was life-flighted to a larger hospital. When he was conscious, and the surgeons were still busy working on him, his mother leaned over and said, “Were you just praying to God the whole time?”

His response? “Yeah. I was praying, God, please don’t let me die a virgin.”

The surgeons had to back away from the table because they were laughing so hard. A few days later when my cousin was feeling better, the surgeons came in with a hat, with some money inside. The said, “We felt sorry for you. So, we took a collection, and now we just have to find a nurse who’s willing."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thoughts on a Damp Evening

I watched bits and pieces of I,Robot again today. Thats one of those films that I've never seen all the way through... but the more I see it, the more I like it. Part of it is that I've always had a thing for Susan Calvin, the roboticist in the novels. What can I say, I like smart women. I think that the woman who plays her in the movie does a pretty good job with the role. I'd have liked to see her as a stronger character, less of a foil (a smart foil, but still a foil - she doesn't drive any of the action). But even so, I just like the movie. I think they did a pretty good job on the concept, and the plot. And the special effects.

I was also amazed when Will Smith got his obligatory shirt-off scene. Good lord.

Other things: I made the Cinnamon Swirl bread, and I'm moderately pleased with it. The recipe said that this would be a wet dough, but this stuff was really wet -- so gloppy that when I was done mixing, it took three tries to get it out of the mixer bowl -- pull this side, the other side adheres; pull the other side, and the first side adheres. Also, there were some glitches in the recipe -- like, saying to use a 9 inch pan but also saying to roll out the dough to 11 inches. Say What? I'm glad I made it, and I'd make it again -- but I think I'd give it more flour, and a lot more cinnamon sugar. It tasted bland, to me. I know, if I go to the CIA's baking course, it'll come out great -- in their kitchen, with their tools. Ahem.

The sourdough starter is doing nicely -- starting to froth up, making bubbles, all of that. Got that yeasty aroma. I'm thinking maybe Friday to make that bread.

I just pitched an article I'd saved for some time on making pizza, because it didn't tell me anything new -- well, not much; the guy did have an idea for how to get the pizza into the oven without a pizza peel, but I didn't think much of it. It was a good article, but it didn't give me any useful insights, like the one did about using the broiler to heat the toppings, or setting the two sides of the barbecue at different temps -- one to cook, one to add the toppings. But in a weird way it did somewhat confirm a feeling I'm getting, which is that when I want opinions on how to do something with baking, its best to look at the amateur sites. The ones who Really Know, the Baking Gurus, get to be very dogmatic, and sometimes they contradict each other on key points -- like, is it best to make sourdough starter in a warm environment or a cool one? Most say warm, but one Bread Guru whose book I'd bought says its got to be cool. If I knew more, perhaps I'd understand that these people aren't really contradicting each other, but at my level of knowledge, they sure are. And they treat this like its a religion. Come on, folks; its just bread. Good tasting bread, I agree, but its just bread!

Still reading The Agony and the Ecstasy, and I'm still enjoying it. I like historical fiction.
I'm not a vegan -- more of a Martian, if anything -- but this site,Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, is pretty good -- especially their marvelous July 16th Chocolate Chunk Scone recipe.... and the comments sprinkled throughout it.

Go Steve!

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Life Goals

I've never known quite what I wanted to do in life. My attitude has usually been one of 'well, I guess I could do that...'. And I'm not much a believer in people who say that they can tell you how to figure out what it is you really want to do. (I still like the joke that the woman comic told about watch Oprah and chocolate, in that regard.) This, from the Dumb Little Man site, isn't as much fun as that. But you know, its not bad!

Ugh Words

I was just reading an edition of Language Log, which is interested in words and their uses. It's a pretty interesting site.

This one was a bit unusual. They polled people for the words they just can't stand to hear. Some of them were surprising -- hardscrabble, for one; pugilist; luggage;hubbub. One fellow said that his wife is okay with 'moisturizer', but not 'moist' (which he says affects his ability to watch cooking shows). And a woman cites 'panties', which she says always has a 'creepy pedophilia connection'. I don't know about that, but I know the word itself has always struck me as odd. My 80+ year old mother used the word once with me, and it creeped me right out.

