Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dough No!

So here's the deal.

I did not want to buy a five quart lidded but not airtight bucket to store the dough from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (which, so far, is truthful as all hell -- if I spent more than five minutes on putting the dough together, I'll be surprised). I mean, the mixer bowl is a 2 1/2 quart bowl; who needs (or has room for) something twice that size, lurking in the refrigerator? So I cut the recipe in half, and I'm using a tall container to hold the dough that nevertheless fits on the top shelf (just).

This was supposed to be a 2-3 hour rise at room temperature. In the last 90 minutes, this dough has bumped right the hell up, on the order of doubled, easily, probably because I, ahem, did cut the recipe in half except that I forgot to do that with the yeast. So there is a LOT of yeast in there.

Its going through an overnight rise in the refrigerator. It's already taken up 3/4 of that container. The container is not air tight.

I think maybe I'll put a plate under the container....just in case the dough gets a little too ambitious....

Philosophy

I don't know how we got on the subject, but this afternoon, on the way to the library, my daughter and I talked about whether hell really exists, and if it does, if its reserved for people who were really, really bad, as differentiated from people who were less foul. She thinks the latter -- otherwise, the truly foul would get the same punishment as the less foul, which hardly seemed how a just and loving God would act. She also mentioned that she thinks what happens to you after you die might be affected by what you believed would happen after you die.

What a kid. Okay, when we got there, she did make me promise that if I ran into her while browsing books, I would not even acknowledge that I knew her (she'd be with a friend), but still -- what a kid.

Ahem

Exxon Mobil once again reported the largest quarterly profit in US history Thursday, posting net income of $11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter.

Me Hearties

I wonder if pirates ever actually said that?

I was just reading an article from the LA Times blogs about the extraordinary steps that Warner Brothers took to keep The Dark Knight from being pirated - which apparently didn't mean keeping it from being pirated forever, but simply delaying it by about thirty-six hours. They did this because they feel that piracy cuts into opening day revenues, and allows pre-release slamming of the movie, thus further cutting down revenues. (I suppose it could also increase revenues, as people speak highly of the movie, but the article didn't mention that.) What got my attention, though was a couple of comments in the responses --

LOL, I aint dumping $40+ to take my kid to see some stupid movie. It'll show up online sooner or later! LOL, they always do.

and

I'm sorry, piracy has ZERO effect on how well a movie does on opening weekend. It probably has 7% effect or so on a movies lifetime in a theater and *that's* for movies that suck...look at the demographic of those the pirate for christ sake.

Ah, literacy. (Of course, this level of dialogue would never occur in political discourse...)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Political Conversations

Sorry for writing so much about politics. Its been on my mind lately.

I think that everyone knows someone who's intense about a subject, and sometimes you learn that you had better not bring up that subject with them -- really, not at all, but if you must, with appropriate prior preparation. A tranquilizer, for example, and a cleared calendar for the next several hours. Its not that you don't want to consult them on the subject, or even just hear their thoughts; its that engaging them on their pet subject goes pretty quickly toward feeling like you've just locked yourself into a cage, and given them the key. Sometimes, its just the duration, coupled with the intensity; other times, its the complexity of what they throw at you. You want to talk about this marvelous book you found about bread, and the next thing you know, they're jabbing a finger at you, telling you how you simply must use a lame -- and not just any lame, but one made in France -- to serrate the bread. And they go on and on and on, while you're still thinking "lame"? La-may? What the hell is that? But you don't ask, because your casual conversation just became an inquisition/dissertation, and you're not having fun at all.

Maybe not all 'serious' conversations should be fun, but I think that when they're not, you lose something key. In my case, I lose the desire to continue. I just wanted to bat some ideas around, not defend western civilization. When my wife and I used to play racquetball, we came up with a concept that we called 'modified volley rules'. They included things like 'whoever is closer to the ball can hit it', 'you can hit it as many times as you have to' , and 'throwing is okay'. Plus, we didn't keep score. We were just doing it for the fun of it. When we would tell real racquetball players about MVR, they'd look aghast at us. How could we possibly play this way? That wasn't real racquetball, it was just batting a ball around and getting sweaty. Which it was. The thing is, that was all we wanted. Just bat the ball around.

I want political conversations that are the same way. I gather that so far as the politics as she is practiced these days crowd, I'm not only out of the loop, I'm in a different paradigm entirely. But I won't change.

I'll just keep quiet, and mutter occasionally.

Political Thought

Would it be okay for Obama to start producing negative attack ads with flashy graphics and well sure its not true but omigod what if it were lies, I mean, conceptual statements? In other words, ads aimed at the short attention span don't make me think crowd? They work for McCain -- that ad of his got a lot of press time because it was so over the top, so flashy, so sure its not true but what if it is. It was a lie, but it was a convincing lie. Big Lies Work. They don't have to work forever, just - long enough.

So -- would it be okay?

No. No. No.

Um..... are we sure about that? Even if it means the election?

Bread and Circus

Okay, maybe just bread.

Some time ago, I'd read an article about a fellow who'd come up with a way to make decent bread without a great deal of effort. That article turned out to be what bread writers called 'Sullivan Street Bakery Bread'. I tried the technique, and was taken by it. I'm not a bread freak, so I don't need what one author called 'the perfect crust, splintering in your hand, great crumb', all of that. I just want it to taste good. Oh, okay, I'd like it to taste great, but I'm not willing to go through major efforts to get there.

Then I read a different article about another guy who'd come with with a way to make decent bread without a great deal of effort. This guy was a doctor who just liked to make bread, to tinker with recipes. I am not a tinkerer; I find it hard to accept the idea of trying a recipe forty seven times (including, of course, doing the base recipe multiple times to ensure that you have a repeatable result), changing just a little bit each time. I mean, thats a lot of bread, and a lot of time, too. But I guess this doctor had a lot of time, and a willingness to have a lot of bread lying around. He got involved with a woman who was (cue the trumpets) a Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef, and who was very good at it. She gave him the theoretical underpinnings he needed to make his bread work, and was quoted at one point as saying something like 'this goes against everything I learned at the CIA. It should not work -- but it does.'

They wrote a book. The local library system has one, count it, one, copy. After making me wait three months, the library hath delivered it unto me. So, if anyone wants a bunch of loaves of dough -- I think, over the next thirteen and one half days (no renewals on this jewel) , I'll be generating some. Stop by.

Oh, and the brownies turned out nicely.

McCain's Ad

Amazing. Apparently, McCain's given up already. Either that, or he's desperately trying to distract people from his lack of substance and ideas to get us out of this mess. Instead his new ad calls Obama a celebrity, and moans that the media loves Obama too much. Instead of engaging in a debate of ideas, or offering proposals of his own, or just paying attention to issues-- he chooses to snipe and engage in personality-based attack ads. Can the Swift Boaters be far behind?

McCain. He really is Bush III.
===========
Update: I guess I'm too naive. I just got through reading a web page saying that McCain is going negative, which will have a bad effect on how people that he needs will view him -- that he needs to project that he is a man of integrity, one who has plans. And just about all of the comments essentially said 'Obama is too coddled, poor baby' and 'the hell with McCain, he is too old and stupid'. Also, 'why didn't he go see the soldiers, he obviously doesn't care'. Holy hell. If this is the level of political discourse even now --even now -- then I really do expect too much. When anything a candidate does can be spun -- if Obama did go to the hospital , there would have been claims that he is politicizing our soldiers; not going, there are claims that he doesn't care -- then we are really screwed. We don't want intelligence. We don't want thoughtful analysis. We don't want a rational approach. We want a show. We want bread and circuses.

