Sunday, September 30, 2007

NonSec

I came across a fellow's posting on a web site dedicated to comic book fans. His tagline was "Weapons-Grade Non Sequitors". Gotta like that.

O

If you like podcasts, this service, called Oditt (get it? Took me a minute...) might be of interest.

Um, Security?

Pointed Post


I love this cartoon. Of course, it's from XKCD, although this particular iteration came via Savvy Geek.

Sticky

This is a novel use of Post-It Notes.... or something eerily like them.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

WomanChild's Work

I came across this picture while looking through Flickr. I think it's a great image, but even more, I like the short story that accompanies it, which can be found here.

Image



The L Word

One of the things that I don't know how to make is lasagna.

Part of it is that my taste for lasagna is not as great as my wife's, her family's, or most people's. I like it, but I only like a little, not a lot. I can't think of a good analogy; the closest I can put it is that if I made lasagna, I'd want it to be just enough to be completely consumed in one sitting by three people who weren't ravenously hungry. Not to say I don't like leftovers, but I don't want to look in the refrigerator and see two thirds, or even a third, of a tray of it sitting there for days on end. Whassamatter, Bill, you don't like us any more?

This recipe, from here, looks interesting... and yes, I know its not real lasagna. Gotta ease into this!

Italian Apple Cream Lasagna

9 oven ready lasagna noodles
1/3 cup of butter
6 Granny Smith apples- peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 cups of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of toasted, chopped pecans
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 package of light cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of Whipping cream, whipped
1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of granulated sugar


Place the noodles in a 11 x 7 inch baking dish, cover with warm water and soak 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat. Add apples, cover and cook 10 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tbsp. brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; set aside. Place cream cheese and remaining brown sugar in large bowl. Beat 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture in thirds and set aside. Melt remaining butter. In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, sugar and melted butter. Spread half of the apple mixture in bottom of same baking dish. Layer with 3 noodles. Spread with half of cream cheese mixture, and layer with 3 more noodles. Spread with remaining apple mixture and layer with last three noodles. Top with remaining cream mixture and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 305ºF for 30 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings. Source: Primo Family Favourites

(Note - I'm thinking maybe that temperature is a typo that really ought to be 350. Not sure, though.)

Not Buying It

I didn't buy a notepad today.

I've been wanting to get one. I've found of late that as I'm out, things occur to me (When I get home, I need to take the ground beef out to thaw.... Wonder if that repairman called back yet?), many of which just vanish from my mind by the time I'm home. At an office, I'd just grab a piece of paper or a sticky and jot a note, but those options aren't really available to me, here.

My thoughts on what to get have ranged all over the map, from a simple paper and pencil through a bound pad and pen to a PDA (I used to use a Casio, and liked it a lot, but I never warmed up to glass-front PDAs) , or maybe a voice recorder ... perhaps something that I could download MP3s to ... maybe with a clock/alarm function...but I don't think the technology is there, yet, and even if it is, my wallet certainly isn't.

Its really easy to assume that of course what you want is available, isn't it? And that a G-search will find it?

This morning, while I was at Barnes and Noble, I looked around for something, and came across some Moleskin notebooks. I'm not a person to be impressed by logos or reputation, though I likely am more than I think, but I do know that I've heard of Moleskin notebooks for quite some time. So I looked at them, and after a bit figured I'd get one. Didn't have a pen, or a slot for one, which was a bit of a downer, and there was an elastic band that loops around it which I thought silly (and I wondered: are they trying to invoke the image of the 'battered but sturdy' notebook from the Indiana Jones series?), but still, it seemed pretty nice. It was ten dollars, which was on the high end of reasonable... and then I noticed: it was made in China.

I really don't like the number of products that are being made overseas because they're cheaper to make, there. I'd rather pay more than support that mindset.

I put it back.

Sucker

Sometimes, I'm a sucker.

Usually, its because I drank the koolaid about something or the other, and then I get disappointed, later, when reality sets in. So when I realized that not every single thing on the Prius was designed for the absolute best driving experience -- who in the world came up with that solution for the windshield wiper/washer combo? -- I was disappointed. Frequently, its software. I discovered this morning that the message rule building function is actually better in Outlook than it is in Thunderbird. Thunderbird, which is morally superior!

And sometimes, I'm a sucker for emotional imagery and stories, like this one.

Three Panels

I think that this comic, which I found here, is pretty good.... and I like the pun.

Fairy Tales

Some time ago, my wife told me of reading an article that said, among other things, that all epic novels such as Lord of the Rings tended to have similar plot elements. There is a young, naive person; an older, mystical person; a quest to bring these people together, possibly with others, in search of some magical thing, or in fulfillment of some prophecy. There's someone who knew something that they needed on the quest, but would not tell them until The Proper Moment. There is at least one initial failure, and then success. There may have been others.

Given that, I suppose you could write your own saga -- but I think that this is simpler.

Friday, September 28, 2007

TS, To You

That's Tom Swift, of course.

I like Tom Swifties. Here's a short page that I found on the Discovery Education site that talks about the concept:

A Tom Swifty is a sentence ending in an adverb that both tells how or when Tom said something and applies to the meaning of his statement. Here’s an example:

“Don't sit in the back of the boat,” said Tom sternly.

Sternly describes Tom’s tone of voice. In addition, stern is another word for “back of the boat.” So sternly is a particularly appropriate word for ending the sentence. Make a Tom Swifty out of each of the following sentences. The first letter of each adverb appears as a hint.

1. “Does anyone have a hammer?” asked Tom s_________.
2. “I hope you like the gift I brought,” said Tom p__________.
3. “This poison ivy is making me itch!” exclaimed Tom r__________.
4. “I got first prize,” reported Tom w__________.
5. “I wish I had written down the things I need at the store,” said Tom l________.

A
1. strikingly
2. presently
3. rashly
4. winningly
5. listlessly

They're groaners, aren't they? For a while, I was really into them; now, the only one that I can recall is this one:
"That convicted felon is going down the stairs!" Tom observed condescendingly.
and I can't actually remember if I read it or made it up. But hey, anyone can do it -- "That Venus DeMilo statue seems unbalanced", Tom said disarmingly -- so who knows?

Wish Lists

When I found The Bakers Manual, and started leafing through it, I thought "Wow, I'd like to own this." But over the years I've learned to curb my enthusiasms for books, especially ones related to baking, as such leads to quick expenditures of a fair amount of money on a book that isn't always satisfying, no matter how delightful and Man, this is totally great! it might seem at first glance. So I did what I tend to do: looked on Amazon, saw the price (hmm...not bad!), and, since, who knows, I might get it, I used their Wish List feature to record the details...in case I come into money or something. Right now I have six books there: five have to do with baking, and one has to do with improving organizational communication. Its a guilty secret of mine. The organizational communication thing, that is.

But I thought briefly about the Wish List. I've seen on many other sites references to that kind of thing -- "If you like this site, show a little love via Paypal/Amazon/whatever". I know that a lot of people seem to like the idea of earning money with their blog, so I suppose this is a fair thing for them to do. It gets a little out of hand on some sites, of course, with AdWords and what not out the wazoo. But if someone wants to say 'Hey, want to buy something for me?' -- well, okay. I'd likely never do it, because what would I do with the grand total of a buck forty-eight cents, two loonies, and a bottlecap?

But there are sites that do it where I really wonder what the deal is. One's a site done by a woman who's a psychiatrist, formerly of Seattle, now (I think) of New York. She's a bright, interesting person, and she has a lot of intriguing observations about things ranging from the pharmaceutical treatments of various diseases to how she really likes to dance. But one of the things she does is have one of these wish lists. I don't ever actually recall seeing it on the site, but she occasionally mentions 'oh, this person sent me this book (or whatever) from my Amazon wish list, thanks a lot'. I asked her how they did that if she doesn't publicize her actual name, and she told me that Amazon makes that subterfuge possible -- you tell them you want to buy something from Doctor Z's wishlist, then you pay for it and they ship it to her with a note about who paid for it.