From that blog's writeup:

Among the 1,694 responses:

Elizabeth Barrett: moist and panties. Either separately or in conjunction. Blech.
Em T.: My mother hated gut. Would not let us say it, as if it were the worst word in English.
Maizie B.: goosepimple
kismet: Oh, I hate panties too! Everybody I know has to refer to them as underthings.
VanPear: I guess it's two words, but mother's milk squicks me terribly.
susan b.: I hate "chunk" and "chunky". I also hate "wedge". "Cut into wedges". "serve with a wedge of cheese". Ick. I also hate "moist". And I dislike "meal".
Eustacia: Baffle. Squab. Cornucopia.
Reggae Junkie: Big toe. Navel. Armpit. Lunch meat. insert. bra strap
Harri P. Boob. Panties. Swimsuit.
kismet: Giggle. Hate hate HATE giggle. With the concentrated hatred of a thousand hate filled suns.
BlueBirthday: I hate the word "moist" so much I can hardly type it.
sohcahtoa: I hate "gig", "motif", and "whimsy". No rational reason, just hate them.
Diana Barry: "Navel" and "furtive." Ugh.
Cathy Georges: Also clabber and squall. And plumbago.


Wonder what other Ugh words exist?

Hot Day?

This'll cool you off....

404 411

I don't know if this is legitimate. But if it is, it's kind of cool. Up to and including the hard-coded 'transfer interrupted' message.

PayPal's No Pal

Last night, my wife asked me to search for something that she wanted to buy. I did, and found it at a site that say they accepted payment via PayPal. I've always had a good impression of PP, thinking it a nice, friendly operation.

For some reason, I couldn't get my ID to work, though -- it said, rather sternly, that the id was 'Permanently Locked'. Turns out it was because, as their responder to my querulous note said:
When PayPal updates the live site, we ask every customer read and accept the new policy updates to our User Agreement. At this time your account is locked for not accepting the new User Agreement. To review the User Agreement please follow the link on the bottom of any PayPal page named legal agreements. After reading the User Agreement and you wish to accept the User agreement please e-mail our Account Review team at resolution@paypal.com. In the e-mail simply state "I accept the new User Agreement.". Once we receive the e-mail your will have full access to your account.
Well, I thought, no big deal, I'll do that. Probably six or seven paragraphs that Aunt Bea penned on the kitchen table to handle those pesky folks who try to scam the PP system every so often. So I went and looked.

Their user agreement is twenty seven pages long!

My mortgage wasn't that long!

CnR

It's a cold, raining day. We got a virtual downpour last night that tapered off -- if you can call it that -- into a steady rain that went, so far as I know, all night, and was still raining when we woke up. Right now, I'm in the living room with the window open. I can hear the birds complaining in the big tree just outside, the sound of tires on wet pavement, and the splashing of the rain. A chilly breeze is coming in. I like cold, and I like rain. Okay, walking in a cold rain's no fun, but sitting inside, just listening -- this is goodness.

My daughter was in a pretty chipper mood last night when she got home from color guard, which didn't surprise me --she tends to like band camp -- but it did please me, because we'd had a bit of a rocky start when I brought her over at one. Today, she doesn't have to be there till noon, so she's advised me to 'let her sleep till eleven or so'. She wasn't kidding, although I know that given her track record, she'll be up by nine thirty, and probably earlier. The girl we've been picking up for the trip over says she does sleep in till eleven when she can, which amazes me.

The sourdough, take two, is looking good -- getting that sour aroma, with a yeasty body. Looks promising. I have to keep myself from going over every half hour or so just to check it out. The plan had been to make Cinnamon Raisin bread this week, too, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oddity

I know there's a lot of weird stuff in the world, and that perfectly normal people do things that I'd think are strange. I do know that.

But when I StumbledUpon a blog today written by a woman who's a sexually submissive person (ie, she's the Submissive in a Dominant/Submissive relationship), I was startled. I just couldn't understand why a person would want to do routinely do that, let someone else push them around. I gather she does it because she likes it, and she could stop at any time, but man...

