Stir-Fried Stochasticity Ep 04 (“TuberculosisBurgers”) is up…

Oh, I forgot to mention here that Episode 4 is up at, 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:

    Stir-Fried Stochasticity

  • 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.

    Perceptive Peripatetic

  • “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.)

A bad case of “Now What?”

My schedule means I have virtually no time to do anything but work (including the commute) during the week, and increasingly the two days of weekend that I have tend to have an overflowing list of “stuff I’ve been wanting to do – often for quite a while – but can’t possibly do much of in the time I have this weekend”

I’ve got a minimum of two different podcasts/oggcasts that I can be working on (Episode 4 of “Stir-Fried Stochasticity”, regarding Tuberculosis and “heat-fixing” [and ninjas], should be ready to post soon. I also have plans to do an intermittent computer-nerd podcast, perhaps also to be submitted for “Hacker Public Radio“.) I have a bit of relatively minor but useful hardware-hacking to do (make a cable allowing me to plug an external microphone into my Android phone for potentially recording podcast/oggcast material and other things). I have work to do on (which I plan to turn into the main podcast/oggcast distribution site). I have vague ideas of general creative endeavors that I could work on developing. I have a seemingly endless mass of domestic chores that could be attended to (it’s quite frightening to think of myself as “the neat one” in this house…).

It’s grotesquely hot outside as usual (why is it that no matter what part of the country I live in, the temperatures seem to spend most of their time 5-10°F above supposedly “normal” for the last decade or so? My hypothesis is that the universe dislikes me for some reason), so outdoor activities are currently lacking from my list.

I need one of those “life” things I keep hearing about. I’ve heard they’re kind of fun.

Any suggestions from anyone (anonymous or otherwise)?

P.S. Motorola corporation sucks. Thankfully it turns out HTC (unlike Motorola) actually knows what “geotagging” means…

Also P.S.: only one post and one off-blog comment letting me know the “Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls” post actually worked. Did anyone else listen to it (or try to and find they couldn’t)? If so, how did it sound? Thanks…

The Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls

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… 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’m back…

I’m still around, honest.  Just got back from a semi-business trip involving way more sitting-in-a-car than is comfortable.  I have a few pictures from the trip, which I’m working on getting uploaded to my Panoramio page.  A few are up now, a few more will follow soon.  See anything you like?

Meanwhile, I’m way behind on sleep.  Good night, y’all.  More in the next day or two…

Cookies as an antidote for Yule Poisoning

(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

Materials and Methods

Powdery stuff

  • 190g “All Purpose”(Around 1 cup) “All Purpose” Flour
  • 3g NaHCO3 (1/2 tsp)
  • 1-1.5g (1/4 tsp) “Baking Powder”
  • 2g (1/4tsp) NaCl
  • 750mg Xanthomonas campestris exopolysaccharide (~1/4 tsp “Xanthan Gum”)

“Wet” stuff and sugars:

  • 150g honey
  • 100g Erythritol
  • 4g glycerol (about 5ml)
  • 50ml double-strength black tea
  • 140g Sunflower Seed Butter (about 1/2c)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 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[1]. 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[2] 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.

[1] Munro IC, Berndt WO, Borzelleca JF, Flamm G, Lynch BS, Kennepohl E, Bär EA, Modderman J:”Erythritol: an interpretive summary of biochemical, metabolic, toxicological and clinical data.”;Food Chem Toxicol. 1998 Dec;36(12):1139-74.
[2]Dean I, Jackson F, Greenough RJ:”Chronic (1-year) oral toxicity study of erythritol in dogs.”;Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1996 Oct;24(2 Pt 2):S254-60.

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?

“Stir-Fried Stochasticity” podcast: pilot episode

Cornelia the Happy Mutt with a tennis ballI’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 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

Thank you, and good night…

Linux on the EeePC 901 a fortnight later…

'Penguin Powered!' stickersLife’s been a couple of weeks of hectic mess, but we’re still here. I’ve also now had “Bit” for about a fortnight. I still love it.

I did run into an odd problem, though. People occasionally report that they have trouble getting their Linux boxen to connect to encrypted networks. Even when “regular” encrypted networks work, sometimes people say they have trouble connecting to the hardcore “Enterprise”-grade networks running certain varieties of the WPA2 encyrption, as is in use for example on campus where I work.

I, however, had no trouble with these. I’ve got WICD installed, and I can just pick the network I want out of the list that pops up, enter the relevant password/”key” information for whatever encrypted network I want, and hit “connect”. No problems at all. It’s the plain, unencrypted “public” networks I had trouble with.

Apparently, the wireless network card in the EeePC 901 is based on the relatively new Ralink RT2860 chipset. Ralink provides native Linux drivers, which so far work impressively well. The one problem they have turns out to be that the drivers don’t respond to the old-school “iwconfig” program that everything expects to use to tell a wireless card to connect to a public wireless network. Since WICD expects to be able to do this, connections to unencrypted networks were failing silently. Hopefully this single irritating quirk in the drivers will be corrected – or perhaps a workaround implemented in WICD.

