Sunday, October 31, 2010

150,000 people who won't vote for Sarah Palin

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
MythBusters - World’s Largest Sample Size
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

Since they stopped putting The Daily Show on hulu I've gotten a bit out of touch. I should make more of an effort to go watch it on I hope the Rally for Sanity was fun for everybody who attended. They certainly seem good natured and patient and willing to go along with having people say things to them like "180° out of phase." Good work Adam and Jamie.

Having worked big events like the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 I know the kind of serious concentration it takes and the exhaustion that follows. I'm going to cut the technical help a lot of slack on this one. The typo in the embedded caption -- just not even a problem. They used the initial caps right! That's impressive by itself!

David Mitchell Signs Some Boobs...

I never did understand peer pressure. Or autographs. See how awkward it can be? Although it definitely makes the point that there are no bad experiences, only good material.

I do wonder what the proper protocol is these days when you see somebody you know out in public (oh, is that why they call them pubs?!) but they don't know you. With Twitter you can run into people who aren't even on the tele and recognize them. "Oh, Hi! Great to see you. I follow you on Twitter. That's so cool that you took a picture of that thing you saw the other day." ?? Really? That's what I've got? That's so lame. But if you DON'T go up and say Hi to somebody you follow on Twitter isn't that even MORE like you're a weird stalker?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

House on Haunted Hill on Chuck

House on Haunted Hill playing on a TV in the Buy More in this week's episode of Chuck.
I had to stop multitasking on my computer when I heard a familiar scream. I brought the Hulu window to the top and moved the slider back and sure enough, that's House on Haunted Hill on the TV in the Buy More on Chuck! This is an old movie written by my grandfather, Robb White. I guess it's in the public domain now because it's always on Hulu. I recommend it for a Halloween watch! It's the only kind of horror movie I like. There's nothing supernatural in it. Just Vincent Price being a dick.

When if first came out in the theater they had a plastic skeleton rigged over the screen and they would pull it out into the audience with a fishing reel. It didn't take long before people heard about it and brought slingshots and stuff to abuse the skeleton. Somebody tries to do something original and people just have to ruin it....

Speaking of ruining it, the 1999 remake of this movie was horrible. They injected the whole thing with supernatural woo woo and just ruined the thing I liked about it the most. It gets 5.2 stars on IMDB but the original gets 6.8. It gets 98% on the Tomato Meter at Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday night there's a special live Rifftrax event for this movie. I just found this when I pulled up Rotten Tomatoes. I guess I have to go!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Different School of Thought

A Jehovah's witness just rang my doorbell and read to me from her bible. She interpreted the passage from Matthew as saying that if we pursue happiness in anything that isn't spiritual it won't be fulfilling. I told her, "Thank you for that message of hope, but I am from a different school of thought. Have a nice day." She said have a nice day back, closed her bible on her bookmark and went away.

I'm sure I said it just because it's a common expression, but "different school of thought" really is the perfect phrase for what I meant. Thinking is fulfilling to me. Spirituality just kind of give me the creeps.

Sure, thinking doesn't always make me HAPPY. When I think about people it can make me angry, or sad. When I think about computer programming I get confused, and then when I get really confused I become incredibly sleepy. But when I think about things besides people and technology -- geology, hydrology, biology, physics, anything ruled by natural processes -- and learn new things about how the world interacts with itself, it very reliably makes me happy. There are a LOT of schools for natural and physical sciences and WAY more than one book. And they don't make you go out on a rainy Saturday with the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics to read integral tables to strangers. I hope it catches on.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Watermarked paper for proponents of paperless

One of my friends went on a rampage today retweeting remarks about going paperless and it reminded me of something I made two years ago. If you are forced to print something you might as well use watermarked paper like this. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My brother is color-blind. But smart-blind is by far the greater disability. Ever since I read this article about the Dunning-Kruger effect a few months ago I've been paying attention to this. I recently availed myself of the opportunity to do some first hand investigating into the matter. There was a guy on my favorite online dating website that answered the question, "What do you think about healing crystals?" with the answer, "I think they work." But he claimed to be an intellectual and he only wanted to meet women "if their smart." He was online, so I started a chat with him. I opened with a remark that he'd attract more smart women if he knew the difference in "their" and "they're." Yet he kept talking to me. Turns out he believes in astrology, thinks the government has a secret 20 year plan to try to take away all rural land ownership to force people to live in cities, and he thinks global warming is a hoax to increase taxes. He honestly believes he is smarter than everybody else and wants to meet a smart woman.