Guess I'm not as open minded as I thought.

Planning

The Plan was, I'd drop the daughter off at color guard, run two errands, and get back home. The Actuality was I'd have a mild argument with the daughter, hustle her out the door (noting silently that she hadn't taken the trash down as requested multiple times), pick up her friend (listening to the friend say, relative to a comment the daughter had made, 'Screw that', and thinking "As things go, its pretty mild, and she's not your daughter....but keep alert for your own flesh-and-blood bringing it up in casual conversation (knowing that if she does, odds are good its just to get my goat)), drop them off (Park on this side of the parking lot, Dad, that other side is where we'll be practicing later, nobody likes it when people drive through the practice area (its a parking lot!!!)), run five errands, come home, note that the grass really ought to be mowed, grab a sammich, mention that I'm going out to-- wait, is that rain? Is that thunder? Is that water streaming down the gutters?

So much for planning....

Sour Bill

Well, just a little. The sourdough recipe I was using totally did not work. I note that it said to use an 'organic potato', which I did not, so I wonder if that mattered -- particularly as the recipe I'd found in Joy Of Baking talked about using 'potato water', which I think is the water left over from cooking potatoes (which we hardly ever do).

But...I found this site, talking about sourdough (one of the many hundreds!), and it says not only that you can just start with water and dough, but also, if you're willing not to be a purist, you can throw some yeast in there to get the process started. So, thats what I'm doing. We'll see!

Medical: I asked the nurse practitioner, this morning, about getting a colonoscopy, which she was surprised by, saying you should have your first between 50 and 60 (turns out what I had was a sigmoidoscopy, not a colonoscopy...the difference being that one is a mild tranquilized invasion and the other a full-bore, no pun intended, exploration that they knock you out for). As I'm 80% of the way through that age range, her surprise surprised me --- but now I have 'my gastroenterologist', who I get to call to set it up. Which I will. I like that I'll be knocked out for it. Not too thrilled about having 'my gastroenterologist'. Makes me feel old.

One Is, One Isn't

This is a joke --


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And this isn't.
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ten Best...

I don't have the bandwidth of, say, Bill Gates when it comes to absorbing knowledge. My bandwidth is more along the lines of, oh, Elmo. Or possibly Big Bird. When I see lists of the one hundred best ways to ...whatever, I yawn, because I don't want that. I want the people who write the list to elicit the top five or ten, max, and then tell me what they are.

So you might expect that I didn't read this whole list, and you'd be right. But its an interesting list, nonetheless.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hey Ya

I'm not sure what kind of music Hey Ya is...but this, I like.

The Few...The Proud...The Furry?

Okay, I know thats (partially) a Marines slogan, but somehow it seems to fit ...


Found here.

Starblecks

According to this article, if you go to Starbucks, you might want to wear a Kevlar suit.

Eww!

I heard a woman doing a comedy routine ask why it was that when you take something out of the refrigerator, and it smells odd, your impulse is to say 'Ewww, this smells awful -- here, smell this!" This morning, we took some sausage out, started cooking it, and after a while we looked at each other and said 'Gah, whats that smell?' So we looked at the package, and it had expired a week ago -- but the thing is, if it smelled bad, but the expiration was in the future, would we have eaten it anyway? I sure hope not.

Today I will make the initial starter for the sourdough bread that I want to bake this week; this afternoon I make the Cincinatti Chili, and this afternoon, we make the vanilla gelato -- the mixture's been in the refrigerator since yesterday -- and then on Monday, I'll make the cinnamon raisin bread. One of the side effects of me making dinners routinely is that we have a lot more leftovers than normal, so we just had some of them for dinner last night, and we'll have the remainder today. That'll take care of the 'real food' leftovers, though we still have a) a frozen apple pie from a fund raiser, b) a frozen Tiramisu that I picked up on a whim two weeks ago, and c) three quarters of a quart of chocolate ice cream, which we'd gotten about two months ago. We've not been too big on desserts, this summer!

I'm looking forward to making that bread.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fire!