I was starting to think that I've given enough money to Obama's campaign. Obviously not.

Brownout

I just saw this image on the Mari's New York Brownies page, and now, for some reason, I'm in the mood to bake.

Spectral

I don't believe in ghosts. As it happens, the friend of my daughter does.

We were driving back from their dance class today when my daughter asked if they'd seen ghosts at her house recently. The girl had recently moved into an old house that's not too far from here. I'm not sure how old the house is, exactly, but if I'd had to guess I'd say not more than a hundred years. There are older houses around, you can see them pretty much everyplace. This house doesn't have anything unusual about it, except that apparently it's fairly common for them to see what they swear are ghosts.

The girl says that she was in bed one night when she looked at the foot of the bed and saw a young boy with black hair standing there. She says that she was in a hallway talking with her mother, who was in the bathroom putting on makeup, when they heard footsteps upstairs. They were the only ones in the house. And she says that both she and her sister had independently seen something, or someone, in what looked like a white dress walk past their bedroom door. When they have darted outside to see who it was, there was nobody there.

The house has some history behind it -- apparently there were houses behind it, sort of shacks really, for several years in the 19th century. What's now a relatively open field across the street on them used to be farmland, apparently owned and operated by the people who lived in the house and the shacks. What the relationship is between that and what they say they see, I don't know. And whether they really are seeing something, or this is just suggestion, I don't know, either.

Because, you see, I don't believe in ghosts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mr O and the A Country

That's Obama and Afghanistan. According to Snopes, he didn't blow the GIs there off. I'm sure Rush Limbaugh will be glad to point this out.

FCX

I see the ads for the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, with the tag line "A car that emits no pollution, only clean water vapor", and I remember when the proponents of early nuclear power would say that nuclear power would be both safe and so cheap that it would hardly be worth metering.

Not that I'm against fuel cell vehicles, but -- why don't I believe that "clean water vapor" will be the only effect of the FCX?

Emily

I'm in the midst of a downer mood at the moment. About a week ago, my daughter's guinea pig, Emily, was euthanized.Today, I picked up the small box that had her remains in it.

Now, I don't want to imply that I'm some kind of fanatical pet lover. I like them; my life doesn't revolve around them. When my daughter had just Emily, I thought this is okay. It's not a lot of maintenance, and it is a cute little animal-- palm size, with yellow and white fur. It was about three months before we found out that the animal would actually make sounds. We occasionally heard a high pitch chirp and thought where the heck is that coming from? After a while, we realized it was coming from this small animal, and it meant what animal sounds usually mean -- feed me, pay attention to me.My daughter trained the animal to go up and down the stairs. Unfortunately, we realized that when it went up and down the hall it would also leave little droppings along the way -- but even that wasn't a big deal. We got used to having Emily around.

So when we had to have the animal killed, I wasn't particularly happy about it. My daughter was pretty distraught, too. When they were having discussions with the veterinarian, the concept of having the animal cremated came up, and they agreed. Today, I got to go and pick up the little box. Of course, Emily wasn't particularly big, and neither was the box - brown paper, tightly wrapped. Somehow, it was just like picking up a box at the post office. On the drive home, I looked over at the seat every so often and saw the box just sitting there, pretty much where Emily's cage was when I would take her to the vet.

It was ... a little sad. I could almost hear the chirp.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spaced

While slithering through the net, I came across this on a MySpace page.

Huuuuuuuge Snake

Drill Bit by Bit

I take it as a given that if we drilled for oil right now, it would not do any good to short-term oil prices in the United States.

Some have said that it wouldn't do any good long term, either, as oil is a global market, and it flows to the highest bidder, but I don't believe that. If I find oil in my back yard, it won't be sold to slake the fuel thirst of the Chinese (although the possibility that the drilling might be done, and the oil owned, by a company with international allegiances does cast that into some doubt).

And although I don't know how long it would take to take a barrel of oil and transform it into gas at the pump, I'm willing to believe that it takes a while -- say, two to five years. If we started right now, we wouldn't see any relief in gas prices for two years -- or whatever the minimum is. Remember, the gas industry is the people who mastered the art of charging at the pump now for increases in the price of oil that's not even out of the ground yet. I can easily see them increasing costs at the pump now on the possibility that they'll have to spend money later. Drilling's not a panacea, and it could even make things worse -- at least, in the short term.

But does that mean we ought not to drill, period? I'm beginning to think that no, it doesn't. Not necessarily.

We should not drill if doing so would mean putting off research and action towards alternative fuel sources. Oh, look, a glass of water -- okay, pour that on the fire, and we'll just put off calling the Fire Department till later. We like short term solutions and cringe at long term ones, so if the promise of increased oil in two to five years would mean less urgency on the research front today, I'd vote against it. On the other hand, not everything can be switched to alternative fuels. Nuclear-powered 747s? Solar powered tugboats? Not likely. We're going to need fuel for them. If it can be supplied or augmented from fuel we control -- good. If not -- well, we'd be no worse off.

I think that we ought to look into drilling. Without fanfare, without raised expections. And, oh yes -- without speculation. I suspect that pretty soon -- within, say, the next two or three years -- we're going to see some serious attention being paid to the way that oil gets into this country. We're going to start treating it the way we treat the phone system -- something that affects our livelihoods and our infrastructure. That can't be left to the viscissitudes and vagaries of the market. I hestitate to say Controlled -- visions of the Soviet Five Year Plans in my head -- but carefully watched, yes.

Otherwise, we could really be screwed.

Cartoonizer

Cartoonizer, on the Be Funky site, which I found on Dutch Femka's page, is fun.

Conservatism in Action

From the ABC News web site:

The gunman who yesterday shot up a Tennessee church that embraced gays and other liberal causes left behind a long letter fuming that he couldn't find a job and expressing a profound "hatred for the liberal movement," police said today. Jim D. Adkisson, 58, ranted that "liberals and gays" taking jobs had prevented him from finding work. He wrote that he expected to keep shooting parishioners until the police showed up and killed him, Knoxville, Tenn., Police Chief Sterling Owen told a news conference.....Owen said Adkisson was also angry that his food stamps were about to be reduced or eliminated.

And which political persuasion do you suppose got him those food stamps?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dancin'

Yeah, this is dippy. And yeah, I liked it.

Sexy Phrases

Everyone has sexy phrases -- groups of words that appeal to them, that make them light up.

Usually, they're something to do with sex -- lacy, perhaps, or thong, or whipped cream (which I've personally only tried once and thought my, that dries quickly). I'm sure you can think of others. Some, you wouldn't admit to other people; at most, you might edge into it with one other person (unless, of course, the word is orgy; kind of hard to have a two-person one of those. And is it or-gee or org-E? I've never been sure), trying them out to see if they're amenable, whether they'll do it without laughing (..and then you want me to dress up like Minnie Mouse? Um...). A person once mentioned in a blog response elsewhere that she is occasionally interested in a little light BDSM. I'm not too comfortable with that concept (I don't let people get close to me, so the idea of letting them actually control me is unsettling; there's only one other person in the world I trust enough for that). But this person likes it, and I was a little flattered that she was willing to mention it.

There are some phrases that you just don't come across all that often. You might find them attractive, but you can be pretty sure that you're not going to casually run into someone else who also likes it. For example, this one, from a recent Washington Post article: fluid dynamics.

