Apparently, the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee thinks I don’t have enough to do.
Why me? Don’t misunderstand, he’s an adorable little wretch, and there’s no way I’d have suggested the Minister of Rocktology abandon an orphaned kitten, but I still think we are well beyond Maximum Safe Cat Density already.
Here’s some trivia I read somewhere: supposedly, most felines have pretty much the same general behavioral responses and temperament. This means a housecat (Felis catus) is about as amenable to being a pet as, say, a tiger (Panthera tigris).
As I remember it being described, the only real difference is that when a specimen of Panthera tigris decides to dart out from behind the couch to attack your ankle for no apparent reason, the effect on your ankle is somewhat more severe, hence the relative popularity of less-bodily-harm-capable Felis catus as pets.
I rate “Kodama” (as we’ve named him) here at around one picotiger worth of ferocity, though that seems to be increasing rapidly as he gets proper feeding and play.
Still…why couldn’t it have at LEAST been a puppy, if it had to be anything at all?…
Oh, I forgot to mention here that Episode 4 is up at http://www.dogphilosophy.net, where I’m trying out the “Powerpress” plugin for WordPress to see how it works out. Please give it a listen and let me know how it is.
I’m still plotting to expand out to three different podcasts/oggcasts or so, including of course the current Stir-Fried Stochasticity podcast (Science news direct from primary sources: scientific publications), an intermittent “Perceptive Peripatetic” series literally based on random things that I happen to run into as I wander around which happen to amuse, interest, or inspire me, and a “The Computer Is My Friend” free-fun-with-computer-nerd-stuff podcast. Upcoming episodes being considered for each include:
Episode 5: This Episode Is Garbage (concerning Landfills)
Episode something-higher-than-5: “Two Mass Spectrometers, High Performance Liquid Chromatography, and a Female Donkey” (concerning exactly what it says…)
Episode also-something-higher-than-5: “Is there anything Beer cannot do?” (concerning some interesting beer-related publications I’ve collected)
Various other papers from various fields have also been collected for consideration. Suggestions are welcome.
“The Firebreathing All-Devouring Skybeast of the Gulf” (inspired by a photo I took recently, if I can get it to turn out the way I want it.)
“The Computer Is My Friend”
Episode 01: “Freetarded” podcasting (concerning practical, ethical, legal, and technical stuff I’ve run into and considered while trying to support this new podcasting hobby of mine – hopefully useful for anyone else interested in producing their own audio and/or video for the web and for public participation.)
Episode sometime-after-01: “Enterprise Linux Must Die” (Tentative plot: it’s actually “pro-Linux” but is a rant against “Enterprise” distributions, or at least one in particular, and some praise for “rolling releases”).
Episode also-sometime-after-01: “Freetarded” mobility (concerning Android, Meego/Maemo, and my quest to get as much functionality on my cellphone while remaining as “Legally Free” as possible. Might possibly include instructions for making an external microphone adapter for various cellphone models, and might also include some (optional) video content.
Episode yet-another-sometime-after-01: Where? (Concerning geolocation, geolocated digital photos, other geolocated media, “geotagging” in general, and some verbal chastisement for people who say they are “geotagging” but [in my opinion] are not.)
The schedule for all this is still unspecified (but far quicker than “another year” until the next episode, at least), and as usual is heavily influenced on what anybody who is willing to listen might be interested in. I may be doing this for fun rather than profit, but the fun will be greatly enhanced if I’m not just sitting here talking to myself. Feel free to post in the comments (anonymously if you prefer – just put a fake email address in the field that asks for it.)
Gather around the campfire, boys and girls and everyone else. It’s story time.
(This is both an attempt to entertain AND a technical test – I’d be most appreciative if any or all of you left me a comment letting me know how this works for you. I’ll put some technical information at the end of the post.)
This story concerns a certain location in Mount Ranier National Park…
After you hear this harrowing tale, if you can’t make it out to Mount Ranier National Park to verify the story for yourself, you can see a picture of the monument online. Click or scan the QRCode image to the right to see it after you’ve heard the story.