Fireplaces are, in general, just devices to take whatever heat you have in your home and send it right up the chimney, not to mention, get the occasional shower of soot back down. But I like them, like a lot of people, and if we ever build a house, I'll have one put in -- most like a zero-clearance one (which I always think of as a 'zero-tolerance' one, for some reason). It'll be a traditional looking one, even so, because I don't like excessively modern ones. They don't appeal to me.

Though, seeing this one from Cathy Azria, maybe some do:

CIA

The Bourne saga notwithstanding, I think that I'm going to give the CIA a try. I got the materials for application today, though it turns out that its for their degreed programs, which I'm not interested in. (Actually, I am, but there's no way I'm going to take a three year course there.) I'm going to take their one week Baking Boot Camp, and possibly (though probably not) their one week Pasty Boot Camp at another time.

I am also going to do more baking, in a somewhat structured manner. I picked up the local library's copy of Baking At Home with the Culinary Institute of America; I'm going to make a series of breads and cakes from their collection. It won't be anywhere like what they give you at the course, but it'll give me the chance to play around a bit. I just have to make sure that there are people willing to actually eat this stuff afterward. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to make -- I have my eye on the Raisin Cinnamon Bread, and the Sourdough, and I know that I want to make a couple of sweet breads, but past that, I don't know yet. I'm sure that the holidays will provide me with the opportunity and the motivation to do baking, too -- perhaps I should say Baking, as in pies, tortes, challah, etc, as distinct from baking, which to my mind is cookies and such. I'm also getting an interlibrary loan of Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, just to see what thats like. Its the book they use in that course.

Should be fun.

Cats and Stereos

Here's a combination I didn't expect to see today.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

DOH

Remember the Dukes of Hazzard? Remember that car? Ever wonder what the General Lee looked like before it was a General?

Wonder no more.

Menus

I think I mentioned once, quite some time ago, that for ease of planning we came up with a set of menu items that we'd use for most of our main meals. One side of the set was the quick items -- the things we could do in about an hour, no more. The other side was the long items -- things that took more time than we normally had during the week, and were therefore reserved for days off.

Now that I'm doing more of the cooking, I am getting interested in what we can make. More accurately, what I can make. I'm not a competent chef, but I can make some things, and what I'd like to be able to do is to make multiple things. They'll all be plain, nothing that a good chef would be able to do -- no sauce reductions here-- but they'll be enough so that for any given week, we'll be able to have things we like, without having them too often. And, as I said, my goal is to continue to have something new each week. It hasn't always worked out that way, but thats the goal. If I had to pick a number, I'd say that I'd like to have about thirty things that we routinely can have for dinner. I certainly have that many recipes, but in terms of what I'm actually able to cook, its considerably less.

As a way of keeping track, I jotted down what we'd had for the last three weeks. (It doesn't add up to three weeks, due to eating out, leftovers, and such.) Here's the list --

Pizza from the freezer (ie, DiGiorno)
Burritos
Fried Ravioli
Beef Stir Fry (didn't work too well)
Hamburger Stroganoff
Corn Topped Beef Pie
Spaghetti
Pizza - home made & grilled
Bean Bake
Skillet Macaroni
Not So Sloppy Joes
Chicken Nuggets
Cincinatti Chili
Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

and here's the plan for the coming week (we try to make it on Thursday so that I can pick up needed stuff when I hit the store on Friday morning) -
mon Hamburgers
tue Taco Casserole
wed Tomato Soup w/Garlic Bread
thu Band picnic (eat out)
fri Leftovers
sat Spaghetti w/Apple Meat Balls
sun Stromboli

Nothing too strenuous, but some variation. I'd love to make the grilled pizza again, but I'll wait a little while for that. One thing I find is that once I find a decent recipe, I don't have the need to get multiple variations. One, maybe two kinds of pizza dough. Some variations for Sloppy Joes, but nothing outrageous. Even for Chocolate Chip Cookies, I only use three different recipes -- one simple and fairly rich; one with oatmeal; and one that makes more of a chocolate chunk cookie. I just don't see the need for tons of recipes, and though I undersand why people have multiple recipe books (I have four books on bread baking, though I do want to pare that by one or two), I don't see the need to do it myself.