Now, tell me that you don't find that intriguing. The idea of fluid motion, of understanding the method in which the individual units of a given flud combine to form the motion, the surge or trickle, the ebb and flow; applying that concept to traffic flow, or flow around an object, being able to predict where turbulence will occur, where it will be smoother -- good golly. I mean, that's fascinating. Or it would be if I really understood it, which, not being all that competent in math, I don't. But I like the overall concept.

Excellent.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Book of O

From the Times Online site:

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness. The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow. When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: "Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?" In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites. And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world. He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media...

(More at the Times Online)

Sorry, L.

Email Fun

I found this at the GeekSugar site.

Did you know the periods in your gmail address don't mean a thing? That's right, if you signed up as geek.sugar@gmail.com, you'd still get emails sent to geeksugar@gmail.com. You'll even get emails sent to g.e.e.k.s.u.g.a.r@gmail.com, for the wiseacres in your family. Ooh, and anything sent to "googlemail" instead of "gmail." Honestly, it's the little things that blow my mind (and btw, none of the above email addresses belong to us!).

More usefully, you can add a plus sign to the end of your address, and then you can set up a folders in your email that coordinate with that. For instance, say you open an online account with WellsFargo. When you sign up, give your email address as "geeksugar+banking@gmail.com", then in Settings, set up a filter. In the From box, add in WellsFargo or your chosen bank, in the To box, put in your newly-created geeksugar+banking@gmail.com address, and the set the filter to put in a folder titled "banking." You can also use this technique when you sign up for something and send their emails to you directly to the trash!

Playah

KMPlayer -- written up at the Freeware Genius site - seems to be a pretty nifty multi-media player -- and, like VLC, it's free.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blow Me Down

Wind-powered sailing ships? Not just for cruises, or historical curiosities, but for real?

Hot damn.

Interesting Evening

For one, we went out for ice cream, which we don't do all that often. Nothing special (not that around here much is!), just down to a free-standing building in the next town, but it was fun. We sat near a family with two young Chinese daughters (who were, of course, cute as the dickens). I had a strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone; my wife had chocolate and banana in a cup. It was pleasant.

Not so pleasant was an article I read about people's reactions to Obama's European tour. I continue to be surprised at how much people who don't like him, don't like him. Its not a mild 'well, gosh, there are things I like about him, and things I don't like'; its more 'dammit, there are things I don't like, and things I really don't like'. These are sometimes the idiots, I guess I ought to say misinformed, who still think he's a Muslim out to take over the country; those folks, I don't listen to, because short of the heavens opening and a thunderbolt slicing across their foreheads, nothing's going to change their mind. He could be sworn in, serve eight years, reduce the debt, solve the problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, and have bin Laden's head on a post, and these people would still go all squinty-eyed at the thought of this guy in that House.

No, these seem to be pretty normal people who just don't trust him. Some of them think he's nice enough but just doesn't have enough experience. Some don't believe he means what he says; other times, they believe he means it, but don't believe he can do it. And of course, some don't like what he proposes, hope he can't do it, and feel that the best way for that to happen is for him not to be elected. Very few seem to prefer McCain; they just don't like either of the candidates, and he's the one they dislike more. It's depressing. I think it comes down to believing. I wish I had a candidate with his attitudes, his values, and more experience, but I don't see one; for sure, its not McCain, who really is Bush reincarnate (not entirely, but substantially). But since I can't get the candidate I want, this is the candidate I choose. As as for the people who just don't like him -- well. Its a little late to be saying they want someone else, though I hear Bob Barr and Ralph Nader are available.

Perhaps some differences of opinion require greater skill than my own to resolve.

My wife will have to work this Sunday, for about eight hours, supporting some system upgrades. I've told her that I do occasionally think that I'd like to go back to work, partially because I'd like to buttress our financial position, and partially because I miss being a techie. I force myself to remember how dull work can be (tech stuff, no -- that I like. The stuff that surrounds it -- meetings, standards, audits, dress codes -- that, pretty grim.) I also have to remember that working means that you don't get to take a nap at 1:30 for a couple of hours, which I've gotten used to doing. You don't get to say that you're going to take the morning to mess around with baking. And you don't get to stay up late reading and just sleep in, tomorrow. You work. Put that way, its a lot less appealing.

On the bright side, dinner today was good, I'm about half way through Eclipse, and I'm thinking about doing some baking this weekend. I saw this page about, omigod, Chocolate Chip Cookies.....

Asking for Help with Kids

There's a short piece -- actually, readers letters -- in the Christian Science Monitor web site on the subject of helping kids, or helping other people with their kids, when they clearly need it. The writers make the same basic points as have been addressed before -- afraid of being charged a pervert for wanting to help with a small child; unwillingness to get involved; the attitude of entitlement that makes helping seem the act of a fool. One person refers to the attitude of suspicion and distrust towards the volunteer as 'stink eye', which I think remarkably descriptive. It's interesting reading.

Tuna? Tuna

We had this for dinner tonight. I don't care for fish, but this was actually not that bad. The spicy mustard helped.

Grilled Cajun Tuna Steaks with a Mustard Smear and Tomato Salad

4 tuna Steaks (or any grillable fish),3/4 -1" thick
Cajun seasoning for meat or fish (I use either one)
Olive oil spray
2 tsp of mustard (Choose your favorite,Grey Poupon, horseradish mustard, or my favorite - hot mustard, or other)
4 handfuls of salad greens
2 large, ripe tomatoes cut into slices
Olive oil for drizzling
1 Tbl of balsamic vinegar
Optional: blackberries (or other berries) for color and variety

Spray both sides of the tuna steaks, liberally, with olive oil spray.
Dust them with the Cajun seasoning to taste.
Set aside so the flavors sink in.

While the flavors meld, take out your dinner plates.
In a medium bowl, toss your greens with a light drizzle of olive oil and just a hint of salt.
(The salt actually enhances the flavor of the olive oil and greens).
Place a portion of greens in the middle of each plate.
Divide your tomato slices into 4 portions and fan them around one side of the greens.
Spread them wide to cover half of the plate edge.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Season with pepper and drizzle bits of balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes.

Heat your grill or grill pan.
Place the tuna steaks on the grate and grill on medium for 3 minutes. Don't move them. This will give you nice grill marks.
Carefully flip them over and grill 3 more minutes. This will finish the fish at medium.
If you like your tuna more rare in the middle cut back the cooking time when you flip the fish over. The gauge I use is 7 minutes per inch of thickness to grill fish to medium. Just keep in mind that it keeps cooking after you take it off the heat.
Remove the fish from the grill and place the fish steaks in the middle of the greens.
The hot fish will "wilt" the greens and make a nice warm salad.
While the fish is still very warm smear a half teaspoon of mustard across the top of each piece.
The mustard will melt and make a sort of glaze.

Scatter your berries around the greens and you're ready to eat.
For another side, spray olive oil on asparagus spears and grill them along with your fish.
You'll have a gourmet meal fit for company.

Barack's Birthday

As a device to foster local support, and to encourage the merger of Clan Obama and Team Hillary, a person in my area is going to hold a 'Barack's Birthday' celebration, with picnic fair and, of course, birthday cake. (Perhaps I'll bake one -- you can never have too much cake, you know.) It got me to thinking -- gee, what if, once he's elected, he proposed that the birthday of the reigning president be a federal holiday, with cake and such available at all federal offices. Wouldn't that be cool? And then I thought a) like we need another federal holiday, and b) if Bush suggested it, what would I think of the move?

Still would be fun, though.

To Prevent Paedophilia

I fear that parts of Britain are losing their official mind.  It'd be funny, were not there people in the US who'd say Damn Good Idea! 