Dunning-Kruger effect! I never realized how that applies to people who believe mis-information. This guy is SO STUPID he thinks he's brilliant, therefore also believes that everybody else in the world is a lot smarter than they really are. The government is perpetrating a plot to take away my land? Impossible. I have met people that work for the government. Again I say, impossible. They are not competent to pull that off. I need no further argument. I stated as much to this fellow, that government employees at their most brilliant can still only do something that can be completed in a single fiscal budget cycle. A 20 year plot is untenable from a budget standpoint.

He logged off suddenly when I stated plainly that 2 years of studying oceanography with the people that actually collected the data makes me qualified to say definitively that anthropogenic global warming is real (I may have used all caps. I was trying so hard not to be a dick, too.) Anyway, the next day I got two long emails from him. All I can say is that I'm glad I was able to waste so much of his time. I didn't actually click any of his links. I knew it would just make me mad. At the end he informed me that I have a lot to unlearn.

When I was trying to find the link to the original article about anosognosics I found this one about ignorant people contradicting scientists over their methods for predicting climate change. I identify with this article a lot. I didn't struggle through three classes with Dr. Philip Froelich without a healthy appreciation for what we know, what we don't know, and what we might figure out soon. Having some smart-blind git telling me I have a lot to unlearn makes me a little bit angry. It's so hard for scientists to explain climate change to ignorant people because it's REALLY FUCKING COMPLICATED. I mean, damn, anybody remember the phase diagram for ice from high school? Try to tell Sarah Palin that water expands when it freezes AND when it gets hot and she probably won't believe you. Not even if you were Lord Fucking Kelvin.

So first the smart-blind thing made me angry, and then later it made me sad. There are SO many people in the world like him. A colleague at work showed me the dancing parrot video on YouTube because she thinks it's funnier than the ninja cat. Well the parrot has twice as many views as my rocket video, so I guess that says a lot. Ninja cat, on the other hand, has FOURTEEN TIMES as many views. As much as the Japanese like the sonic boom sky ripple, they like a stealthy cat more.

And then it made me mad again when I read this tweet from Phil Plait:
The comments on my UFO posts are always amusing, but people accusing me of not knowing Jupiter are awesome.
And sure enough there was a comment where somebody contradicts Phil Plait.
There are NO reports of balloons and Jupiter was not actually visible in the NYC night sky according to the National Weather Service. ALSO, the daylight sightings would not be Jupiter either? I suggest some calming tea and maybe read Richard Dolan’s UFO & the National Security State 1973-1992. ‘We have never been alone.’ -Major Robert Dean
Oh shut up.

There's another one that was suspicious because he questioned if you could see Jupiter from New York, but that guy was just being innocent, not ignorant. Somebody gave him a nice response.

@20 NAW: “But can you really zoom a news camera in to get that nice of an image of Jupiter in the middle of New York city?”
Yes, a TV camera can show Jupiter very well, since it has a nice zoom and keeps steady. The city lights don’t bother the planets nearly as much as other nighttime objects. You only need 8x zoom or so to see the moons. Most binoculars will do, if you can hold the darn things steady.
I remember watching an outdoor sporting event on TV (I think it was the Winter Olympics), and coming out of commercial, there was this beautiful shot of Saturn. You could clearly see its rings and color bands. Then, the camera zoomed out to show just the dot and then the bright landscape that’s normally shown. That was wonderful.
And then the original commenter replied
@24. AliCali: thanks, never really being to a large city and/or working with a camera like that, I didn’t know.
See? Isn't that civil? Everybody is learning? Accepting each other's expertise?

You need to go watch the video. It made me go "Nuh UH! That reporter can't be that STUPID! And the cameraman TOO?!" I looked at Jupiter with binoculars the other night. I could only make out three moons, but that's exactly what it looks like, what they show in the video. I think the part that struck me as smart-blind was not that the reporter didn't know it was a planet and moons, but that she didn't know anybody to ask! And she didn't CARE! She just went on and on about it without feeling self-concious that she couldn't find out what she was talking about. There is almost no strange phenomenon I encounter where I don't know an expert I can ask about it. Be it biology, electromagnetism, geology, astronomy, computers, psychology, construction, weather, sewage, skydiving, cars, food....