And of course, we can't forget cookies, and breads, and rolls. I want to make some 'sweet breads', just for the experience.

But as for main meals, thats the plan. Will I ever even dare to open our tattered copy of Joy of Cooking? Hmmm....not yet. Not yet.

...A Pepperoni on the Barbie?

Last night we made grilled pizza. Turned out pretty well.

I had made some honey dough for pizza last week, and didn't use all of it up, so the plan was to make the rest last night. My wife suggested splitting the dough into two pieces so that we could handle it more easily -- last week, putting it on the baking stone, we had a lot of trouble because the dough was still a little sticky. I took her advice, making two rounds (more or less) about 8 inches across (more or less). I was a little surprised that they went that wide, but I was specifically trying for a thin crust, and thats what I got. In retrospect, I could have made it a little less thin, but it wasn't a big deal.

I fired up the grill, turning on both burners. To my surprise, it got up to about 700 degrees pretty quickly, so when my wife came home, we slid the first one on and it immediately puffed up and began to cook. (We had liberally floured a cookie sheet to use as a delivery system, and it worked well.) We thought we'd have to cook it about three minutes on the first side, but turned out to be more like one and a half. We pulled it off -- oh, look, authentic charring marks! -- flipped it over, applied the toppings, and put it back on for just over a minute. And pulled out a bottle of sangria we've been working on for the last six months.

The result? Very thin crust, very nice favor. Next time, we might nuke the pepperoni a bit to do some pre-cooking, and make the dough a little thicker -- but overall, not bad, not bad at all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

<<==Communicating==>>

I realized the other day that lately, my daughter will tell me, with great excitement, about whats happening at band camp...but when my wife asks (with obvious interest), she just gives the bare facts, if that. I feel badly about that, and I make sure that I tell her what my daughter tells me. I think its a phase, and I know that the chances are the reverse will happen at some point...but still, I feel badly about it.

Conundrum

Well, here's the deal.

There's a baking course I'd like to take. Its given by the King Arthur Flour people, up in Vermont. Here's it's description:

Bread: Principles & Practice - Oct. 1 Monday-Thursday, Oct 1-4, 1 to 5 p.m.
This comprehensive class explores every aspect of bread baking for the home baker. Topics include the following:

The function of ingredients, pre-ferments, and how to facilitate maximum rise; Extensive hands-on work in yeast breads, from basic bread through whole grains, sweetened breads, sourdough and starter-based breads (including French baguettes).; Techniques for baking powder breads, and learning how to work with chemical leavens through the production of quick breads and scones..

I figure it would teach me things that would be good to know, and that I'd enjoy knowing. It would help me be a better baker. And, if I did take the week-long Culinary Institute's Baking Boot Camp, I wouldn't feel as if I was coming in at a really basic level.

The course cost is $350. A hotel for four days would be, I'd guess, about $600. So, its around a thousand dollars, all told. My wife says that I should go for it. I'm not all that thrilled to realize that its just four half days of instruction....and the cost of the hotel would be twice the cost of the reason for going there in the first place. I could buy an awful lot of flour and mess around an awful lot for that...

I dunno.
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Later that very same evening: Nah, I'm not going to do it. A thousand dollars for two full days of class time is too much. The CIA course is $1600, plus about 750 for hotel, or $2350, and their classes are 7AM to 6PM (their site says 9PM, but I kind of doubt that). Cost wise, they're a better deal (~$42/instructional hour versus about $59), and I suspect the skill level of the instructors is higher, too. So, no dice.

But if I'm ever in Vermont when they're giving that class, I'll go.

LudDud

I saw The Bourne Ultimation the other day, and liked it, so when I was at the libe today, I picked up another Ludlum novel. About thirty pages into it, I came across a fellow described as brilliant, striking, wealthy beyond belief, and director of a massive foundation doing fabulous acts of good throughout the world. The Gates Foundation, on steroids. To use the old phrase, what God would have done if He'd had the money.