Fuhd

So there I am, on a little bit of a diet, doing pretty well - and then I come across this page.

MSearch

Windows Search 4.0, a freebie from Microsoft, looks remarkably like Google Search. Not perfect, but better than vanilla Windows search.

Plus ca change.....

From a site with color photographs of the United States in the 1930s....

But the emerging airlines were already flying four-engine Boeing Stratoliners out of Chicago Midway for those wealthy enough to fly.


"Wealthy enough to fly." How things have changed....and are going to change back, I bet.

Photofunia

Oh, good, another way to waste time....I needed this!

Randy Pausch

A real person has died.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Late Night

Well, perhaps not that late...but late enough.

Fruitful day. My wife took my mother to a visit with a doctor (why do we call it 'doctor visit'? What's the nurse, chopped liver?) at which he substantially changed her meds. We still don't know why she gets out of breath so quickly. But she liked this doc, mostly because he spent a lot of time talking to her, so that was good.

We took a bike ride. After the initial trepidation about getting on the bike -- I did a lot of stretching beforehand, which helped, I think -- we went around one of the local neighborhoods for about half an hour. I may try it solo -- if I'm gutsy. Odd -- I never used to think of riding a bike as a death-defying event.

I'm still losing weight, though not as fast. In the four days that I've been tracking it, I've lost about six pounds, which puts me about a third of the way to where I want to be. I am watching what I eat, but overall that just means noting it -- I'm pretty much eating as I did before. But, okay, I didn't get any Ring Dings, last time I went to the store. I admit it -- I don't want to jinx this progress.

I'm about a third of the way through Eclipse, and halfway through The Engines of God. The whole vampires and werewolves thing is starting to drag, just a bit. I'd like to see something happen to spice up the book a bit -- though the malicious vampire who flits in and out might fit that bill. I can't decide if the series will end with the heroine becoming one or not. I'm betting not.

Obama's saying smart things, which aren't always the politically sound things. Good that he's better at figuring this stuff than me.

And thats it for now.

Have a Ball

Mr. Destructo

One of the things I learned a lot time ago is that I'm not particularly good with my hands. I proved it again tonight when I tried to glue on a switch for one of the two bike transceivers that we occasionally use when we go out (which we did tonight, amazingly enough). The gluing on of the switch worked okay...it was the glue then dripping down inside the case and welding the little push to talk switch shut that did me in. The other radio still works... for whatever good that does. Groan.

So now I'm thinking, wouldn't it be nice to have a bike headset that could do it all. Plug into a voice actuated or PTT FM transceiver for use with the bike. Accept input from an MP3 player. Connect to the phone. Wouldn't that be nice?

And expensive?

Contact!

I don't wear contact lenses. But I wish I did.....

Guarded

This afternoon, I drove my daughter and an associate to their color guard practice. On the way, the other girl was complaining about guard, saying that she wanted to drop it but her father wouldn't let her. My daughter perked up and said 'Thats one thing I like about my dad. He says that whenever I want, I can quit.'

Does Medicare Know About This? Or Care?

Doctor, to my mother: Why did you have a CAT scan done?
Mother: Because your office said I had to get one.
Doctor: Don't understand that. You didn't need one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Compulsions

I found this on the Divine Caroline site, written by a woman who's a writer. I could not have said it better.


(T)his drive to write has got me thinking—if a person feels this strong obligation towards anything, shouldn’t that define his or her career path? Can the key to career success be to do what you absolutely can’t go without doing? Doctors are driven by medicine and science; they can’t imagine doing anything else. A passion that comes from within; you cannot teach it, recreate it, or fake it.

Thats the compulsion that I always thought I was supposed to have about my job, and never did. Even now, I don't have it, about anything. Those articles that say to 'find your passion'? Passed me right by. I'd wonder if I'm too casual, but most of the people I know are like that. Are there passionate people, these days?

Steers

Wonder if these folks are part of the Hooters chain? As it aired during a rugby tournament (Give Blood -- Play Rugby!), I imagine it's a British firm....


Tortoise and the....Cat?


http://view.break.com/293055 free videos

Observation

"British actor Michael Caine has observed that Superman is how America sees itself, and Batman is how the rest of the world sees America."

Hmmm.....

My Current Wallpaper

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yippee...I think

The White House said on Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's high-profile visit to Iraq may have been a "distraction for many" but not for President George W. Bush.

True enough. He's busily working on a reason why he, as a Man of Peace, just has to attack Iran....and do so in a way that locks us into staying in that region for decades. He's thinking hard.

Meanwhile, Cheney's already issued the mobilization orders. Don't tell the President, he mutters.....

Feminists

I think that feminism is a good thing, and I value what I learn from it. But I had to give up on Feministe.

I rarely enjoyed reading it, but I continued because I thought it had something important to say to me. Okay, I'd have to filter out the gratuitious vulgarities, as I do with other sites that think fucking is a suitable modifying adverb and adjective, but I'd read the rest. From it, I'd get at least a sense of what the world looks like from the other side of Gender Gulch. Not all the answers or the right attitudes are on my side. Sometimes, none of them are.

Then I read this, in an article there about the death of Estelle Getty, of The Golden Girls:

Where else have you seen a popular sitcom (or any show) that revolves around women who actually kind of look like average women, who aren’t young and fabulous and beautiful, who have interests other than finding male companionship, who put their female friendships first, and who have sex after menopause?

...and I thought wait a minute.... Because, turn that sentence around and see how it sounds. Where else have you seen a popular sitcom (or any show) that revolves around men who actually kind of look like average men , who aren’t young and fabulous and handsome, who have interests other than finding female companionship, who put their male friendships first, and who have sex after menopause? Okay, the menopause reference doesn't fit. But the rest? If a guy had said it, the concept would have come across as stupid, even arrogant. Put their female friendships first? Its only one clause in the sentence, but it grated on me. Added to the vulgarities (and I'm not a prig, honest), I thought: I don't need this.

So I ditched it. I'll have to get my feminism elsewhere, I guess.

Severus......

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Flight

I would imagine that the guy on the left is thinking that he does not want to be the person who broke Stephen Hawking....

Twit-ch

If you see someone make a comment on Twitter, is there a way to reply to them?

McCain

I'm not a McCain supporter, and I think this ad blurs the truth -- but it is nicely done.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Next Big Thing. Actually, Several.

I don't know Paul Graham from Graham Crackers, but I gather that he's involved with something like a venture capital firm. On this page, he lists several conceptual areas where he would be interested in funding projects -- if the projects were truly worthwhile, and not just a quick flash for some cash. (Like that? I just made it up.) It's worth looking at. More than once, I found myself nodding, saying yeah, we DO need that....

Exercise

I'm not much of an exercise person, but I do a little bit. (In a book called The Wanting of Levine, a character is asked if he knows anything about sailing. The character replies 'A little bit', and is told that to a sailor, 'a little bit' means that you've crewed in an ocean race. Otherwise, the answer is 'not much'. So I suppose I should say that I do 'not much'.) My wife's company is offering to supplement money paid into our health insurance fund if we watch a series of videos on multiple health-related topics. They're not too horrible, and the packet for each topic lasts perhaps fifteen minutes, so I do. And tonight I learned something.

Exercise trainers are sadists.

They showed a woman who was described by the trainer as being 'very fit' as she prepared to do an exercise. She made an offhand remark about the beginning being really easy, and the trainer crisply replied 'Thats as easy as its going to get'.

Boy, sure motivated me to get right out there and pump some iron!

Get a Grip

Should I conclude from this Flickr photograph that perhaps the honeymoon isn't going to be as much fun as first thought?