Thats a cool trick if you can do it, but after a while, I had to stop reading the blog, because every time I'd hit one of these observations -- and they didn't happen all that often -- it would grate on me, jar me, like biting on tinfoil. I'd think 'This woman is a doctor, which, last time I looked, equates to Well Paid -- not rich, but certainly better off than most. Where does she get off....' And so finally I had to stop, because I didn't like being that judgemental. I'm not normally judgemental -- or at least, not any more than the average person.

So here's my question: would the ordinary person think that someone like that, with those presumed financial resources, really should buy their own books and tchotckes and whatnot? Or am I being too thin skinned here?

Recipe

Its not much in the way of a recipe, I suppose, but we like it.

Tuna a la EDS

Tuna
Celery
Onion
Dill weed
Equal parts of mayo and Honey Mustard dressing
Some parsley if desired


Mix. Serve on pita bread, toasted English Muffin, or whatever....

USB = Unimaginably Slow Bus?

The desktop PC which we use has a couple of USB ports. The PC is about four years old (insert which in computer years is here), so it only has two. Well, four, but the other two are in a weird place on the keyboard, and they don't seem to always work. In fact, they usually don't.

About a year ago, I was gifted with a USB hub, which appears to be nothing more than a one male/four female (hmm....good ratio!) deal. We plugged the one male into one of the two ports on the PC, and plugged the keyboard, the mouse, and the printer into three of the four ports. Everything works as before, except that when the PC boots, it gives a Keyboard Failure message, which I'm guessing is some antediluvian code that assumes that of course the keyboard will be plugged directly into the keyboard slot; where else could it possibly be? Which of course leads to the jokes about Keyboard Not Found: Press Any Key To Continue.

When we got the external hard drive (the one that seems unimaginably huge at the moment, and will within two years, possibly one year, seem rather cramped), I connected the laptop to it and moved the file of photographs from the laptop to the hard drive. That was a big space user; this laptop has a 50 gig hard drive, and those photographs were using about 20 gig. This morning, having set up the jobs to automagically back up files, I wanted to move the resulting files over to the hard drive. I haven't figured out how to just make this happen, yet, but NBD, I'll just move them manually. One of those backup files contains the Photographs, as well as some other images. I opened that folder, and thought "Thats odd, it seems awfully small. This 7Zip package must have an amazing compression ratio". Then, just to see, I opened the original of the Photographs, selected the first folder, and found: nothing. Empty. What the... So I opened the second. And the third. And then four or five at random. They were all empty. It was at this point that I began doing deep breathing exercises, but I thought Okay, don't panic, you have that backup that you moved over to the external hard drive, just make sure it's still around.

I went to the external hard drive, and found: Nothing. Well, almost nothing -- there was one backup of some folders that I'd run as a test. But nothing that looked in the least like photographs. I resumed doing deep breathing exercises. Eventually, I found that yes, the backups of the photographs were there; when I'd opened the pointer from the laptop to the external hard drive, I'd pointed it to a small subfolder, whereas the backups were there in the root folder. Okay. But by now, I was a little paranoid, shall we say, so I thought 'You know, before I clean up the way folders are named and ranked on the external hard drive, I think I'll just take that backup and copy it back to the laptop, just to hang onto it for a little while." So I plugged the laptop into the USB connector, addressed the drive to which I'd mapped the external hard drive, and started transferring. I knew it would take a while, so I went out to the library (where I picked up a terrific book called The Baker's Manual; yum). I got back around two hours later. It was still transferring. It was only about a third done.

Huh?

I cancelled the transfer, unplugged the external hard drive from the USB hub, plugged it directly into my laptop, initiated the transfer again. In just under an hour, it was done.

Now, being a kind of performance person (though knowing very little about PC performance bottlenecks), this strongly suggests to me that that USB hub somehow slows the EHD to laptop transfer way the hell down. I'm guessing that its not so much the hub itself as the fact that its a common pipe within the desktop PC, so that the desktop has to tag and route every damn packet coming from the EHD to the laptop. When the EHD was plugged directly into the laptop, there wasn't that traffic cop function, and it just flowed.

Does that sound reasonable? And if it does, does that mean I can't use the structure I had been using -- common hub to which the laptop, desktop, and EHD all talk -- to do any kind of high speed or bulk data transfer? If so, its not a big, big deal -- I don't do it that often -- but its somewhat of a disappointment. I mean, I thought I was onto something, with that architecture. It'd be a real bummer to find out that it was the equivalent of tin cans and string!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Meeting The Teach

We went to the open house for our daughter's grade, tonight. It was -- interesting.

The teachers were all knowledgeable and motivated. Their demeanor and style ran from open, friendly, "I'm here to help your child succeed" to stern, focused, cold, "Four screw ups, such as talking when I'm talking, and you'll have detention with me". They were casual to super-structured, occasionally informative, and one dumped so much info, I think I'd recognize his DNA now.

I'm glad I went. Now I know which classes I need to make sure my daughter's on track with, because those give no leniency ("If homework is late, you get a zero, but you still have to turn it in"). But I also need to keep aware of the others, because they're interested, and they obviously care (as distinct from the zero-giver). Some made sure we know what they're doing, and testing on, while one explicitly said "No, thats not me, I don't do it that way, I don't believe in it." Pick the style you like, you'll find a teacher who uses it, and one who's the antithesis.

And just about every single one said 'Hah, you think THIS is tough, wait till next year in HIGH SCHOOL'.

Wolfe Trap

"It was the third of December, according to my notes, at just after nine in the morning, when the tall, slender man stepped up the icy steps on the stoop of our townhouse, rang the bell firmly -- one long, one short -- and then rapped on the glass for good measure. The morning sun had made its weak assault on the prior night's snow, with minimal effect. Fritz had been outside early, I knew, making a run to the fresh groceries stalls down by the water, but he hadn't touched those stairs -- he left by the rear entrance and disappeared into the alleyways that lined the center of the block. Normally, I'd clean off the steps if needed, but I was being lazy that day. Wolfe had no customers expected or desired; further, with the healthy state of our joint bank account, he had not sought nor accepted any since just after Hallowe'en, and would not even contemplate the possibility of more until Little Christmas, if then. Thus, when I heard the one long, one short, I thought of simply ignoring it, letting the caller go away, back to wherever people who don't make appointments go, but this one was insistent; ringing again, and rapping, with what sounded to me like a silver-headed cane. Grumbling slightly, therefore, I put down the paper, walked out to the door with the one-way mirror set behind the delicately barred fretwork, and took my first look at the fellow whom we first came to know as Sir Arthur St. Roger Carville. British, don'cha know."

End Points

All done. No problems found. In at 8:50, out at 10:30. Worst part was the prep work -- drinking almost four liters of the lavage solution, which wasn't so much nasty, as it was like drinking cold coffee with a slightly chalky aftertaste.

And now I'm good for ten years.

Phrases I learned this morning:

"Well, now at least I know that I'm a perfect asshole."

"When we're done, would you tell my wife that my head was not up there?"

"Business is good -- everyone's an asshole."

"Everyone gets it in the end."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

De Gustibus Non Disputandum

I'm now within 24 hours of doing the colon purge. Tomorrow, I can eat only things like boullion, drink only clear liquids. (I pointed out to my wife that vodka is clear.) And starting at 6PM tomorrow night, I get to start swigging the blowjuice every ten minutes for, I'm guessing, about two hours. During that period, I'll be in residence in the bedroom or the little room right next door.