Feedback is welcome and encouraged. For those who are interested, here’s what this post is supposed to do, technically:
If you are viewing this post in a modern (HTML5-supporting) browser, the “native” audio player in your browser should appear above, allowing you to press “play” and listen to the story. All but one of the modern HTML5-supporting browsers support the high-quality (and legally free to use) “Ogg Vorbis” audio format and will play that version. If you are in the minority of HTML5-browser-using population (Safari), an MP3 version should play instead. (The problem with Safari is that Apple doesn’t include a Quicktime component for Ogg media formats out of the box. Personally, I would recommend going ahead and installing the Free Quicktime Components, which will enable Ogg media formats for Safari, iTunes, and all other Quicktime-using programs.)
If you are NOT using a modern, HTML5-supporting browser at all (or are perhaps using one I’ve never heard of that supports neither higher-quality Ogg Vorbis nor MP3) – mainly Microsoft’s “Internet Explorer” browsers and really old versions of Firefox or Opera that may still be in use – if you have Java installed, a Java-based Ogg Vorbis player should appear instead, allowing you to play the higher-quality audio anyway.
If your browser doesn’t support HTML5 AND doesn’t support Java, a link to an Adobe Flash-based MP3 player should appear. Click on that, and you SHOULD have a window pop up that will play the lower-quality MP3 version of the audio.
In short, nearly everyone should be able to play the audio if I’ve done all of this correctly. Please let me know.
I’ve been talking about it for months, now I’ve finally done it: I’m calling it “Pigsfly Pie”…and it’s awesome.
If you’ve not run into it before, there’s a classic Pennsylvania “Dutch” recipe called “Shoofly Pie“, which is more or less a dense molasses cake in a pie crust. It’s quite good…but I’ve improved on it. As the name implies the secret ingredient is the semi-official food of the Internet…Bacon.
Here’s the secret recipe:
About 155g all-purpose flour
About 28g (2 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
about 114g “dark brown” sugar
about 300mg (around 1/8-1/4 tsp) salt
about 10 slices of crunchy cooked bacon, finely chopped.
About 3/4 teaspoon (Google says this is about 3.6g) baking soda
About 177g (3/4 cup) of boiling water
About 128g (4.5 ounces) of Maple Syrup
About 115g (about 4 ounces) Blackstrap Molasses
About 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
One whole beaten egg
Oh, yeah, and:
A 9″ radius pie crust
If you’re using a frozen pie crust, thaw it then poke holes in it with a fork and bake it at about 200°C (around 400°F) for about 10 minutes to prepare it for the wet filling.
Mix all of the “dry” stuff besides the bacon together well – I actually used a potato masher to thoroughly mash together the butter/sugar/flour until it was homogenous. Then, take out about a quarter-cup worth of the mix and set it aside as a topping, then mix the chopped bacon into the rest. (edit 20100602 to remove the extra “until”…)
Put the baking soda in a bowl, and pour the boiling water on it.
Mix in the syrup, molasses, and vanilla, and stir well.
Beat the egg, then carefully mix it vigorously in (hopefully the liquid will have cooled sufficiently that it won’t curdle)
Quickly mix the main portion of the dry stuff with this wet stuff. Small chunks will be no big deal. The texture should be roughly similar to waffle or pancake batter.
Pour this into the pie crust. A typical “deep dish” crust will leave some room left over. A “regular” pie crust will be filled to the top and leave you with a few tablespoons left over. Don’t worry about filling the crust to the very top – it tends to harden up as it expands so it doesn’t overflow in my experience.
Sprinkle the about-a-quarter-cup of dry stuff that you saved over the top
Bake 40-45 minutes at 175°C (about 350°F)
Let it cool at least an hour before cutting
Eat with an optional topping of whipped cream.
Make ecstatic “MMMMmmmmmm” noises in appreciation of my culinary genius.
Next time I make it, I’ll probably use a deep-dish crust, then float pecan halves all over the top before sprinkling on the topping and baking…
(Oops, quick edit: the references on erythritol toxicity – or rather lack thereof – are now actually included…)
Crowds, Crass Commercialism, and Crappy Christmas Choruses give me a nasty case of Yule Poisoning, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I spent the afternoon/evening prepping for and performing some cookie experiments again, and I feel much better. Yes, my cookies are that good.