Its Five Days Away

I have once again committed to a meal that I probably won't like.

I am not a fish eater. Though I have tried (really, though not very often), I just can't get past the taste. I think my taste buds were formed in Kansas or some other center of meal-eating. But I'm going to try again. A service that I subscribe to, ArcaMax, sends recipes (and ads); I usually look only at the ones that have keywords like Cookies, Cake, Hamburger...but this week, it showed a recipe for grilled tuna steak, and I thought hmmm.... After all, it says steak, right? And my scale is telling me that I really, really need to start paying attention to what I eat. (Though I think I have a reason for why I've been gaining weight - one that has nothing to do with eating -- it doesn't erase the effects.) So my wife and I are going to give it a try. On Saturday.

Hey, thats five days from now. A lot could happen.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Didn't Say This

I came across Nice Critic today, which says that you can select general statements that you'd like to tell someone without them knowing who said it, and the site will email them anonymously. Most are what you'd expect -- please keep your voice down, you might want to get a new muffler for your car, that lawn could use some attention, please refill the coffee pot if you take the last cup -- but two got my attention:

You don't release your hugs in a timely manner.

You squeeze too hard when you hug.

This is a problem?

Dough Dodo

The Great Dough Experiment is underway.

Four chunks of dough, sliced from one original chunk, each about twelve ounces. Two in the oven with the light on, two in the microwave. One of each has a damp towel over it. Timer has forty minutes to go.

If they don't rise, I'll give them more time until they do. And if they don't after about three hours, I'll make another batch and do the 'heated oven' test.
============
Update after 1 hour:
The two chunks in the oven expanded marginally more than the two in the microwave. The two chunks with a damp cloth are still pliable, whereas the two without have dried out a bit.

I've now got all four in the oven, light on, covered with a damp cloth. We'll see what happens.
=============
Update after 3 hours:

While we were out, the dough did double in each of the containers. The dough which had been without a cover originally is just a tad dryer, but moist, unlike before when we took it out of the oven or the microwave. So my conclusion (I know, I didn't do the 'preheat the oven') is that the dough will rise, but that it will take significantly longer than anticipated.

So I've learned something.

Munchies

I realized two things this morning.

First, my wife's family reunion is coming up in about a month. That's the one that they hold during a very hot period, in an open air pavillion with no cooling, and where I complained a few years ago that they had no munchies whatsoever, let alone, decent food. Sorry, I don't consider pork tenderloin and ham hocks to be picnic food. They need cake, brownies, hamburgers. Second, in the freezer downstairs, we have a) a frozen unfrosted cake I made, b) a frozen half tray of brownies my wife made, and c) the mix for about fifteen rich chocolate chip cookies. I think that addresses the munchie question, hmm?

Today, the bread.

We just went for a walk before it gets too hot. Its around 80 now, slightly humid. By 2 it'll be around 94 and humid. We thought about going to a movie, but the only one I wanted to see, we've already seen. There are a couple I'm willing to see -- Hancock, for example -- but I don't feel the need. I am curious about Sex and the City, but not enough to pay to see it. I'll wait for Netflix to handle it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stretch

Multiple kinds, today.

First off, it's been a stretch just to get anything done that I'd planned on. Seems like each thing that I wanted to do would take more time than I thought, be more of a hassle than I thought, or just generally screamed out don't do me! I don't have a reason as to why. Certainly, it's hot out, and I don't particularly care for hot, but heck, we're indoors, and the cool machine is on, so whats the deal? Don't know.

Second, I didn't do the bread, mostly for the reasons cited above. I'm going to, though. I even went out and bought cheap flour, just so I wouldn't feel so guilty about making dough just for the experience of making dough. I know, thats a little extreme, but I've been paranoid about monies lately. It came as a surprise to realize that if we'd been handling things just fine on two salaries, using each to pay part of the expenses and bills, and trimming off the excess paycheck to go into savings and whatnot, then going to one paycheck must necessarily mean undoing some of that trimming. I know: I just figured this out? Sometimes, I can be dumb.

Third, I was tired most of today, and this afternoon got a wicked headache -- the kind you get after being out in the ballpark under the blazing sun. Except that somehow I managed to do it while mostly indoors, except for when I was out mowing the lawn this morning, and going to the grocery store. Go figger.

Fourth, my hip has been really, really stiff, last couple of days. No idea why. I'm going to try some stretching exercises I found. And I've been gaining weight like crazy. No idea why there, either -- but it ticks me off to no end.

So, whats going on.... Well, I see where Jesse Jackson is being castigated for 'having used the N-word'. I really don't understand that. The N-word? That would be the one that black people can say with impunity, white people can't? Only now, it appears, maybe they can't, either? Seems to me I recall a mighty furor, a few months back, wherein Responsible Black Leadership said that they would push people not to do that anymore. Guess it didn't take. Fortunately, theres more to worry about than this. For one thing, there's Bush, saying all is well, all is fine, just Take A Deep Breath.... He can't be that stupid. He just can't be. Of course, speaking of stupid, I saw a web site fiercely advocating the election of McCain because hey, he was shot down, which clearly proves leadership ability, and besides, his name sounds like John McClain, the hero of the Die Hard movies, so what else do you need to know? I realize it sounds like I'm making that up. I'm not.

I came up with something interesting for dinner, then got the headache and my wife ended up making it. We haven't had this particular dish for a while, possibly because it, ahem, takes about 90 minutes of actual effort to make it. Awfully suspicious timing, that headache...

And thats it for now.

Stimulated

When we paid our taxes, we used the savings/checking account that I still have from working at EDS. That's the one that we told them to use to send the stimulus money. We noticed a few days ago, wondering when we were going to get this money, that it had actually arrived in May, and has been sitting in that account since then. Guess we didn't get all that stimulated!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Uh, Nance?

" But Pelosi's comments come as a new Gallup poll registers the lowest level of congressional approval among Americans in the polling organization's 30-year history of conducting that survey.That poll showed that its approval rating had reached an anemic 14 percent, while more than 70 percent of those polled said they disapproved of the job Congress is doing. The House speaker said she doesn't consider those numbers a negative referendum on the Democrats in charge, saying she thinks they stem largely from Congress' failure to end the war in Iraq."

a) Failure to get out of Iraq (or even just come to a conclusion about what to do)
b) Failure to adequately regulate the financial markets
c) Failure to hold the line on FISA
d) Failure to reject torture of any kind as an accepted practice
e) Failure to respond to the gas price problem -- which doesn't mean cutting the price temporarily
f) Failure to define acceptable use of the phrase 'executive privilege'
g) Failure to pass and enforce contempt of Congress actions on multiple deserving people

Not just Iraq, Nance. You guys were elected to clean up Bush's and the Republicans' messes. You don't seem to be doing that.

Doughboy

Okay, tomorrow I'm going to Figure It Out. Or at least make a valiant effort.

I am going to make one large batch of dough, and separate it into six small batches. Prior to making the dough, the yeast will be tested with the 'warm sugared water' test. One batch will be placed in each of these locations:

In a greased bowl in the oven with the oven light on.
In a greased bowl covered with a damp towel in the oven with the oven light on.
In a greased bowl in the oven that's been heated and turned off.
In a greased bowl covered with a damp towel in the oven that's been heated and turned off
In a greased bowl in the microwave.
In a greased bowl covered with a damp towel in the microwave.

They will be allowed to rise for two hours. And then we gonna see if any of them have doubled in size. And if this doesn't work, we'll try something else.