Boy, this will be fun!

Darth...Unleashed

Muslim...Dentist?

There's intense believers.... and there's intense Muslim believers.... but an intense Muslim dentist believer? Seriously -- this can't be legit -- can it?

Retirement

I kind-of like being retired.

But there are times when I think 'working again -- in the right place -- would be okay.'

Goggled

Based on this, Google and I won't be linking up any time soon.

Kawps

Nobody likes getting a ticket from a cop. But at this site, its the cops who are complaining...because they got a ticket. Apparently, their view is that they're getting a ticket when a civilian would have just gotten a warning. Here's a quote from the site:

If you are a police officer, trooper, court officer, correction officer, telecommunicator, highway patrol, federal agent, or any other type of police (peace) officer either full-time, part-time or retired that has been disrespected or insulted by another police agency (officer) by not receiving some sort of professional courtesy, please email staff (at) copswritingcops.com with the information. If you have been arrested for a crime and want to use this as a podium to rant, go somewhere else.

Interesting attitude.

Countdown

Two days to colon-blow time; three to up-scope!

I've been exchanging emails with a woman who's writing an article about attitudes towards male babysitters. It started with my response to her post about a couple of references in the popular media to the effect that you ought not to hire boys as babysitters, because the overwhelming majority of sex perverts are male; also, do you really want a possibly rambunctious teen age boy alone in your house with your children. I don't feel strongly about this, but I do think its probably right. Teenage boys are more likely to think about sex, and, presented with the unmonitored opportunity, might experiment. Teenage girls, of course, rarely think about sex. Yeah, right.

In our home, we've only used a babysitter about five times, and four of the five, it was a member of the family. The fifth, it was the daughter of a neighbor who was intensely religious -- not in-your-face intense, but intense enough that she ended up quitting her job to become a pastor at a local church. So if I had to pick, and I knew nothing about the kid, I'd go with the girl -- but I'd like to think that I would consider the boy, too.

Even though, as my daughter enters her teen years, I do look at every boy with a skeptical eye.

I'm continuing to read the American Food Writing book. Most of it is what you'd expect -- written for foodies, with intense interest in this extra-virgin olive oil over that. But there are gems in there. My favorite, so far, is an article published in 1865 (!) by Harriet Beecher Stowe on the proper way to handle and cook meat, laying out in some detail why French cooks tend to be better, and produce better food. It doesn't eliminate my feeling that French food is effete trifles, but it goes a long way to reducing it. Of course, this article is a hundred and fifty years old.

Not sure what to make for dinner tonight. I'd planned on what we call 'seasoned chopped steak', which is essentially hamburger with spices, but we used what I had bought for dinner a couple of days ago. I'm reluctant to go to the store just for that -- we tend to shop on Friday, simply to avoid the 'oh, as long as I'm here, let me get....' syndrome, which I'm given to understand leads to buying things you didn't really need. On the other hand, the dinners for the next forty eight hours are going to be skimpy; I'll be doing the colon-blow tomorrow evening, so no dinner at all for me, and on Thursday, I'll be (I think) a little wiped out from having the procedure done. Decisions! Maybe I'll make an exception -- I go right by the store on the way back from dropping my mother off at her senior-center activity. And while I'm at the store anyway...(g)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Canada

Apparently, Canada isn't quite the paradise on earth that I thought.

Found here.

Congress

I occasionally complain about the ineffectiveness of Congress, with their penchant for sleazy deals, personal benefit over public good, and taking forever to get very little done. This morning, a friend sent me this, which does a very nice job of explaining what Congress is all about.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Some Ideas About Raising Children

I have said that I really like smart, capable women. Here's some great ideas about raising children, from exactly the kind of person I'm talking about.

Improvements

Things are slowly improving.

The shelves in my daughter's bedroom are back up. Even that was a little rocky -- I screwed in the bracket before painting, just to be sure it would work, and it worked fine -- then, after painting, the screw would only go in half way, such that I ended up stripping the head, and using pliers to wind it most of the way in. That's one screw that won't give up the ghost easily! But she has the stuffed animals back up, and quite a display it is. Her rough estimate is that she has about 105 of them.

The dinner tonight went well -- meatloaf with fries and peas, followed by vanilla bean (my daughter's favorite) ice cream sandwiches (commercially made; I don't do those...yet). I think the meatloaf could have cooked just a little more, but thats being picky. It certainly turned out better than the time I inadvertently cooked it on the lid of the pot, rather than the pot itself.

The Star Trek novel I'm reading is nifty, because it has an actual plot. Its surprising, because its the fourth of a quadrology (?), and I'd read one of the earlier ones, not being impressed with it. For some reason, this one is better. Its still implausible in places, but not a lot of places. Also, "American Food Writing: an anthology with classic recipes, edited by Molly O'Neill" is really interesting, and not just for foodies. To read what it was like to wander through the streets of the Italian section of old San Francisco, or how to approach making the best apple pie, or why Julia Child had notes advising her to 'chop the Baby's head off' -- pretty good stuff.

And maybe tomorrow I'll do a little baking!

SuDoHmmm....

For those who like the pain of Sudoku, this might be of interest.

Memory Infinite


From Yanko Design, who are apparently quite talented folks.

The Sunday Papers

Some interesting, and some perplexing, articles in today's papers.

One is about young women who earn substantially more than the guys that they're dating, and the discomfort on both sides of the equation. We're used to guys earning more; when it isn't that way, we don't always know how to handle it. One woman said that she makes a point to hide things that suggest her level of success, putting shopping bags from expensive stores away before her date arrives. Another said she noticed that her dates always liked to come to her apartment, commenting on how nice it was, but would rarely invite her to their homes, either because they lived with others, or in the depths of the outer New York boroughs, or both.
I can relate to that, somewhat; I've noticed that since I'm not working any more, I tend to flinch when the credit card bill is high, even when its because of things that we both regard as defensible and reasonable. It doesn't bother me not to be earning money, but I don't like to think about it, either.

Another article is about nursing homes, and can be summarized thusly: if they aren't insanely expensive, and if the owners are making money, then they're probably cutting corners in ways that imperil the residents. If you can't tell who actually owns the operation, that adds to the likelihood that they're not the best -- and if you see an investing group involved, pack up granny and get her the hell out of there. They're likely demanding too much of the staff, in every way.
My mother's brief stay in local rehabilitation hospitals buttresses that idea. The people working at those places are usually underpaid, usually overworked. Every day is like every other, which is: dismal.

Speaking of dismal, the parties are again playing politics with health care, with the Republicans (lead by the Decider In Chief) saying that they don't want to expand health care for children, because that way lies fiscal chaos, not to mention, these kids' families surely could get private care, and any bills that the DIC doesn't like will get flat-out vetoed; its the responsibility of the Congress to only pass bills he likes. The Democrats are slightly better, but essentially say that they'll pass what they damned well please; if the DIC doesn't sign, then he's saying he doesn't care about kids health.

There's also a lengthy article about the inadvertent transfer of nuclear weapons from North Dakota to Louisiana. It doesn't add much to the story, other than to say that the bombs were under the military's control all the time, even while they were being driven down a main street on the North Dakota airbase. Beyond that, they say that gee, we really don't know what happened, but not to worry, because we'll figure it out. In about six months or so.