I had a request for Peanut Butter cookies, so I figured I’d do some experimenting with that tonight. In fact, while I was braving the Christmas Consumption Crowds to get my supplies, I happened upon an ingredient that I decided I had to try as a variant.
(The picture, incidentally, is someone ELSE’S peanut butter cookies – “diekatrin” on Flickr – click photo to go to the Flickr page – I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of getting decent photos of my own food yet.)
My initial peanut-butter cookie recipe came out too dry and not sweet enough, but I think adding 50-75g of honey should solve that. That’s not the most successful experiment of the evening though. That’s reserved for the following recipe for…Sunflowerseedbutter cookies.
(Suitably pompous name pending, as soon as I test version 2.0 of the recipe, which will substitute bread flour for the “all-purpose” flour)
(Pompous Name Pending) Sunflowerseedbutter Cookies
Contents of 1 Gallus gallus egg, 50-55g (approx 60g with shell… aka “large”)
5ml Vanilla Extract
The “dry” goods were mixed in one container, while in a separate container, the “wet” goods and the sugars were mixed in another. The dry material was then blended carefully into the wet material in a large steel mixing bowl using an electric hand-held mixer until completely homogenized.
Once homogenized, the dough was spread out in the bowl and chilled at ~18°C(O°F) for approximately five minutes to enhance firmness.
The dough was then measured onto a “non-stick” baking sheet in approximately 30ml roughly-hemispherical aliquots using a small disher, and then pressed down with a fork to approximately half their original height. A few shelled, roasted sunflower seeds were pressed into the surface of each to make distinguishing them from peanutbutter cookies easier.
The cookies were than baked at 190°C (~375°F) for approximately 18 minutes, then slid onto a “non-stick” wire cooling rack at Standard Temperature and Pressure until equilibrated with the temperature of the kitchen.
The experimenter believes this batch of cookies emerged a bit too soft – actually sliding them off of the baking sheet to the rack distorted them, and they still appeared (in the words of the experimenter) “squishy”. Once equilibrated with room temperature, the cookies had a texture more in line with what would be expected from a normal “soft cookie”. The flavor was judged to be superb by the experimenter, who happens to like the flavor of sunflower seeds.
The use of erythritol makes this a “reduced calorie” and “reduced-sugar” recipe, though not entirely sugarless or “diabetic safe” necessarily, due to the use of honey. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, or glycerol (“glycerine”), all of which are often used as low-glycemic substitutes for sucrose or other sugars. Sugar alcohols can often cause digestive discomfort, however, because they are poorly absorbed by human digestive tracts, leaving them to be digested by gas-producing gut microbes. Erythritol is unique in that it appears to be well-absorbed by humans, and yet is not metabolized by humans to any substantial degree and is safely filtered out by the kidneys and excreted in urine. Being unmetabilized by humans, it is theoretically “zero calorie”, though the US FDA mandates a calculation of 0.2 calories per gram (compare to 4 calories per gram for sucrose). Unlike xylitol, erythritol is also safe for dogs and ferrets[Sorry, can't find the citation for this one at the moment...], for whom xylitol can induce fatal insulin shock and/or liver damage. Erythritol, unlike glycerol or sucrose (“table sugar”), is not appreciably hygroscopic, though, so adjustments must be made to recipes using it to avoid an overly dry result.
Glycerol (sold as “Glycerine”, which can be found in cake-making supplies as an ingredient used to keep cake frosting moist) closely resembles erythritol in structure, being (to oversimplify) a one-carbon-shorter version of the same molecule. In addition to hopefully helping to prevent drying out of the cookies, this was included here in the hopes that it would also help the erythritol dissolve. Previous informal testing (unpublished results) appears to support this hypothesis.
Honey was used as a second sweetener so as to include a “real” sugar and to help counter-balance the lack of hygroscopicity of the erythritol. The experimenter also notes that he believes mixing sweeteners tends to provide a better-tasting sweetness than relying entirely on one sweetener, particularly when including less sweet “sugar substitutes” in the mix. Honey was also chosen to provide additional moisture, as a previous batch of peanut-butter cookies (the recipe from which this recipe for sunflower-seed butter is derived) using ordinary sugar and “brown sugar” had turned out excessively dry.