Immediately, knowing Ludlum, I knew who the bad guy would turn out to be. And so it was. Not to say that the writing wasn't excellent. Not to say there weren't surprises. But the identity of TBG wasn't, alas, one of them.

One of these days, it really will be the butler who did the dirty deed.

Kids

One of the nice things about being an adult is that every so often you can do something that to you is trivial, but to a kid is nothing short of amazing. I got to do that today.

I have a habit that when I see kids selling lemonade during the summer, I always stop if at all possible and buy something. Usually, the lemonade is fairly poor stuff, but thats not the point. I want the kid to get positive feedback, not to mention money, for their efforts. One kid, I recall, was a real salesman; after his sister had sold me the ade, he stepped up and said 'And the cookies are good, too!' So I bought one of them to go. Wasn't bad.

Today I was driving through the small town near which I live, and I saw a girl sitting at table next to a somewhat busy street. There was the classic hand-lettered LEMONADE sign, so I stopped. "Lemonade, huh?" I said as I walked up. "Yep", she said. "Made it myself." "Well, I'll take one", I told her, and as she was pouring I saw that there was an empty TIPS jar. She gave me the cup. "How much?" I asked, holding out a dollar. "Twenty-five cents", she replied, with a doubtful look at the dollar bill. This kid doesn't have any change, I thought. I might be the very first sale. "Tell you what", I said to her. "You take this... and keep the rest as a tip."

She lit RIGHT up. "Thanks!" she exclaimed.

Its a nice feeling.

Avast!

Last night, I installed the Avast! antivirus package on my mother's PC. It installed quickly, requiring a single reboot, and it had none of the stuff that drives me crazy about Norton. Plus, the home version download is free. The interface is a little clunky, but nothing outrageous. Not bad at all....

So Real

I think a certain amount of surreality is good for you...



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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mo' Dental

One other thing that that dental tech did that I really liked. She asked if I flossed, and I said no (grumpily). Rather than giving me grief immediately, she asked if there was any special reason that I didn't. I told her that I had been going to a periodontist's office twice a year to get my teeth cleaned, thinking that they'd be keeping track of my teeth's condition (because I knew I wouldn't). One day, they said 'You know, those teeth in back are in really bad shape!' And I thought WHAT? You guys have been seeing me every six months and this just suddenly popped up? (Well, okay, I knew that it didn't just pop up.) I said that this ticked me off, I just stopped going for recurring cleanings, period. Which I realize wasn't a mature response, but I was just ticked.

And she said "I would have been ticked off, too."

OMG.

Audubonic Plague

I just found a reason to dislike the Audubon Society.

I've always had a pretty good image of them -- nature, birds, all of that. There's a wetlands area near where I live that they take care of, and I like that. The wetlands is part of a housing development that went in about ten years ago. The original plan had been to put houses where the wetlands are , and there was a lot of argument about that. The wetlands designation, and some swales, was the result. Therein lies the problem.

There are trees that overhang the sidewalks in the swale area, so that every so often you have to duck down, or step out into the street, to get around them. Its not a big deal, but its a bother. The Society had been taking care of 'their area', but not so much the swales. So twice -- once, about six months ago, and today -- I went over there with loppers and I cut down the overhang, tossing the cutoffs into the underbrush.

Today I learned from a somewhat disturbed fellow that the homeowners association had just taken that responsibility over, and they were in the process of hiring someone to cut the grass, trim the overhangs, and all of that. They did not want someone like me just coming along and doing what I had done If the Society found out that I was doing that, he said, I'd be in Big Trouble.

My feeling? You see a problem that nobody's fixing, that you can fix? You fix it. And as for the Society? Well, if they really would have that attitude -- "We're not going to take care of that area, but we'll take Action on you if you do", then --

The hell with them.

Geekin'

I am not a capital G geek. I'm barely a lower case g geek. And since I'm not working, or playing with software, I'm barely a geek at all, these days. I'm a baker, a chauffeur, a cleaner.

Plus, I totally don't know Linux, Unix, or any of that. Not a clue.