Warning

I'm just saying....don't talk to me before I've had my morning coffee.

Giving

I don't know this guy. I'm not from Kansas, and I don't know anyone in Kansas (though my neighbor used to live there). But I just gave him money for his campaign, because anyone cool enough to use XKCD as his role model is okay by me.

And besides, he has some damn good ideas.

Changes

I was reading a blog the other day wherein a woman mentioned that she was sorry for having wasted her youth. Apparently, she was quite pretty then, and took it for granted; now, she isn't at that stellar level. From the blog, she's clearly an intelligent and interesting person, and she wasn't saying that she should be pitied. She was just stating the way things were.

It made me think a little about my life, and whether there was anything that I was sorry for. Certainly, there were things that I could have done differently, and better -- my performance in high school; my experience in the military -- yet I can't honestly say that I'd change anything. My performance in high school led me to go into the military the first time; that led me to being willing to go back in after college; the people I met in the military the second time led me to apply for a job at EDS, which is where I met my wife, who still, almost thirty years later, delights me. Any change in any of those first things would possibly affect the last one, and though I suppose I might have met someone who was prettier, or richer, or (fill in the desirable quality)-ier, I can't believe that, because she is so right for me. And, of course, without her, specifically, I wouldn't have had this daughter, who is also delightful, for all that she's a typical teen.

I have occasionally wondered what its like to be one of the pretty/handsome well-regarded people, and certainly I'd have liked to be one, but you know? My life's been pretty good.

Doom

I am doomed.

I saw a picture of Paris Hilton...and I recognized her.

Analogy

Is it a fair analogy to say that Bush's attitude toward what's coverable by executive privilege is similar to Hitler's attitude toward what land ought to belong to Germany? It seems to me, yes. Hitler could have been stopped -- painfully -- several times, but each time it was easier to give in, to assume that 'this was as far as it would go'. I think that Bush's arrogance for the use of executive privilege has the same basis, and, if not resisted, will have the same result.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beat THIS, Copperfield!


Greatest Magician On Earth -

Geek

This is how much of a geek I can be -- I smiled -- yes, smiled -- when I saw this page.

Cupcakes

I like cupcakes. Not the incredibly ornate Louis XVI Versailles specials that people in cupcake stores make, but simple ones. They should be about two to three - no more - mouthfuls, with a simple frosting -- and the frosting is optional. The texture should be soft but not crumbly.

There's just one thing. I can't do it. I have made cupcakes, but they never seem right to me. Part of it is that the process of pouring them into cupcake containers seems weird to me, and fraught with peril. I use paper cupcake sleeves, and that seems wasteful -- just to hold the cake, and then immediately throw away? How American. But if I don't, then I have to spray the hell out of the cups to make sure they'll come out, later. And it also irritates the hell out of me when I spill the batter between cups -- and I always do.

But thats just the mechanics of it. More important, they a) aren't big enough, and b) don't taste right. I can't quantify that. They taste ok... just not right. I think I want their flavor to be richer, deeper... tastier.

I'll keep trying. Someday, maybe, I'll be as good as Joy the Baker. Bill the Baker? Can he bake it? Yes, he -- well, hang on a sec.....

Good/Bad

Good news: Maybe we can reduce troop strength in Iraq.
Bad news: So that we can transfer them to Afghanistan.

Holy hell.

Chipper

Yesterday, I made these chocolate chip cookies. I'd found the recipe in the New York Times; it was yet another of the ultimate chocolate chip recipes, the sort that bring cookbook writers to the edge of a shivering paroxym of lust. I thought it wasn't bad.

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.


There are a couple of amazing things about this recipe. One is the flour -- it uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour; another is the chocolate, which is high-end stuff. (I used Ghiradelli.) Yet a third is how long it takes to make -- at least twenty four hours in a refrigerator for the flavors to develop. And the sea salt. Sea salt? Yup.

And then there's the size. Despite the large amount of flour and chocolate, the recipe makes very few cookies -- but they're big - 3.5 ounces. I made one that size, and three that were smaller, but still quite hefty -- 2.0 ounces. Other than that the smaller ones were firm while the larger was relatively soft in the middle, they tasted the same. Sorry to say, I did not not taste any of the grace notes that the recipe and accompanying article would lead one to expect. Perhaps I simply don't have an educated palate.

Here's the result.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WCN

A couple of interesting articles from the White Coat Notes web site.

One is a report of a study wherein discharged hospital patients were surveyed to determine how incident-free their stay had been. Come to find out that they reported twice as many complications as appeared in the official hospital record. The good news is, life-threatening or serious complications did appear in the records; the bad news is, hospitals thought that was the only source of useful information regarding outcomes, and were judging their effectiveness accordingly.

The other reports the surprising conclusion that breast self-exams might not actually do all that much good. They're not going so far as to recommend not doing it, but the finding is that BSEs tend to lead to a increase in the number of benign biopsies without a corresponding reduction in the cancer rate - and its possible that the biopsies, themselves, are actually harmful (though, compared to the cancer, at a significantly lower level).

Bathroom Graffitti

I didn't do either of these. But the second, at least, I wish I had.

Taps

One of my daughter's two guinea pigs died this afternoon.

More accurately, we had it euthanized after it had a relapse. My daughter brought her into my room this afternoon in a panic, saying Look!, which I did, expecting to see another sign of improvement -- she'd been giving it medicines and hand-feeding -- though now, it turns out, not quite as much as she should have been. Instead, what I saw was the guinea pig falling over on her side. I picked her up and looked at her, and one side of her face was pushed in, as if she'd been lying that way for quite some time. We got her to the vet, but the conclusion was, no dice. From what the vet said, she'd essentially just shut down. Although I didn't tell my daughter this, I wasn't willing to do heroic measures -- though, like anyone, when the light of your life, your only daughter, looks at you that way....yeah, I might have. But, as it happens, she was already thinking about euthanasia, so that's what we did.

Not a whole bunch of sadness here. Perhaps a little. We're guessing, one to two weeks before she asks to get a replacement. Which, incidentally, we won't do.

ShoNuff Dumb

My daughter wants to subscribe for two years to a magazine called Shonen Jump. Its a manga magazine. The blowout card had a special price on it. We lost the card, so I called the vendor. Oh no, they said. Without that card, we can't give you the special price.

What, did the Pope personally bless that one?

Just Good Clean Fun

From the New Yorker's response to the Obama cover flap:

"The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover," a New Yorker spokesman said in a written statement.

The thing is, they probably did mean it satirically. What this shows, to me, is the gulf between the sophisticated, nay, elite tastes of some, and the mainstream. On this one, I'll count myself in with the mainstream. aka Get a clue, guys....

Being Patient

I've mentioned on occasion how non-impressed I am with many, perhaps most, doctor's offices. So much so that as I sit here, I think Surely there must be some you like. One? But none come to mind.

Anyway, last night I read this blog post by a fellow who's going into med school, and for the first time in his life, he was seriously ill. I won't spoil the post, but I think it's worth reading -- by every damn doctor out there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Conversations

I had an interesting conversation with my wife this evening. It was a little unsettling, and more than a little serious. I guess thats to be expected, since what we were talking about was money, and illness, and death.