On the plus side: I sometimes look at the engagement/just married pictures that the Times runs. And I find something intriguing: I'm always pleased to see two gay people there. It reminds me that change is possible.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

NetBopping

So there I am, bopping around in the net, and I came across a site called About AI, and so I immediately started reading it, because AI is one of those things that can always grab my attention, particularly if its talking about applications thereof, which these guys do. Granted, I likely won't ever have the AI of my dreams, to run the house and orchestrate life seamlessly, not to mention, scan the web for specific-subject porn and download it during off hours, but I can dream, can't I ? And the nice part about AI related sites is that there is almost no politics or grandstanding there. Occasionally, someone talks about how wonderful they are and how great their project is, but even thats okay, because in many cases it really is wonderful and great stuff, even if you do have to drink the koolaid a little bit to get excited about someone building a lifelike automaton that really seems to be relating to you, or a chatbot that really does seem to respond to what you said, or an autonomous self-controlled terrain scaling vehicle, or a superslick aerial reconnaissance vehicle equipped with pattern recognition systems. This is really cool, but not for everyone.

I'm a little edgy tonight, but I don't know why. I think I just want to get the wall fixed in my daughter's room. I don't like messes (I'm not anal about it, and I can be messy, too, but when it feels like something that I can't fix, then I start getting tense about it -- kind of a feedback loop. Mess makes me tense, which makes me feel like I'm not in control, which makes me tenser...) I'm grateful that my wife (always marry someone smarter than you!) pointed out that we have wallboard patching tape; I'm amazed how well that stuff works, even if I did use it with spackle rather than wallboard compound. I know you're supposed to use the compound, but as it only comes in ten gallon jugs, that didn't sound too tasty as an option. If I can just get it sanded and painted tomorrow, we can give a try at putting the shelf back up -- though that bracket will be right the heck up against the window, so I will be screwing into wood, not air. I really want that to be done. As to how this happened -- well, I think my daughter leaned on it to reach something, but I won't challenge her on it. She's having a rough couple of days, and what would be the point?

I haven't been doing much baking lately. I want to get back to doing that. The Culinary Institute isn't helping; here it is, almost October, and they still don't have the schedule posted for any Boot Camps past January. I'd like to go in April or May -- give the winter snow a change to get out of there. And I'd like to try some more breads -- haven't done nearly enough of that, lately. And cookies! What can I say, I like baking.

BlockSite

Turns out that at least one of the things I want to be able to do -- block certain sites so I am never troubled by them again -- is actually coded. Used to be, AdBlock did it, but they removed it for some various reasons -- one of which is, they point out that the BlockSite add-on does it better.
==========
Update: Not at all sure about that, now... I have BlockSite installed, and its not particularly easy to use -- no 'right click to block this site', not even a 'right click to get the product's menu'. And apparently the guy who built it says he really doesn't have the time to update it.

Up Scope!

This is the week that I get C-Scoped. Thursday, to be exact. Wednesday to drink the nasty potion that will have me in residence in the john for several hours; Thursday for the knock-me-out and- pipe-me procedure.

The plan was that I'd be in the final stages of recovering from the bone graft when this was done, but the plan didn't allow for dentists who don't distinguish between drugs and aspirin. The memory of which -- and specifically, the result of having to wait two months to get it done; thus, I'll be recovering from a jaw bone graft during Thanksgiving; just ice cream for me, thanks -- can still irritate me, a bit.

But I am looking forward to having the C-scope done. I don't expect them to find anything -- I am, as they say, asymptomatic, with no personal or familial history of cancer (other than that one basal cell carcinoma). This is just my way of checking the box, doing what they always say you should do. If they find something, then they find it now, not later. And if they don't, then I'm good for several years. The gastro doc made casual reference to having it done every couple of years. We'll see about that....

Up scope!

Three proposals for the Improvement of Firefox

Herewith, some immodest proposals for filter function add-ons to the Firefox browser.


Do not connect to any site which uses the string-of-letters 'pwned' in its edit copy. (Set as Default)

Do not connect to any site which offers to provide me the true secrets of driving readers to my site. ((Set as Default)

Do not connect to any site which describes videos as 'hilarious'. (Set as Optional)

Allow the tagging on my PC of the header for any site, such that if that tag is encountered while browsing, the site will fail to load. Optionally, allow the tag to expire after sixty days. (Set as Optional)


Thank you.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Trusting the Government

A post on the subject, which I just wrote, is available here.

Secret Origins

Does Bruce Wayne know about this?

Drilling and Patching and Painting, Oh My

I tried twice to patch the hole left in the drywall where the anchor bolt pulled out, with no luck. It's not exceptionally big -- about half an inch across -- but apparently, thats big enough so that even when it dries, the patch plug just pops right into the hollow opening beyond. So, I figured that Bob Villa was channeling to me to Use The Bigger One, Bill -- and thats what I'm doing. Specifically, I bought some toggle bolts, and once I'm done sanding down the areas where I patched, I'll put the toggle bolts through the holes. Heck with trying to fill them.

Is there a catch? Of course there is. Two, in fact.

For one, with toggle bolts, it only gets used once. If you unscrew the bolt, the wings fall into the hollow opening, you swear, and then you get to go buy more. But, that's expected.

For two, last night I put some patching compound over the apparently fine anchor bolt sockets on the other side, thinking that I wasn't going to use them. Once this brainstorm hit, I thought 'Well, hell...' ...and scraped off the patch. I think it'll work.

Isn't this fun?

Meth Lady


I found this on a humour site. It's not funny at all, but if there's the slightest chance it's a real set of pictures, as distinct from someone's prank, then it's worth seeing, as a reminder of what meth can do. And how meth users looked just like you... once.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Doins'

Big doin's around the household.

The new washer and dryer are in, and they've been used once. Twice the laundry in the same amount of time; plus, because the washer can spin so fast, the clothes come out dryer, so the dryer runs less. Nice.

The new supermarket chain location is open, and boy, are they on the megahuge side. Forget leaving cookie crumbs to find your way back to the register -- you need GPS. I never saw so many people buying stuff in one store before. I can see now why our local supermarket has started sprucing up the place.

My daughter's collection of stuffed animals grew -- we found some under the bed while we were hunting for her retainer. And as a result of putting them on the shelf, the lower shelf had a little accident. Guess who gets to patch and sand tomorrow, not to mention, paint, and rehang the shelf a little lower?

Redhead

I'm not a big fan of Michael Jackson's, but I do like this rendition of one of his tunes. It's.... different.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food Update: Chocolate Pudding

The pudding had its pluses and minuses. On the upside, it had a nice, smoky flavor, with a layered undertaste -- it wasn't like a jolt of chocolate to the brain. On the downside, it wasn't as liquid as I'd like -- more like a very soft, very smooth frosting. The liquid in the recipe comes from coconut milk, which would be difficult to increase easily, but possibly a splash of milk would help. We did find that adding a generous dollop of whipped cream loosened it right up, making it less something to carve and more something to spoon. So, not bad -- I think its a keeper.

Phag - , not Fag -

A friend of mine gave me the actual word I was looking for -- Phagocytosis, not Faggotizes -- as well as this dandy Wiki Note about it. Thanks, Doctor J!

The Real Thing

My wife tells the story about when she was young, and staying home from school because she was sick. Her father offered to make tomato soup for her, and she agreed, but when he'd finished rendering down the tomatos, and seasoning the resulting soup, she grimaced at the taste. This isn't REAL tomato soup, she said; surprised, he replied that of course it was -- she'd seen him make it herself. Which was when he learned that REAL tomato soup comes out of a can with the Campbell's label on it.

I'm about to make the chocolate pudding I alluded to earlier. It's been a desire of mine for quite some time to be able to make a thick, rich chocolate pudding -- not a mousse, but better than what you get from a packet with the JELL-O Instant Pudding label on it. Yet I know that when I taste it, my first thought will not be 'is it good?' but 'is it better than JELL-O ?' I imagine that instinctive comparison is of some comfort to the Kraft people.