“Xanthan gum” is a polysaccharide (as are cornstarch and pectin, for example) produced by a natural fermentation process from the γ-Proteobacterium Xanthomonas campestris. Along with a wide variety of exotic industrial uses (such as oil-well drilling “mud”), Xanthan gum is also used as a safe food ingredient to help hold water and keep soft foods from being too runny. It helps protect ice-cream from becoming grainy during possibly partial thaw-and-refreeze cycles during shipping and storage. It’s also used to hold “gluten-free” doughs together, which is nice for people who may be allergic to gluten proteins but who still would like to eat bread…
As far as the potentially excessive softness of the cookie, the experimenter believes that substituting bread flour for “all-purpose” flour and baking for up to 20 minutes should solve the softness problem, resulting in a chewier texture which the experimenter believes will be more appropriate.
The experimenter also notes that a second batch of the same recipe, cooked for approximately 20 minutes at ~205°C (~400°F) were nearly burned, though they did come out firmer but drier in texture. The flavor was still judged superb, other than the slight burnt note. Subsequent versions of this recipe will revert back to the original 190°C cooking temperature.
Obviously, further research is needed to determine the correct modifications to achieve perfect texture, and of course, to broaden the sample size of of the taste-testing group, and the experimenter should be given a sizable grant and a nobel prize for this research. Well, a grant at least.
Or at least some praise or something. Or a cookie, except that the experimenter obviously already has some.
Dangit, I’m out of time. I was going to try out some crazy ideas with my Ginger Cookie recipe, too, and see if I can develop a Kombucha culture from scratch. Guess that’ll have to wait, because it’s bedtime now. Back to work in the morning…
Looks like the truckloads of candy-seeking larvae are done finally. Wretched little urchins now get driven from block to block rather than walking the neighborhood like we did.
(It doesn’t actually bother me as much as that makes it sound, I just like having an excuse to say “wretched little urchins”…which reminds me – I have only about a month to get a cheerful flashing “Bah! Humbug!” sign built…)
The only thing that really annoyed me is the fact that having to be ready to be interrupted by another horde of costumed consumers meant I couldn’t really spend any of the evening getting into anything requiring any real attention…which means the 113g of CaCl2.2H2O I’ve got sitting here now to go with my Xanthan Gum has been left neglected, and I still don’t know if I can make Xanthan Gum gel into beads the way you can with sodium alginate. I figure it must be possible, given that both Xanthan gum and Alginate (among others) were all formed into little “bio-booger” beads using the same kind of process in the paper I discussed in Episode 2 of my little audio oggcast. Perhaps I’ll have time to find out tomorrow.
For now, it’s time for bed. Daylight Losings Time starts tonight, so if the critters allow me to actually sleep, I ought to be well rested to attempt some serious lake-spanking in the morning – there’s supposedly a resort on the shore of the lake that has a sushi bar, and the idea of being able to paddle out for sushi amuses me. It looks like it’s at least 9-10 miles away, though, so it’ll be a long trip if I attempt it. Hopefully I’ll have time left after that.
Also, the developer of the libdmtx datamatrix barcode encoder and decoder software posted a recent comment on my previous post about the software and its potential uses – looks like some interesting projects going on there, including one intended to generate ID cards that only legitimate authorities could read (so as to prevent identity theft).
P.S. Anybody know how to build a really good (but simple) ozone generator for sanitization purposes? Or the effective pore sizes of commonly available materials like plastic wrap? Or if a corporate entity can be a shareholder/partner in a Limited Liability Company?
I’m still not sure I know why I have a desire to push recordings of my voice onto a more or less innocent worldwide population, but I do. And now I have a real theme to wrap an attempt at a podcast (or as I prefer – “oggcast”) around: scientific papers.