She's really concerned that something seriously and non-correctably wrong is going to turn up with my mother. Over the past six months, she's gotten weaker -- almost feeble at times. She has surges where she is almost normal, but then she drops back down again. I get a little uncomfortable when I realize that my wife worries about this more than I do. (Each of us has sheepishly admitted that there are times when my mother can be quite a pain -- not as bad as many, from what I've heard, but bad enough -- the analogy my wife uses is that its like taking care of a two year old -- but she's better at being empathic with the situation.) I just get irritated. I think that I don't like the reminder it gives me that some day I'll be old, too, and feeble. I really hate that image, and being reminded of it -- going to yet another doctor, hearing her move around with her walker -- irritates me. I know how foul that sounds. It sounds foul to me. I told her that although I didn't want anything to happen to my mother, at some point something would happen -- and if I had to choose between death and continued declining health for her, I know which I'd choose. I know how that sounds, too.

When we were walking today, she asked me if, should the opportunity arise, if I'd be a techie again, and I said that I would, given the opportunity. Its not because I liked being a techie, though I did, and would do it again just for fun. Its because I'm worried about money. Now, if you knew how much we had, you'd say that we have nothing to worry about. We're not rich, but we are comfortably well off. We've had extraordinary expenses this year -- things that would not normally occur. The timing was poor, too -- if we'd suspected what the market would do, we'd have delayed at least one of them. ( My dental work, probably not. Thats a whole different train wreck. And the front steps really needed to be repaired. ) But the effect of that has been noticable, and I realized that the money that we have flowing into our various accounts from my wife's paycheck isn't enough to meet our normal monthly expenses, let alone these extraordinary ones. The good news is, we're aware of it. But now we have to think about how we'll fix it. We do have alternatives, we do have resources. I’m not panicking. But thinking about it? Yeah.

This all sounds very dire, I know, and it isn't, really. I just worry, sometimes. And when I start to worry about one thing, it propagates to others, pretty quickly. This appears to be one of those times.

Really

There's an interesting (and short) article here at Ed Boyden's MIT blog on the question of real-world, real-time applications of school classwork.

In a nutshell, he says that once you're satisfactorily grounded in the theoretical underpinnings of a subject, and you begin to do practical applications of that theory (practical as in 'show me how to use this theory'), you could just as easily be applying those underpinnings toward the resolution of real problems -- things that you'd be doing if you were out of school and in the real world. The benefit is twofold: you see what it would be like to do this for real, and, every so often, your naive (in a good way) approach to problem resolution will come up with insights not available to those who do it for a living.

Its an interesting article.

Stray Thoughts...

...upon finally getting home after bringing my mother to a hospital for a blood test.

If living a long time means getting old and feeble, I can't see where its that good a deal. We think 'getting old' means being one of the photo shoot models for the retirement communities -- the guy is grinning, full head of lightly grey hair, holding a putter or tennis racquet, the woman is grinning, brilliantly grey hair, in a relaxed, cosmopolitan setting. They never show walkers, wheelchairs, breathers, any of that.

When you go to leave a comment on a web site where there's already fifty or so, do you read any of them? Do you read all of them? I do the first, not the second. So, why do we comment? Is it the acceptable equivilent of graffitti? CeruleanBill Waz Here!!! Might be helpful to have a 'composite' comment -- The general sense of these comments is.....with most people saying the following things. I bet that would be difficult to program.

R
eading an article in Time magazine -- I had a lot of time at the hospital -- about crossbreeds of design teams and business people coming up with new, fast, edgy, insightful (insert gasp-inducing damn-I-gotta-have-that adjective here) ways of getting to market, I wonder: is it for real? Or is it like the reason that things getting written up, usually -- it isn't common, its novel, lets write about it. Not to say its not useful, but how do you get it to the mainstream without losing the touch of magic that made it remarkable?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sub Optimal Time Utilization

I will not admit how much time I wasted on this simple little game.

Spaghet -- ummm......

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

Putting the Oh No in Sony

How many computer programmers does it take to figure out why some Netflix DVDs don't play on our Sony SLV--D300P DVD/VHS player? Apparently, two.

Some, indeed most, played. Some would say Loading.... and then PLAY....and then nothing. No ABORT, no FAIL, no YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO WATCH THIS DVD...THINK AGAIN. Sometimes, flicking the player off and on again would make it work, usually not. We got an error at one point, when we tried to go into SETUP, saying that we couldn't do that when the DVD was playing, and we thought but the DVD ISN"T playing.... so, being programmers, we 'thought like the machine'.

Hmmm....it thinks its playing. Maybe it is, or at least trying to, and something's blocking it. What could that be? And we thought Parental Controls. Turns out the DVD that would not play was non-rated. You would think that a nonrated DVD would just go -- as, indeed, they all should, since we did not have controls turned on -- but what if the player was stupid, and if it couldn't verify the rating, it just would not play? So we turned on parental controls, made up a passcode, said 'this code allows you to play anything', got out of setup, hit PLAY.

It worked.

Man.

Socked

I have difficulty putting my left sock on -- literally have to do about two minutes of stretches before I can get limber enough to bend over far enough to get it on. There are days that I go out without socks, just because it can be such a pain. I've told my wife I'm considering having a sock painted on my foot, or buying a waterproof one, so that once it's on, its by-god on for a week or so of showering and whatnot. She says that if I go around with just one sock, I can tell people that I'm saving money by only wearing one sock.

Also, I learned today that the preferred term is 'teenager'. 'Young people' or 'youth' is despised. Make a note.

Canada

I have mentioned on occasion what a good image I have of Canada. This article has, if anything, enhanced it.

Joke

From a coworker of my wife, who got it from his son, who has ADD:

How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?

Hey, you want to go play basketball?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bet Me

One of the articles that I've had bookmarked for a while - I really should get around to finishing that -- is this one, about a fellow at Wharton, an economist, who studies prediction markets. It's not particularly long, I just kept finding other things I wanted to read, too. But today I finally did -- the bookmark list was getting unmanagable - though did you see this article about making soft pretzels? -- and upon reading it, I ended up with a question.

Here's the relevant part of the article:

He takes a sip of red wine and asks his guest, “Would you bet me five dollars I’m wearing red underwear? No, you wouldn’t. Why not? Because you know I have better information than you do.” His point is that smart people with good information are attracted to markets by the existence of ignorant bettors.

I think what does it matter if you have knowledge of the state of the thing that you're offering a bet on, and I don't? Its possible that the state encourages the offering of the bet -- ie, if I know something is so unlikely to engender a bet, I just won't offer it -- and maybe knowledge affects the size of the bet -- I'll bet you ten thousand dollars vs I'll bet you ten cents -- but other than that, whats the point? I could still bet even if I was sure you knew what color underwear you're wearing. I'm not betting on your knowledge, I'm betting on the likelihood of the event, or on my ability to guess.

Got to admit, this feels like the Monte Hall question, which I still don't agree with. So maybe -- am I missing something here?

Hey, Cookie

This is an old article, but I just found it. Reading it, I felt a little queasy. I'm not sure why, but I think its because it doesn't match my image of the way that girl scouts sell cookies. It just seems -- I don't know, wrong. Perhaps I'm just behind the times. It has been known to happen. But I think of these kids in the article, selling by the case -- by the case! -- and I think of my daughter, back when she did it, pitching to family and neighbors, lucky to sell two or three dozen boxes....

Maybe I'm just jealous. That's been known to happen, too.

Bake, She Said

I was not planning on baking cookies tomorrow. I just thought it'd be interesting to read a New York Times article about Chocolate Chip Cookies. Then I started getting into it. Salt? Strata, not chips? Chilling the dough for thirty six hours?

Hmmm.......

Or I could just buy these... which I do dearly love.

Blog Log Bog

I hate being told that I have to sign in in order to leave a comment on a blog. I know why people do it, I just hate it, and I'll frequently say 'Ah, the heck with it". But this picture is so nice, I wanted to tell the person who put it there -- Hey, nice picture!