So why does this delight me?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dental Magic

Today I went to have my (remaining) teeth cleaned. I did not want to do this -- I figured I would get major grief for my various dental sins.

I did not get the dental tech that my wife and daughter get, and this person got my name wrong. I thought 'Oh, crap'...and other pejoratives.

She did it quickly and efficiently, told me some useful things, and did not chide me at all.

Plus, the dentist said that since I'm having no problems with the transitional dental appliance, they may be able to forego the really expensive implant appliance and go for one that is less expensive.

How about that. Almost makes it worth going.

Almost.

Yup

Americans can always be grabbed by the heartstrings, as this International Herald Tribute article shows.

Things I've Never Understood

#37: Hammertime. What exactly is that? Is it a drinking reference, or a macho thing, or what?


#4: Lacy Womens Underwear. I'm talking about what shows up in the mainstream catalogues like Victoria's Secret. Unless it has the tensile strength of steel, it all looks like it'd break first time you weren't really gentle with it. Do people actually and routinely wear this stuff?

#17: Speed Control Signs. These are the signs you occasionally see on the highway that say things like 'Intensive Speed Monitoring in Effect'. As distinct from what -- Casually Glancing Over Once In A While?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

HDP

I never wanted to be a 'hospital discharge planner', but my brief stay in the hospital last year made me at least aware of them, and this article makes me think it'd be a challenging job - one of those that never gets enough recognition.

Week Plan

This will be an interesting, and somewhat scary week, as my daughter is going to have the first of two weeks of 'band camp', wherein the color guard practices along with the band. Four of the days will be twelve hours long; six will be half days. She's going to be one tired kid, I think -- but it will, at least, keep her from her normal pre-school-start jitters. She's looking forward to the start of school, which pleases me. I don't think I ever feared the start of it -- by August, I was getting pretty bored -- but she actively looks for it, and I like that a lot. As always, I hope she has a good experience this year.

Hmm..

I'm not that big a fan of porn. But this ...well, it's different.

Teutonic Humor



This May Actually Be Why

I was reading an article about how to be valued by companies. It included things like '(M)ake yourself the favored one in the eyes of management', '(S)ee yourself as an integral driver of profit', 'Give your best to the company'.

I think I understand where they're coming from with these, but, frankly, I think they're creepy. They bring to mind the images of Big Business from the 1920s -- fat guys with thick stogies and top hats leering down at the working stiffs. This is who I want to work for and impress, this is the image I want to project? I don't think so.

It could explain my lack of meteoric rise.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Don't Be Afraid, You Can Call Me

I get baffled quickly when it comes to cell phones, which is why I thought the following, from this article, was interesting:

Stymied by U.S. wireless carriers, Nokia has begun selling "unlocked" phones, which are devices that can work on any wireless network, directly to consumers. All users need to do is remove the SIM card from their old phone, insert it into a new one, and -- voila -- start dialing.They either pay their existing carrier for service or sign up with a different carrier and pay month-to-month. The point is, consumers are no longer limited in their choice of phones to those offered by carriers. But American consumers aren't used to buying their phones this way and Nokia hasn't yet been able to get the message across that they can.

You can? I totally did not know that.

Eat up!

This post is from Farmgirl Fare, which is both a good blog and is describing a good book. Whats not to like about that combo?

Sandy

This photograph damn near made me cry.

Wheeling

Okay, I was wrong. After dinner, we went out for a bike ride, en famille. And other than when my daughter did a controlled fall due to bumping her foot on the ground, it was pretty nice -- about 75 degrees, light breeze. Would that we could have this all the time. Thats one of the criteria for a place to build a new home....

I had to take a MESS of insulin tonight, I think because of those strawberries I had with dinner. I do so hate when that happens. I find that if I monitor routinely, it (usually) stays low; and if I don't, I can just about guarantee a nasty surprise. That zuks. I'd swear that I don't eat differently when I do and when I don't, but it's hard to argue with results.