Some years ago, I made a cake not as I usually do -- not that I do it all that often -- but using a mix, and, as I remarked to my wife afterward, 'You know, thats not half bad -- and a lot easier than doing it from scratch. I guess thats why people buy that stuff, huh?' It wasn't quite on the same level as realizing why it's bright in the east, every morning -- but it wasn't that far off, either.

She, being an inherently nice person, just smiled.

The Plan

The plan today:

a) bring my mother to her senior center activities, assuming they're having them, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don't

b) call the local doc people to see if they have a prescription for her, so that she doesn't have to pay a gihugic price for her blood test kid test strips (I always wondered why they give new testers away free; now I know its the same principle as displayed by King Gillette, lo, these many years ago)

c) calm down, assuming that (a) and/or (b) made me freak out, which sometimes the intersection of my mother and medical or senior center stuff makes me do. I get really impatient, sometimes....

d) bake buttermilk biscuits and possibly coconut chocolate pudding

e) watch the guys deliver the new washer and dryer and take the old ones away, being grateful that I don't have to personally do it.

f) find a backup software package that I can use to automatically select and compress files, so that I can ditch the Symantec Suite. Free would be nice; up to $50 is okay.

g) do a little cleaning

h) make dinner, which tonight is Sloppy Joes in Pita Bread, Salad, and possibly biscuits and pudding.

Okay, thats enough, right?

===========================
Update
-Senior center and prescription, done. CVS unaware of the concept of friendly service, check.
-Choco-pudding, in the fridge. Biscuits....maybe tomorrow.
-Washer and Dryer, check. Laundry room floor -- cleaned the laundry room floor after one hose disconnected abruptly.
-Backup software, check -- looking at A43, which is freeware, though if I like it, I'll send them some bucks anyway.
-Dinner -- not yet. Starting in 43 minutes.

Not bad, bubba!

MedSpeak

I learned a new medical term this morning.... but I don't think it was a real one.

My wife was talking with her hematologist the other day, and he mentioned to her how the kidneys strain out blood platelets that are abnormal. The concept was clear, but it sounded to her as if he said 'it faggotizes them'. Last time I looked, that's not a med phrase, so we think he really said 'it scavenges them' or something like that...

I love learning this kind of thing, but sometimes its a bit less obvious than others!
================
Update: I'm guessing he was saying PAF-AH, or possibly just PAF -- Platelet Activating Factor. Hey, its a reach....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Recovery

Its amazing what four hours of sleep followed by a pepperoni and pineapple pizza will do for your mood. I'm still pissed, but now its more of an intellectual anger rather than a 'wish those guys had a plate glass window I could drive through' kind of anger.

On the bright side -- ever have one of those evenings where the moon just seems to fill the night sky? Check this.

Clocked

I'm really ticked, today. No posts for a while, I think.

Forty? Forty!

It's forty degrees out. When did we agree that winter could arrive a bit early this year?

Last night, I wrote a post expressing some surprise at the number of things we've bought, or planned to buy this week -- a backup drive for the laptop (on Friday, arrived yesterday); the washer and dryer (on Saturday, arriving tomorrow). We had planned to get a standalone freezer, tomorrow, because we somewhat need one -- my mother's freezer is fairly small, and ours tends to get swamped by the stuff that school fund drives offer. No one's making us buy that stuff, of course. And then we were thinking of placing an order for coffee from First Colony, because we're getting close to running out.

I deleted that post, because, on reflection, it sounded arrogant to me. Look how much stuff we can buy!!!

That feeling of arrogance had another, more substantial effect. We're going to back off on two of those purchases. We're not going to get the freezer -- at least, not for a couple of months, and possibly not at all -- and we're not going to get the coffee -- when we run out, we'll simply drink the plain stuff -- and at that, its not generic; its Starbucks. We're not going to adopt a policy of ascetic minimalism; we won't be wearing monastic robes, and I'm not getting a tonsure, even if I kind of look like I already have one. No, the reason is, I got a little skittish at the idea of spending so much money in one short period. That fear doesn't make economic sense -- we last bought a washer and dryer twenty years ago; we don't plan on routinely buying an external hard drive, or a freezer -- but it somehow makes emotional sense. I can't really explain it, other than to say that in some strange way, I feel as if buying a ton of stuff in a short period loosens the floodgates, making it more likely that we'll just go out and spend money later on things that we don't need, simply because we can. A new, larger food processor, when the one we have is just fine for 90% of the things we'd use one for. A new television, when the one we have is just fine. Even new books, when we haven't yet read the ones we bought two weeks ago. I don't like that idea. It feels profligate, out of control. Scary.

I don't actively worry about things like that -- but I do worry. It's part of my charm. (g)

This morning, speaking of the external hard drive, we were talking about the transience of digital items. It used to be that when you wanted to keep something, you squirreled it away in a folder or under your bed or in the attic; for the important stuff, you rented a safe deposit box and crammed it into there. And you knew that the odds were very good, when you went to look for it, it'd be there, and it'd be usable. If one of the things was a photograph from fifteen years ago, you knew there was a decent chance that it'd be somewhat faded now, but that was just what things like that did, over time. Similarly, you knew that if you went and pulled out that sheet of paper you'd put into a folder, it might be torn, or stained, now -- but it was still likely to be usable. Sometimes, you just couldn't find it -- where the heck did I put that thing? -- but that, too, was part of it. Things were, until they weren't.

But with digital items, there's always the lurking fear that though you thought they were safe, they weren't. Hard drives fail. Backup tapes stretch. CDs delayer (I thought they delaminated, but apparently not). Even if the storage media are intact, the software that knows how to read it fails, or won't run on the new machine. You don't have to relearn how to read in order to read that forty - five year old letter you kept under your bed, but the ten year old data? Maybe.

This isn't doing much for my confidence in backups, I can tell you. I almost -- not quite, but almost -- feel like saying 'Then what the hell. Don't back it up. It fails? It fails."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Diverse Homogeneity

From a Time magazine article on the building of the Dreamliner:

"Bair says the 787 has been a more complicated management process because Boeing doesn't have day-to-day inside control but says the diversity of cultural perspective and expertise has strengthened the team (my emphasis)."

Boy, would I love to believe that. Personally, I suspect that some diversity of perspective is useful, but homegeneity is more so. My gut feel: 90% homeogeneity, 10% diversity, is about right. (Yeah, I know you can't actually orchestrate that.) You need to know what to expect from your coworkers, and what they expect of you, and thats more important than learning a different set of expectations and deliverables with each new culture. But you can't think that your way MUST be the best way, either -- because it isn't, always -- and that awareness is what the diversity brings you.

So, 90%/10% .

Is that parochial of me?

Starbucks and Salvation

It's tacky to grab an entire entry from another blog -- so I won't. But here's a chunk of one from the Reveries blog. It captivated me:

Except for one thing — it (Starbucks) was a world where everyone was treated with “respect, even homeless people who needed to use the bathroom.” Indeed, while cleaning the toilet, Michael says he was “surprised by how little revulsion I felt for a job I would have previously thought beneath me.” He found comfort working “where people could be nicer and the work environment better than I had ever believed possible … What you are trying to do is help other people enjoy something,” he says. That “something,” he explains, is not a “multimillion dollar ad campaign. It’s just trying to serve a good cup of coffee.”

Imagine a world where we all felt that way?