So if the author comes by -- now he knows.

Dinnah

A simple dinner tonight -- Taco Salad and some wine....

This recipe was found on the quite excellent How To Cook Like Your Grandmother site.

Taco Salad
Taco meat:
1 pound ground beef
1 can (12 ounces) plain tomato sauce
1/4 cup chili powder (or taco seasoning)
3 cloves garlic (optional)

Salad:
1 head iceberg lettuce
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 large onion (about 1/2 cup diced)
4 Roma tomatoes (about 1/2 cup diced)
1-1/2 cups thousand island dressing
5 ounces (about half a medium bag) corn chips

Directions

Brown the ground beef in a frying pan with some salt, breaking the beef up as much as possible.
Add the garlic and chili powder (or taco seasoning) and the tomato sauce.
Cook until everything is heated through, then remove from heat and allow to cool

Prepare the salad:
This requires a LARGE bowl.

Dice the onion.
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds.
Slice the meaty part lengthwise into thin strips, then finish dicing the tomatoes.
Core and chop the lettuce.
Shred the cheese
Add the tomato and onion
Toss everything together a little, then add the thousand island dressing.
Toss the salad until it is well coated with the dressing.

Then add the corn chips.

Add the taco meat and stir to combine. (You want to do the corn chips and taco meat last. Otherwise the chips will get soggy, and the warm meat will melt the cheese. If you're not going to be serving this right away, let the meat cool all the way before adding it, and don't include the chips. Bring the salad in a zip-top bag or a bowl with a tight lid, and add the chips when you're ready to serve.)

MoneyGrubber

I'm not, not really. But I find that I'm aware of money these days -- the combination of not earning any, and prices, and the stock market. I am not fixated on it -- I just think about the subject.

It surprises me to realize that though neither of us was a spendthrift -- I recall reading once of a woman who said they saved money where they could, such as buying at CostCo, but the last time they were there, the store had this excellent price on plasma TVs, so..... -- we did tend to buy things that we wanted, pretty much when we saw them. Nothing expensive, but we'd do it. Now, we don't. The other day, we were poking around in Wegman's, and I saw a KitchenAid hand mixer for sale for about $50. It was exactly the one I'd been thinking about getting. My wife said that I should get it, and I thought about it -- which is the difference; before, I wouldn't have -- ended up not getting it. (My life was a misery afterwards, though... I had to use the stand mixer, or do it by hand... oh, the agony).

So I was pleased when, apropos of something I'd read, it occurred to me that our auto insurance policy cost was partially factored on how much we drove -- and these days, I drive a lot less than I used to. I dropped a line to our insurance people, they said 'go here and tell us how much you drive now', and next thing we knew, we got a note that our insurance cost per year was going down by $150.

Wonder if that mixer is still available?

Genesis


It never made so much sense before.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Disposable Web

Instant, time-limited web pages. Free, too. Interesting....

Tanker

If the site English Russia is correct, this is a World War II veteran unexpectedly finding the tank he rode through the war, on display in a small town as a war memorial. I hope it is true. The idea moves me.

Blue Ocean Diving

I've been reading Blue Ocean Strategy. Its an interesting book. In a way, it has the same problem any management book has -- those earlier management books, they were on the right track, but they stopped too soon/made bad assumptions/were sadly mistaken -- but WE have the answer -- however, its worthwhile in spite of that.

Basically, the idea is that competitors exist within a generally accepted space of doing business. In this space, the assumptions are generally accepted, the goals and methods pretty uniform. You succeed by raising the bar, and your success is taken away from the other competitors shares -- and theirs from yours. Success is a matter of small increments. The book calls this 'the red ocean', sometimes 'the bloody red ocean'. By contrast, the 'blue ocean' is uncharted territory with few or no competitors, because the service/product that you provide is unique. They mention Southwest Airlines in the short haul/quick turnaround market; Cirque de Soleil in the circus/entertainment/theater market, [Yellowtail] in the wine/beverage market. Each applied in their own way the same technique - classification of the key points in the delivery of a service -- the things by which the customer or the company defined the service -- and then dropped the importance of some, increased the importance of others, and occasionally added new ones. Southwest dropped the idea of reserved seats and boosted the idea of cheap seats -- and oh by the way, onsite ticketing. Cirque dropped the animal acts and the headliners, not to mention vendors strolling the aisles selling high-priced snacks, and boosted the idea of artistry and grace in motion -- the circus as theater. [Yellowtail] dropped wine aficionado classifications and multiple variants of wine for two or three types, bold graphics, and simple statements about the wine. Each defined a new industry that took part of the existing, and part of others, sometimes grafting on whole new concepts not seen elsewhere.

Its very easy to get swept away by the book's authors' hyperbole -- and we alone knew the answer! -- and sometimes, I do. I make myself slow down then, asking myself what made this approach obvious to the people doing the analysis. Yes, its wonderful that they came up with their successful approach, but from where? How much of this analysis is backing into it -- these companies are successful, lets analyze them and extract common denominators --- and how much is something that anyone can do with their own business. I'm only about a fifth of the way into the book, so there's still hope. Perhaps this book really does have The Answer.

But I won't bet on it.

Scrubbed

Encrypted

Marriages have code phrases. One of the ones we've picked up is 'Cut the red wire, but first cut the blue wire'. Its a reference to people defusing a bomb getting instructions from someone who's not too well organized.

This morning, we used it again, referring to a doctor's office. Seems like its usually a doctors office. Once again, they wanted something, but they weren't prepared to tell us what; then, when they were, they weren't prepared to tell us when; then when they did that (after we called back twice), they mentioned that this thing that was finally scheduled? For three days from now? It needs a different test in a different place both before and after. Its almost as if they're trying to come up with a reason not to do the thing that was scheduled. Surely, we're not the first to come up against this. Surely we're not the first.

But it doesn't matter. Because they're not affected by their incompetence. In fact, they may well think of themselves as quite competent. Hey, we get the bills out every week, we get paid every week, whats not to like?

Cut the red -- no, the blue wire. No, wait....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weird

I just IM'd my wife to ask when she'd be home, and in her reply she said 'Thats my plan'. And the first thing I thought of was, thats what my friend who died two years ago said in an email about her intention to survive. A shiver ran down.....

Dance As If No One Is Listening

Weasel Alert

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove, President Bush's longtime political guru, refused to obey an order to testify before a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday. Rove's lawyer asserted that Rove was "immune" from the subpoena the committee had issued, arguing that the committee could not compel him to testify due to "executive privilege."

Karl Rove's lawyers says he is immune from a congressional subpoena.



Anyone want to bet that the House will fulminate and bluster but essentially say 'Oh, well....'?


The SS Said So

From the Denver Post --

As political dissent goes, Carol Kreck's "McCain = Bush" sign was pretty innocuous. But that's not the point. As run-ins with the law go, her trespassing citation was relatively mild. Yet that isn't the point either. At the Secret Service's urging, Denver police deemed it necessary to oust Kreck — a 60-year-old student and librarian — from a public space Monday before John McCain's town-hall meeting in Denver. Not for shouting anything. And not for getting in anyone's face. Kreck was merely holding a sign that, for what it's worth, plenty of folks would consider a compliment to the GOP candidate. As it happens, the outdoor galleria where she was standing at the Denver Performing Arts Complex was the subject of a federal ruling proclaiming it a "non-public forum" or no-protest zone. Never mind that the property is owned by the city. Never mind that McCain himself declared his meeting an open forum......

(More at the Post site)