But other people just don't care that they don't know, like the Fox News person, or they think they are so smart they contradict and criticize people that are probably smarter than them. Like this other comment on Phil's blog.
....your post in no way proves that the observed phenomena was a combination of balloons and Jupiter. Therefore I respectfully respond with some reasonable steps someone could take to actually prove the point that you falsely claim to have demonstrated. You know, the sort of things a science journalist should be expected to do.
First, you need to compare the location of Jupiter that night to the time and location of the video. Shouldn’t be too hard.
Second, you need to establish that the Fox News video camera has a powerful enough zoom to see the moons of Jupiter in Chelsea. I am actually a bit skeptical of this because of light pollution, but I have no real idea how powerful their zoom is.
Finally, any account has to also deal with the other objects that we seen after dark (ie, the earth cam footage) and the photos that have found their way to flickr. There is also the footage of the pyramid shaped object from the 13th, but that footage looks a bit hokey to me. Still, a thorough scientific analysis would not simply ignore it.
I am not claiming that there isn’t a conventional explanation for this event. Rather I hope that I have shown that you have not proved your assertions. 
OK, that guy is just a dick. Sounds kind of like the same sort of jackass that graded my GREs and gave me a 30th percentile on the written section. Phil Plait says it's Jupiter, it's Jupiter. He's not on the stand in a capital murder case, he's just refuting an patently idiotic Fox News bit. Now shut the fuck up.

As for the pyramid shaped object, you must have missed this Tree Lobsters post.

See, now I'm angry again. Smart-blind blow-hards need to be dealt with. I don't have any idea how to do this. The best I can figure is that children should be exposed to smart people, namely scientists, as role models from an early age. Give Phil Plait a TV show, good idea. Neil DeGrasse Tyson on a sit-com, excellent. (Twitter says Bill Prady asked him to be on Big Bang Theory) Hopefully these smart people will have an influence on people who don't have any cultural exposure to brilliance.

I have developed a new litmus test for guys on the online dating site. I ask them, "Who is the smartest person you know?" If they can't think of anybody, that's bad. If they say, "Hmm, I'd have to say I am the smartest person I know." Epic fail. If you don't know somebody smarter than yourself, and you have a masters degree, then you either went to the worst college in the country or you are just smart-blind. Why would you take instruction from somebody you didn't think was smarter than you?! I mean, outside of high school where you don't have any choice. I did have one or two high school teachers that I thought were smart. But before college I pretty much relied on my family for smarter-than-me role models. I'm trying to think of a smart TV character from my formative years.... There was that nice white-haired guy on Wild Kingdom. He knew a lot about animals. I thought he was cool. And Dr. Who. Oh, and Dr. Mr. Spock! Fascinating.

From the Autumnal Equinox. Jupiter is the speck. I don't have a TV camera.

Update Feb 4, 2015
Jack Klaff, @jackshebang on twitter, posted this John Cleese video about this topic on January 28th. John Cleese is friends with David Dunning!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pears Pie

I'm cooking again! 
I got my kitchen set up so I can start making real recipes with my fancy gadgets. I hope I haven't completely lost my touch. To try to get my inspiration back I've been watching Good Eats on Hulu. I used to enjoy watching it back when I lived in Atlanta 6 years ago when I had a real TV with cable. It's nice I can enjoy it now with nothing but my iMac.

Pear Pie 2009
Last year in Beachton I made Pear Pie. Meaning a pie containing just one pear. I picked it off my pear tree and I ate the pie all by myself. I used a frozen pie crust because my Cuisinart was boxed up in a mini-warehouse. It was a good looking pie and delicious. When I saw similar looking pears at the green market Saturday I bought them. I bet the ones back home probably just rotted on the tree. That makes me sad. 
Still Life After Marketing Oct 16, 2010

The following recipe for Pears Pie is based on Alton Brown's  Super Apple Pie recipe I watched on Hulu.  I copy/pasted the recipe here with my changes.