AppleSoft

I'm not contemplating a new PC any time soon, but I found this article from the Wall Street Journal, written by a guy who is contemplating making his next PC a Mac, interesting. While the letters he cites are mostly people switching from PCs to Macs, a few go in the other direction, or upgrade their current Windows PCs -- which he says reflects the flow of letters he received from an earlier article on the same subject. Some of the pro-Mac stuff sounds like 'drink the kool-aid', but not much. Its intriguing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fud

I'm not a big candy eater, but when I came across a site that mentioned something called 'Fresh from the Factory', by Hershey, specifically saying that the Twizzlers they'd gotten were actually flavorful and chewy, I took notice. The site said that the product was more expensive than just buying from the store. Okay, I can understand that. It also said that the offerings were intermittant, so I wasn't too surprised when the Hershey site kept saying they weren't available.

But this evening, it was.

Immediately, I looked for Twizzlers. Not to be found -- but I did find the FFTF part. But you can't just order Twizzlers, now, it seems. If I want Twizzlers, I need to order, at a minimum, a three month, three item shipment, of which one was Twizzlers, for sixty dollars.

Sixty dollars? I don't like any food that much.

Wonder if these guys are familar with the fable of the goose that laid golden eggs?

The Man

Jed: Which one of you is the man?
Toby: On this one, we'd like to think of ourselves collectively as da men, sir.

I was standing in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, when my wife abruptly walked over and started patting me on the back. "Congratulations", she said. "You da man." (We never say that.)
I just looked at her.
"We just bought a new washer and dryer", she said.

I nodded.
"It arrives on Wednesday."
I nodded again.
"You insisted that we should just go ahead and get it -- the washer was dying, you said. Let's not wait."
"Yes?"
"This evening, I was doing laundry."
"And?"

A pause.

"Our washer's spin cycle died."



EMD

I am trying to cut down on the number of food blogs that I look at, so they are actually ones I look at, not simply ones that had something nifty when I stumbled across them. Thus, I won't save the RSS feed for Eat Me, Delicious....despite what looks like a marvelous chocolate cake recipe. And thats just for starters.

Hangin' Out

My daughter invited a friend over to the house to hang out, today. Which is fine with me: I like her friends, and I like that she gets together with them.

While we were walking in a local park this morning, she quietly told me that she invited this friend because the friend's brother told her that their parents were getting divorced. My daughter wanted something nice to happen to this kid.

Geez, sometimes you're just so proud of them.....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Viva la Revolucion

Comes the revolution, this is history.

This, too, assuming I can get a decent surface to air missile. Amazon seems to be fresh out...

Well, okay, it is just pure envy on my part. But I do think they're both over the top, down the other side, and into the next valley... and symbols of a lifestyle redolent of wretched excess.

Washing, Drying

Well, we trundled down to the department store, hemmed and hawed, and finally ordered up the new washer and dryer. That giant sucking sound is the sudden underpressure in our checking account. These things are expensive! But hey, the washer has a clear plastic lid so that you can watch things as they suds away. That alone is worth it. (Yeah, right!)

But the capacity is right up there, and its quieter and more efficient than what we have now. The only downside is the color -- its white. Which is okay, but, you know, I really wanted something in gleaming Vader Black, or perhaps the crimson red that one of the Samsung models had. And, of course, this means that we won't be getting the plasma TV with Bose Surround Sound... though I'm told that wasn't particularly likely to occur, anyway !

Splitsville

I'm not planning on getting a divorce. But if I were, Jim Mahon's the guy I'd want to call. He's got style.

Einstein, Spock, and Pie

This is one of the wallpapers on this laptop. Each of these people -- and yes, I know one's fictional -- is a hero of mine. Each regarded the cosmos as ultimately knowable.

The magazines and books are starting to pile up again, which never used to happen to me -- and as a result of one, I got to thinking about stasis fields. If you're not a sci-fi fan, here's an explanation: a stasis field is a method of preventing change to whatever is within it. It can be thought of as a fog; inside the fog, milk doesn't go bad, people don't age, things don't decay. Essentially, entropy ceases. I wondered, briefly (there's that ADD again) how a stasis field might work, and for some reason that led me to wondering how one of the 'bio-beds' in Star Trek would work. That's more 'wouldn't this be cool' stuff. Those are more than beds; at a minimum, they execute non-invasive evaluations of the physical systems of the person in the bed, and, in an advanced mode, affect the state of those systems. Someone who's ill and untreatable at the moment could be put into a biobed and the stasis field energized, at which point they're 'frozen in time'. Need an oxygen-saturated atmosphere? The bed can provide a non-permeable shield around the occupant, with oxygen kept at high saturation inside. Very gee-whiz stuff.

I wondered, briefly, how one would work, and got the very vaguest outlines in my mind -- well, for blood pressure, you'd need a way to measure the pressure of a vessel without touching it; perhaps something to do with the elastisticity of the vessel under pressure and not (ie, systolic and diastolic)? Could some kind of spectrum analysis show that? --- and then I started thinking about something else -- in this case, the pie shell that I need to make some time next week. Been a while since I've done that.

But still -- that fake tech stuff is fun to think about, isn't it?

COOL!

The weather, that is -- about 62 degrees right now, with a high around 70, and tonight down to 47. This is excellent September weather -- good for long bike rides along country lanes, of which we actually have several in this area. And lets not forget hot apple cider and all of that. So, cool!

Not so cool was the poll that I put in here a few days ago -- I got just one response (guess who), which surprised me. I didn't believe those people who say that putting polls and lists on your site will drive people to the site -- its got to be about content -- but still, I was a little surprised by the total lack of response. Granted, the question's subject was a little lame, and not something I normally care about -- but its quite the hot topic in some circles. Not here, though!

I've been trying to find some interesting and useful podcasts to listen to, looking especially for things that I might not normally be interested in knowing about. I suppose that a more eclectic person would say Ah, podcasts on Greek symbolism, or the literary practices of Elizabethan England; actually, branching out, for me, means looking for things on neurobiology, about which I know very little, or artificial intelligence, about which I know a little -- enough to know that you can't really say 'artificial intelligence' and have it mean something; you have to say 'machine cognition' or 'pattern recognition' or 'neural nets', and so forth. I'd like to know more. For example: how'd they actually do the techniques shown in the video in the last post? My knowledge about things like that is back in the 'Boids' timeframe, and that was years ago.
But I also realized something that took me by surprise; podcasts demand attention. Where I can bop through twenty or so web sites on a range of topics in thirty minutes, each podcast might take five to ten minutes itself -- and you have to listen to the end, rather than just cherrypicking as you do when you read. The tape access versys disc access paradigm. I should have realized that before, but I didn't.

I hope to make some more sourdough bread today, so that we can have it tomorrow. We might even make French Toast out of it.
But today, we are going to go look at washer/dryer pairs (most likely: Whirlpool's top loading Cabrio), and possibly chest freezers (our refrigerator's freezer is big enough unless we're being swamped by Fund Raiser Stuff). What fun!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Artificial Intelligence

It may be no match for natural stupidity, but it's pretty amazing, nonetheless.

Canadian Cool

I always liked the liquid known as Clearly Canadian, which you can't get around here any more. But its good to know that Canadians still know how to be cool.... even if they won't accept my suggestion to change the name of the country to Canadia.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Femtrooper

I'm pretty sure Darth doesn't know about the new troopers....


Found here.

Schooling

Heard something odd today.

I was driving my daughter and her friend to color guard practice when the friend, who just started high school, mentioned that a girl she knew had dropped out of high school after only a month -- and instead is going to 'cyber high school'. I asked, and she said that its a program where you take all of your classes from home, via PC. I asked my daughter if she'd want to do that if she could, and she said no; she likes having teachers to talk with. Which is cool. But I wonder: will that become a trend? Could it become something where you take some courses from home, and others at the school?

Course, this would work, too...