I finally got annoyed at press-release-based science stories one too many times, and thought to myself “why does almost nobody who does these stories at least cite the dang thing so I can go look it up and see what’s really in it, if they can’t be bothered to actually read and report on it themselves rather than just the press-release?” The story in question was the recent one about how babies understand dog-language (or something like that). Since I consider the dog to be a philosophical role-model, I wanted to read the actual paper and see if it was as silly as the headlines made it sound or (as I suspected) less flashy but more solid…but even “Science Daily” didn’t cite it.
Finally talking myself out of putting off doing audio recording, I tracked down the original paper, read it, and whipped out a rough show discussing what I found in the paper. I had fun doing it, so I’d like to turn it into a series.
I’ve put up a utilitarian page at http://bigroom.org/stirfry with both a built-in <audio> tag interface and direct-download links for both Ogg Vorbis and MP3 versions.
I’m still deciding exactly how I’m going to decide on the papers to cover – should I pick obscure, forgotten ones that almost nobody else would ever read again without me stumbling on them and talking about them? Classic papers? Papers related to recent news stories like this one? All of the above? Depending on how long I end up trying to make the episodes, perhaps starting with some kind of scientific question and then reporting on a selection of papers I dig up to address the question, or just a selection of papers on the same subject? I’ve already gotten a request for an episode on the theme of prokaryotic extracellular polysaccharides…
The rate at which I can convince myself to try to crank these out (and improve their quality) is directly proportional to how much interest there might be out there in them, so please don’t hesitate to let me know if you think this might be interesting. Please don’t let me slack off! Also, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about anything I mention in the show or the attached show notes.
If you don’t want to comment here, you can also email me at epicanis at bigroom.org.
I admittedly find it hard to believe that such a large proportion of scientists in any field, climatology or otherwise, could actually conspire together to pull off this big of a hoax when at all other times they’re competing pretty intensely against each other for funding and attention. Heck, most of us mad scientistsGrumpy Visionaries would sooner give up our armies of Atomic Robot Zombie Clones than share credit for scientific discoveries. Still, I’m just cynical enough to believe that it’s not impossible. Even if it’s true, though, I don’t care, because something unprecedented and very important is happening right now, and there’s no way we’re likely to ever have this chance again.
To those of you reading this who agree that something needs to be done about “Climydia” (hat-tip – if I wore a hat – to Justin Jackson of “This Week in Science” for this neologism; a combination of “Climate” and “Chlamydia”, if it’s not obvious, making “Global Warming” a metaphorical embarassing but hopefully curable disease): you can stop reading now. I agree. We must do something about it. It is a serious problem and needs to be corrected. The rest of this post is for those who don’t agree. Go ahead and click away. Don’t worry, I’ll tell the deniers off, you can go read something else now. Thanks.
Once again, I found myself with some time to give the nearby lake a good paddling. It’s said that in order to get real physical development you have to work out to exhaustion…so I did. Five hours of giving the lake a paddling, and over 15 miles of travel in the process. My goal is to get to the point where I can set out and get comfortably to and from anywhere on the lake that I might want to go during a single paddling session, at least if I leave early enough.
The Minister of the Front End of the Kayak is out of town, so I struck out bravely all alone in my explorations. It’s just as well – the Minister of the Front End doesn’t like going to the civilized side of the lake. She’d much rather head into areas of the northern side of the lake to poke around the tree-lined inlets. I, on the other hand, find the populated side of the lake much more interesting. It’s not that I dislike the more wilderness-themed areas, but to me one “beautiful expanse of tree-lined lake shore” (alligators and random fishing boats aside) looks pretty much like any other. There are all kinds of odd things to find hidden in the populated side of the lake, however. I’m mentally kicking myself for forgetting to get a picture of the “Southern Empres”[sic - looked like they'd lost a letter] Paddlewheel boat as I paddled by. Not all of the interesting things are even human-derived – the bird-covered island was kind of a surprise.
Interactive map with track and pictures (which will hopefully display correctly now) may be found below (RSS feed readers, you may need to click through to the actual blog post to see it;
I’m going to have to paddle back out to “Zach’s Bar-B-Q Barge” for lunch one of these days and see how they are. Checking out the publically-accessible and potentially paddle-friendly establishments on the lake is one of my excuses for getting out into the Big Room for exercise.