Meanwhile, there’s a workaround – you can use another tool that comes in the same package as iwconfig called “iwpriv” to set the network information. I whipped up a quick script that I can feed the name of the network and channel I want to connect to and it sets the card appropriately. THEN when I push the “connect” button in WICD, it works.

I was glad for the wireless networking performance today when some jerk set off the fire alarm in the building where I work (for about the 4th or 5th time in the last 6 months or so) and we all had to shuffle outside and sit around at a “safe” distance from the building while we waited for someone to decide there wasn’t really a fire and let us back in. I was able to stay on the wireless network from a fair distance outside the walls, and was thus spared the tragic fate of losing my connection to the InterTubes and having to interact with the real world…

If you have a use for it, the pathetically simple little script I use is:
#call with: (ssid) (channel)
iwpriv ra0 set EncrypType=NONE
iwpriv ra0 set AuthType=WEPAUTO
iwpriv ra0 set SSID=$1
iwpriv ra0 set Channel=$2

The way I use it is I pop up WICD and find the network I want to connect to. Let’s say it’s called “PublicNet” on channel 1. I tell the computer to run “ PublicNet 1”. Then I can push the connect button in WICD and it seems to work fine. (It may be that you can leave out the Channel line, I haven’t tried that yet.)

That’s really the only problem I’ve run into so far. Otherwise, everything just plain works that I’ve tested at this point. I even loaded, geotagged, cleaned up, and posted the most recent few photos I put on Panoramio entirely on this little machine. I was right, incidentally – fixing the “GigantoFonts” problem solved the problem of Google Earth popping up too big. The Linux version runs just fine now on my EeePC 901.

I should probably post something that isn’t me blathering about my cool new toytool, though. Anybody want to know anything?

Happy “Cheap Peeps Day”, Everyone!

No, no, don’t panic, this isn’t another “all manner of strange things involving Marshmallow Peeps®” post, even though I can’t help thinking of the day after Easter as “Cheap Peeps Day”.

Today’s not a bad day. I got new glasses again – the replacements for the defective lenses finally showed up today. Sadly, the new right-side lens has the same kind of “fine stress-cracks” defect as the previous lenses, but at least it’s only one lens, and this time is much less severe. They’re still a big improvement on my old glasses, and I can wear them while they order a replacement lens again.

picture of an Asus EEE PC 901 Linux netbookPlus, I may have located my new netbook. Commenters here (thanks defcronyke and TomJoe!) had praise for the original Linux Netbook manufacturer, Asus. I’m currently drooling at the EEE PC 901. It’s $10 more than the Sylania G Meso that I wanted but couldn’t find actually in stock anywhere (they were supposedly available a few days ago, so I’m guessing they’re just very popular, and sold out very quickly. [YOU HEAR THAT, RETAILERS?!?!?]). However, along with that extra $10 it comes with built-in bluetooth (Hooray – bluetooth tethering, chan_mobile, and the Bluetooth GPS units I have will be useful!), RAM that can be upgraded without the warranty-voiding case-cracking required to upgrade the Sylvania G Meso, and a bigger, longer-lasting battery pack. Plus, it’s actually in stock at least at They even have it in the less-likely-to-warp-if-I-accidentally-leave-it-in-front-of-a-sunny-window plain white color I wanted.

I’ve still got a little bit of reluctance to switch to a “solid-state” flash-memory drive rather than an old-school mechanical one – they have less capacity, and more importantly each individual sector on a Solid-State Drive wears out and stops working after it’s written to for a certain number of times. Internally, the solid-state drives are supposed to do some behind-the-scenes tricks to spread disk writes around so that the same sectors aren’t constantly being re-written (“wear leveling”), so supposedly the modern drives should last at least around 5 years of “typical use”. Still, that means I probably wouldn’t want to run Gentoo on it – compiling involves lots of temporary file write-and-delete cycles. Oh, well – I’ve been wanting an excuse to try out Arch Linux anyway. It appears to have the same “rolling release” methodology that Gentoo does, with a decent package manager and yet the same kind of ability to custom-compile packages elsewhere to install that Slackware’s “SlackBuild” system enables, so I could still do the “compile just the features I want, optimized for the Atom processor and for minimum size” sort of trick that I could do with Gentoo.

Application of what I like to call “Intentional Computing” philosophy ought to be able to turn a machine like this into a potent portable premium performance powerhouse of…um…something beginning with “p”.

Anyway, I think the only other route I’d consider for getting a Linux netbook would be a Dell Mini 9, which is on sale right now ($50 off). However, it’d still take what appears to be one to three weeks to actually get the machine into my impatient nerd-hands from Dell, and features equivalent to the EEE PC 901 look like they’d still cost about $100 more (at least) from Dell, even with the sale going on.

Any thoughts before I commit myself*?

*– Yes, I know that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Most of them probably apply anyway, though, so I don’t care…