Got to get back to the kitchen. The double chocolate brownies will be coming up for their first 'done' check soon.
============
Update: Disappointing. They're rich, and they're solid, but also very dry -- went from moist in the middle at 35 minutes to bone dry at 40. It'd likely be good as the base for something sweet, though, so, for anyone interested, here it is --

Basic Double Chocolate Brownies (16 brownies)
• Fork-stir the flour first to lighten it.
• Measure the flour and cocoa powder properly by lightly spooning them into dry measuring cups. Level the cup with the straight edge of a spatula or knife. Do not tap down the contents.
• Do not mix the batter any longer than it takes to combine the ingredients.

Nonstick cooking spray for the baking pan
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached cake flour
1/4 cup alkalized (ie, Dutch process) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (preferably fine sea salt)
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 cups superfine sugar
21/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
1. Lightly coat a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large saucepan over very low heat, heat the butter and chocolate, stirring now and again as the contents begin to melt, until completely melted. Whisk well to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, on a large sheet of wax paper or in a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powders and salt. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolk just until combined. Whisking constantly, add the sugar in a steady stream and whisk until well combined, about 45 seconds.
5. Whisk the melted chocolate-butter mixture to recombine, then gradually whisk it into the egg-sugar mixture. Add the vanilla and whisk until completely combined.
6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the batter and gently but thoroughly whisk together the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated. Do not whisk rapidly or for too long.
7. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake the brownies in the preheated oven for 35 - 40 minutes, just until set (toothpick test).
Do not overbake. Don't worry if there a few hairline cracks in the surface of the brownie cake. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely (at least two hours).
8. To serve, using a sharp knife, cut the entire pan of brownies into quarters. Then cut each quarter into quarters again. If desired, sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the top of the cut brownies just prior to serving.
Per brownie: 295 calories, 4 gm protein, 33 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 99 mg cholesterol, 10 gm saturated fat, 64 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Notes:
It is important to note that mixing a brownie batter by hand produces the best texture. Twice-sifting the flour ensures that the batter bakes to a satiny conclusion. And, as specified in the recipe, be sure to mix the ingredients just until combined. If you merrily beat the ingredients at each and every stage, so much air will be beaten into the batter that it will rise to glorious heights only to collapse on itself with a top surface separated from the underlying firmament -- whatever surprises it may contain.
Variations
Load the batter with semisweet chocolate chunks: Toss 3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips with 3/4 teaspoon of the flour mixture, then set aside. Stir the floured chips into the batter after the flour mixture has been incorporated. Bake as directed. If desired, scatter 1/4 cup miniature chips (not floured) on top of the brownie 5 minutes before the baking time is up, then return to the oven for the duration.

Make the batter a bittersweet haven: Toss 6 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate with 1 teaspoon of the sifted flour mixture then set aside. Stir the floured chocolate into the batter after the flour mixture has been incorporated. Bake as directed.

Add fragrance with vanilla: Split 1 plump vanilla bean down the center to expose the tiny seeds. Using the tip of a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and blend into the whisked sugar and egg mixture. Continue to mix and bake as directed.

Stir in some crunch with nuts: Coarsely chop 1 cup shelled, skinned, unsalted nuts. Scatter the nuts in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. Cool completely. Stir the cooled nuts into the batter after the flour mixture has been incorporated. Bake as directed.

Make a rocky-road batter: Toss 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 3/4 teaspoon of the sifted flour mixture, then add 3/4 cup miniature marshmallows and 2/3 cup toasted, cooled chopped nuts. (See note in preceding nut variation.) Set aside. Stir the ingredients into the batter after the flour mixture has been incorporated. Bake as directed.

Impart a tropical note with flaked coconut: Stir 3/4 cup firmly packed, sweetened flaked coconut into the batter after the flour mixture has been incorporated. Bake as directed.

Slide a cookie crust underneath: Pour 8 tablespoons unsalted butter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafer cookie crumbs in an even layer over the butter and press down lightly on the crumbs with a spatula so that they absorb the butter. Bake the cookie layer in the preheated oven for 6 minutes and cool on a rack. Spoon the brownie batter onto the crust and spread it over the top, being careful to keep the cookie crust intact. Bake as directed and cool completely prior to removing.

Trying to Cut Down

I was looking at the Baking and Food part of my newsreader this morning. That section is once again overflowing, as whenever I see a food-related site, I note it so that I can go back later and see what it talked about over a period of time. This is what it looked like. I was looking, specifically, at the Once Upon A Tart site. See the brownie at the upper right? I was immediately taken by it, as mine rarely look that good.

So, I trundled over to the site where it was described - Milk and Cookies, which is created in Syndey, Australia. (Do they prefer that you say the state, too, I wonder? It'd be like me saying Harrisburg, United States, I guess...)

Here's part of the recipe:

60g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
170g dark chocolate
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
140g fromage blanc

What the heck is Fromage Blanc, I wondered. From the little French I know, I guessed 'white cheese', but that sounded odd. What did they do, slice up cheese? So I looked it up -- but it turned out I didn't need to, because the author kindly described it on that same page -- Fromage Blanc is a soft white cheese that is very similar to cream cheese although has the consistency of sour cream. I looked at some other sites, too, and my final take is that it's essentially high-quality cream cheese -- though I'm sure an excellent cook would shudder at that definition.

So this got me thinking 'Hey, I should save this recipe'... and then I thought 'I already have five recipes, I rarely make brownies, and when I do, I don't make more than one recipe, heck, I haven't even tried the two recipes that were given to me by people who made excellent brownies themselves, so why do I need another?'

So I didn't save it. But maybe, this afternoon, I'll make brownies. Not a lot, though. Because, you know, I'm trying to cut down.

Ten Best... and then some

I came across this list at the Popular Mechanics site. Its supposed to be 25 things every man should know.

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who as capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network



A comment on the site notes that the commenter learned how to cook when his wife no longer could, and he does so cheerfully. Which made me look at the list again. Many of the things there are nice to know, but you wouldn't need to know on a routine basis. You can find out, do it, and then forget how till the next time,when you'll learn it again. For example: change oil and filter.

But then again, some of them are things that, should you need to know it, you need to know, because you have no time to go get someone/learn how/figure an alternative. For example: get a car unstuck. And some, you need to know, even if you use it rarely, because the price of learning is so high, or because the price of doing it wrong is so terrible. For example: how to paint a room; how to bleed brakes.

So I'm curious: what would you add to this list?

Here's my contribution:
how to put out a kitchen fire.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Technology

This is a continuation of an earlier post. It will likely not make much sense. You have been warned.

Okay, so say we want to cause the television in room A to play a video thats on a PC in room B. Lets say that the video is on the hard drive (which means we've skipped the illegal but perfectly reasonable step of copying it to the hard drive; it just magically appeared there, and will of course, oh gods of RIAA, be there only until it is viewed).

How do we make this happen?

Well, we need to turn do a couple of things in any order. When we have all of them, we have a system that will do this for us.

We need to make sure that the hard drive is on.
We need to be able to issue commands to the hard drive to start and stop the video.
We need to make sure that there is some kind of command path and a communications path between the hard drive and the television.

The first one -- maybe the hard drive is always on, but maybe it isn't. Or maybe its supposed to be on, but every so often, it gets turned off by gremlins, cleaners, or kids wondering what that button does. We need to be able to say 'Turn on', and if it isn't already, it does. So we need some device that can send a signal to the hard drive that it will recognize as 'turn on'. This means we need to know what that signal is, or we need some kind of interface that will pass on such a command for us -- ie, we tell the interface Hey, Make Sure The Hard Drive Is On, and it sends the command and checks the response.