Full-scale and fully geolocated versions of several photos from this trip may be found at the Panoramio page. I’m also still thinking about getting a recorder and incorporating some audio into these things. Hopefully Firefox 3.5 will actually be released one of these days…
Now, back to bed. I have to get up to start the work-week in about 8 hours…Good night everyone, and let me know how the map works and how the pictures look…
I expect to put up a real page detailing my setup here and how I get various things to work on it, but before I go to bed, here are some first impressions:
The keyboard is, as I said, TINY. However, it’s turning out not to be a problem for me. I end up going at a little less that full speed on it, but I can still type plenty fast enough on it to be comfortable rather than impatient with it.
Arch Linux seems to be quite nice for a distribution that uses precompiled binaries…(Yes, I’m still a Gentoo fan…). It’s a lot like Slackware, except with a “real”, full-featured package manager. There seems to be a nice selection of user-generated repositories for various purposes along with the official one, too (including ones for Eee PC 901-specific stuff.)
So far, the wireless (802.11a/b/g/n) on this thing seems amazing. I’m getting a much stronger signal with it than ever got with any of the three different bits of wireless network hardware I tried with Igor (built-in wireless, Prism-based 802.11b PCMCIA card, and most recently USB dongle).
GIGANTO-FONTS! GTK+ applications – including Firefox – seem to have their own special places to define font sizes, I think – I had to modify “userChrome.css” to force the browser to use normal sized fonts rather than gigantic “RUN SPOT RUN, SEE SPOT RUN” “Easy-Reader” fonts on this screen. I still run into a lot of sites that display in annoying giganto-fonts. Liferea seems to have the same problem. KDE (4.2.2) initially had the same problem, but so far I’ve only had to tell it once to use normal-sized (for this screen) fonts and all of the KDE-related applications are behaving so far. KDE seems to run nicely on this system.
Incidentally, the browser in question is the Firefox 3.1(/3.5) Beta 3, compiled from one of the user-provided Arch packages. So far it’s running great.
Battery life is probably not outright AMAZING for people who have previously paid attention to maximizing battery life, but I do get 4-6 hours or so out of it, which compared to my previous lazy habit of demanding maximum performance and just carrying the power cord with me is really impressive to me.
The built-in webcam works “out of the box” – without doing anything at all to configure it, I just installed mplayer and “mplayer tv://” immediately lets me use my computer as a $300 vanity mirror…more practical uses to follow later. I’d love to design a periscope-like gizmo to hang on the edge of the screen such that the webcam would be recording what’s happening in FRONT of me, rather than recording ME.
Sound configuration is confusingly simple. I know that sounds strange, but the last two laptops I had displayed a bewildering array of volume and mute controls for the sound. Bit just has an “out” volume control, a mute for the built-in speakers, volume settings for the two built-in microphones, and a central “capture” volume control. I haven’t played with recording yet, so I’m not sure how the input controls relate to either the external microphone port or the built-in pair of microphones (stereo!), but playback seems to work fine. I’ve already installed Audacity, so I should be equipped to play with it when I get time. It’s slightly confusing that the master volume control is called “lineOut”, but only slightly…
The 1024×600 resolution usually works just fine and gives me plenty of space, but a few programs still seem to assume the screen is taller. Part of this is really the Giganto-Fonts problem – most of the windows seem to fit on the screen just fine once the fonts are made to display at a normal size.
Google Earth whines about the screen being “only” 600 pixels high, and at the moment the bottom of the window ends up where I can’t see it, but other than that it seems to run fine. Given that this is the only application I use at the moment that actually needs real 3D acceleration, this is good news to me. Once I figure out how to set a default window size for Google Earth and cure ITS GigantoFonts problem it ought to be perfectly usable.
The verdict so far: “Bit” is a ridiculously concentrated piece of portable computing power. The ability to easily carry a device like this that gives me a full-powered computer and internet connection made want to dig out my DVD’s of “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”. I also need to install some speech synthesis so I can make it say “Yes” and “No” in the proper voice-synthesizer tone…