Speaking of results, I've heard some nice things about a freeware antivirus product called Avast, so I think I'm going to give it a try. I know that I can't have it running at the same time as Norton, but I don't know if I have to completely uninstall Norton before I can try it. Knowing Norton, probably so.

Saturday

A quiet day. I haven't been out of the house yet, and as things go, I likely won't be.

Instead, I'm sitting here, leafing through things to read, and thinking about emails. I have a fair number of things to read -- I want to look through Baking Boot Camp again (I finished it this morning), for one; I've also got Eternity Road to read, and a Tony Hillerman collection, and the Michaelanglo biography. There's a David Brin science fiction novel, too, and a couple of other books. Also, theres a couple of articles about financial planning, in general, and 401(k)s, in particular, that I've saved; one of the latter is about a month old, and every time I see it, I think 'I really should read that'. Its not particularly lengthy -- it's just a little intimidating.

I dropped notes to the Culinary Institute and to King Arthur Flour, the other day, both relative to the idea of attending a baking course. I'm sure that I could handle a class at KAF, not so sure about CIA, even though, in response to a note, they did say that any skill level is accepted. From the BBC book, it sounds as if that might technically be true, but the people who actually do go are either professionals or might-as-well-be -- the kind that routinely whip out cakes, breads, and pastries from a kitchen with more gadgets per square inch than the real CIA. In other words, out of my league. So I wondered: what's the real ability level that you need to survive there? To that end, I dropped the woman who wrote BBC a line to ask her opinion. I'd like to be able to bake better -- which is to say, I'd like to be able to bake with a high confidence that what I bake will come out well. I don't need to be able to make or bake elegant pastries or stunning cakes -- I simply want to be able to bake well. If they come out elegant or stunning, thats fine, too, but not my goal.

I'm also thinking about the dental cleaning I have on Monday, and the bone graft surgery in about a month. I'll be glad when thats done, even though it will usher in a month to two months of biting very carefully. Lot of soups, things like that, I expect. But if it takes, then the next step is actually doing the implant installations (two sets), and that will be goodness.

So with all of that to do, what am I doing? A little web surfing, and a fair amount of sitting here with my eyes closed, listening to a quiet tape.

Norton Smart Guy

Really.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Flying


This might actually be fun!

The image was found on Dark Roasted Blend, here.

Well, That Was Interesting

One of the people with whom I used to work told me that he and a few others would be playing at a local coffee house. I'm not a big fan of coffee house music, but I like him, and so my wife and I toodled over there this evening. He was playing from seven thirty till nine; we got there a little before eight.

I forgot he was a serious Christian. All of his group were, apparently. And I didn't know how serious a Christian he was. Some of his offhand comments about how often he 'worships at home' clued me in on that. Apparently, quite a lot.

The music was pleasant, but it was all Christian-oriented. Every bit of it. I'm not a fan of religious music because its all so lugubrious -- the organist at our church likes to play what I call Death of God music-- but this was new to me. I've never before heard songs which a) were about 90% the same line repeated, and repeated, and repeated, and b) had lyrics like 'his blood drips down upon me; I bathe in his blood'. I catch the reference, but even twice is a little spooky, and multiple times is more than a little scary. This is metaphor, right, guys? Guys?

I still like him, and his family (some of whom were there). He's a nice guy. But I doubt strongly we'll go back.

Does make me wonder what atheists sing at their get-togethers, though.

Quoth The Daughter

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It's here! It's here! It's HERE!
..
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C'mon, phone, charge up so I can call someone!
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Best?

I was reading an article on the Money web site about a fellow who'd retired, more or less willingly, and gone to live in a small town in Montana. After two years, bored, he asked himself what he did best -- and thereby found himself a new career. The article's here, and its pretty good.

One of the things that I've never been able to do is answer that question. I can list some things that I can do well, and a couple of personality traits that contribute to success in the things that I do, but I've never considered myself all that GOOD at something, and as for being better than anyone else around at something, good enough so that people would pay me to do it, and particularly something that most people can't do, or at least can't do well -- nope. Not a clue. This isn't humbleness -- I honestly don't know. I'd like to think there is though...somewhere.

Strange, huh?