The second one -- once the hard drive is on, you need to be able to tell it what to do -- and when you issue the commands, you have to get some kind of indicator back that says Okay, Chief, I got that, starting now, stopping now, whatever. It can't be a Yeah response. Its actually got to be the hard drive controller telling you that Things Are Happening. It would also probably be a good idea if it gave you a HOLY CRAP!!! indicator... for what IBM likes to call Unexpected Events. So this means we need to know what those signals would look like, or we need to be able to tell an interface. My guess is, we'd need to do it directly.

The third one -- I'm thinking a hard-wired connection here. I know, wireless connections are all the rage, the bees knees, and all that hep cat stuff. Its also slower than a hard wired connection. You can get a megagihugically fast wireless connection, if its that big a deal to you, or you can run CAT5 cable. Or thicker. Its kind of the difference between the flexibility of a bus and the economies of light rail. You can have wireless for short distances or lightweight transmissions, though.

And thats it.

Yeah, right. What am I missing?

Domesticular Communications

We're likely going to replace our washer and dryer soon -- the washer's started making a horrible banging sound with no obvious reason, and the dryer occasionally doesn't get things dry enough. We've had the pair for about 20 years, so I don't think we need to complain about life expectancy, even though you do hear of people who've had units for much longer than that. We're not sure what we will replace them with, though we're thinking of something that's taller, with front loading for both the washer and the dryer. Personally, I'd like one with the sort/fold options, as well, though those do seem to be scarce on the ground.

I stopped by the libe this morning and picked up two of their DVDs -- one of the West Wing series, and one of the House show. House is from the first season, before they started spending so much time being cute. I'm not sure that I'll be able to watch all of them by the time that the videos are due. What I'd like to do is copy them to the PC and simply watch when I can, but I know that the lords of DVD land regard that as unfair use. Then again, they seem to regard lots of things as unfair.

Both of those streams make me wonder, just a bit, what it takes to set up communications inside a house so that components can talk to each other. How could the washer or dryer be set up to gently alert us that they're done doing their thing? How could the television show me videos that are stored on the PC? The latter, at least, I know is technically feasible, though I tend to assume 'feasible assuming you have time to set it up, and plenty of spare storage, cpu cycles, and communications bandwidth'. I am guessing that this kind of thing can be done - but how?

Model Man


I don't make models. I used to, back when I was a kid. My models weren't very good, though I still recall with some fondness the model of the lunar bus from 2001. Every so often, I think that it'd be fun to do again.

But this -- this is awesome. From here. Do you recognize it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technology is a Wonderful Thing



Found here -- clearly, the home of some very special people.

This is why Google is so much fun

From a search with search phrase "zip drive":

PC World - The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

Iomega Zip Drive (1998). Click for enlarged view. Click-click-click. That was the sound of data dying on thousands of Iomega Zip drives. ...
www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,125772,pg,4,00.asp - 55k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this - Filter

PC World - The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

The only storage technology ever mentioned by name on HBO's Sex and the City, the Zip Drive was available for both Macs and PCs; the Mac version connected ...
www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,123950,pg,5,00.asp - 62k -

Stuffin' Stuff

The other day, I read a web article by a fellow who'd had a hard drive crash, and lost a significant amount of his stuff. He'd taken all of the reasonable precautions, and then some, including having a secondary storage array just to back up his primary. Unfortunately for him, the crash occurred while he was disassembling that backup in preparation for a move.

I thought, Poor Bastard, but also, a bit smugly, If he didn't have so much stuff, it'd not have been a problem. People just keep too much stuff. Cheap, available storage makes that possible -- things get squirreled away, and you forget about them. If you see them again, you think Oh, yeah, I want to keep that, but if you don't see them again, you forget. And even if you remember, you look a bit, and think Oh well, heck with it. Only occasionally does it happen that you actually did need it, and less often, that theres no alternative. I'm sure Bill Gates loses files, every so often.

But me, I thought, I don't have that problem, because I don't keep stuff. Oh, okay, I did wonder why the 50 gig drive on the laptop is about 80% full, but thats about the extent of it. The other day, though, I picked up a freeware package (more stuff!) called TreeSize, that reads the disk and gives you a listing of how much storage is in use, and by what. I was surprised to find that of the forty gig in use, ten gig is photographs. What? We don't take that many! And then I remembered: my daughter loves the movie button on the digital camera. Loves it. And sure enough, those AVI files are the bulk of the ten gig. So, I thought, time to implement The Plan. I plugged the USB connector from the desktop into the port on the laptop and set it to transfer the photographs over to the desktop, where I'll use the off-site storage package to migrate it. I figured it'd take about half an hour to migrate over.

Been runing for two hours now.

But that still doesn't really address the problem -- all I'm doing is moving it. Now those files will sit, unused, on the desktop PC, taking up space. I've occasionally wondered why there's no PC version of the mainframe's storage-backup systems, which can dump a little-used file to tape, recalling it when needed. The package is called DFHSM -- Hierarchical Storage Manager -- on IBM mainframes; I'm sure that there're other, equivalent processes for other systems -- and there's a whole theology about how you back up things, how often, how much you need to back up. As I recall, the last iteration, called Migration Level II, is 430 days -- once somethings been untouched for that long, odds are very good it won't ever be touched again; get rid of it.

We need that. I need that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hot Air

...

What is it about a hot air balloon launch that is so exhilarating, so full of whimsy and wonder, that you'll just stand there in awe as they fill the chilly pre-dawn air like so many ghostly exclamation points? Why is it that just listening to the sound of the heater is enough to delight the soul?

Driving Me To...

Years ago, I promised myself that when the time came for my daughter to learn how to drive, I would arrange for her to take a professional driving course -- one that went beyond your average high school Drivers Ed, teaching real-world driving -- skid control, highway driving, handling bad weather, all of that, or as much as I can get.

This afternoon, I overheard her talking to a friend, and she noted that it'd be about two years before she can get a learners permit. So, I've started looking around. I don't want her to be able to do amazing things with a car (though the ability to do a bootlegger turn would be kind of neat), but I want her to have confidence and control when she gets behind the wheel.

Does that make sense?

Oink

I couldn't eat anything this morning, and I didn't expect to eat anything solid tonight. Then came the surprise announcement. I was ticked. I needed comfort food. So -- we had a pepperoni and pineapple pizza from Dominos. And I made this pudding (I'd call it a souffle). It was pretty good, and now I feel better.

Abort

So there I am, lying on the gurney, got the hospital robe on, cute little elastic socks, little hair net. Nurse is taking some notes. Asked if I'd taken any drugs today; nope, you said not to, so I didn't. What about yesterday? Well -- yeah. You didn't say anthing about that. Take any aspirin? Yeah, I take a baby one (81 milligrams) every night. Really? She goes and finds the two surgeons. The oral surgeon says No problem for me; I do surgery like that all the time. But the plastic surgeon says Hmm...well, taking aspirin reduces the likelihood of clotting, which means you're more likely to bleed.... and you're going to be having bone cut, which bleeds anyway. So theres a higher risk factor for extended bleeding. Its not a big risk, but it is there.

And then he asks: what do you want to do?

What do I want to do? Isn't this a medical question? Aren't you the medical guy? So we talk a little more, and finally I said 'This isn't to correct a life-threatening condition. It can wait. The bleeding is a risk factor that can be eliminated. Let's reschedule.' He starts nodding. 'Good idea. ' How long should I knock off the aspirin, I ask. Well, he hedges, it affects platelet function. And a platelets life is about ten days to two weeks. So, I'd say, two weeks.

Two weeks? And if I'd told that nurse 'why no, I didn't take aspirin last night', that'd have been the end of the discussion. And then I'd be knocked out right now, and we'd be under way.

Instead ....we get to do it again. Some other day, probably three to four weeks from now. Just because they never thought to ask if I, like thousands of other, take aspirin as a prophylactic measure.

I am so ticked.