For the crust:
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons applejack {I decided not to buy a $20 bottle of booze to make one pie. I just used 5 T ice water.}
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
For the filling:

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds apples, mixture of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, about 6 large apples {I used 6 crisp pears that they called Asian pears at the green market. I got a basket of them for $5. They weren't exactly the same as the apple pears I grow back home. Not as crisp. But they were not nearly as soft as a Bosc pear.  The skin is tough like the pears back home. They had a bit of a flavor note that reminded me of the smell of epoxy resin. This brings back fond memories of my uncle's boat shop so I didn't care. Let's eat 'em.} 
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour {I got regular Minute Tapioca in the pudding section at HEB, the grocery store nearby}
  • 2 tablespoons apple jelly {I used Guava jelly. I just thought it would be good with pears. Plus it was on sale.}
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider {I used Swedish pear soda. I had some cans of it I got at Ikea.}
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise {I used whole allspice, ground ginger and ground nutmeg from a brand new jar that cost half as much as whole nutmeg. My nutmeg grinder is in Beachton and I couldn't find one at the store.}

For the crust:
Place the butter, shortening and applejack into the refrigerator for 1 hour. {I portioned out the butter and Crisco in little pieces on a plate and put them in the refrigerator for about a day. It comes out to a stick and a half of butter and 4 tablespoons of Crisco. I got the kind that comes in fat sticks.}
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated.
Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack {ice water}. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed. {I left it real dry. 5 T only} Weigh the dough and divide in half.  {I just guessed. I knew my pan was smaller than what the recipe called for so it wouldn't be a problem of not having enough.} Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. {I did it the night before. This is the same Cuisinart technique my Aunt Dorian taught me when I was a teenager.}
For the filling:
Peel and core the apples {pears}. Slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges. {I squeezed (squoze) two limes over the pears as I cut them up to slow the browning.} Toss all of the apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar, place in a colander set over a large bowl and allow to drain for 1 1/2 hours. {I left this while I went to HEB to look for tapioca flour.}
Transfer the drained liquid to a small saucepan, place over medium heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool. {I didn't have much juice and I don't trust my stove to not burn stuff up so I didn't concentrate this juice.} Toss the apples with the remaining sugar, tapioca flour, jelly, cider, lime juice, salt and grains of paradise. {I put the tapioca in a coffee grinder with about 7 allspice and whirred it up good. I put some ginger and nutmeg in there and gave it another whir. It was the consistency of flour with medium grind pepper in it like you'd use to coat chicken. I added that to the pears with the two spoons of guava jelly and one of the pear soda but no more lime juice. I shook in a few dashes of Angostora bitters too. I love that stuff. I did remember to add some salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. See photo below.}
For assembling and baking the pie:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Place the dough onto a lightly floured piece of waxed paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place into a 9 1/2 to 10-inch tart pan that is 2-inches deep. {I used a 9" pie plate that fits in my pie keeper. I can't eat up a whole pie so I probably have to take it somewhere to get somebody to help me eat it.} Gently press the dough into the sides of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary. Set a pie bird in the center of the bottom of the pan. {I found a pie bird at HEB for $3.95. This was after I'd already cut up the pears. I'd searched online to see if I should go to Williams Sonoma at the mall but they didn't have them on the website. It's pretty amazing that they had this obscure item at my grocery store.}
Place the apples {pears} into the unbaked pie shell in concentric circles starting around the edges, working towards the center and forming a slight mound in the center of the pie. Pour over any liquid that remains in the bowl. (Mine wasn't really liquid so much as gritty goo. Man oh man was it delicious though.} Roll out the second pie dough as the first. Place this dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the top crust. Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the reduced juice everywhere except around the edge of pie. {I just used it straight out of the pan it drained into. It beaded up on the greasy crust. I saved the extra in a jelly jar to use as a sauce.} Trim any excess dough. Place the pie on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake on the floor** of the oven for 30 minutes. {I did it on the bottom rack for 20 minutes since my pie pan is a little smaller than specified. I didn't have any parchment paper either.} Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until the apples are cooked through but not mushy. {I took it out and put my pie crust edge protector on it. I moved the rack up one notch and put it back in for another 20 minutes.} Remove to a rack and cool a minimum of 4 hours or until almost room temperature.
**If you're using an electric oven with coils on the bottom of the oven, place the pie on the sheet pan on the lowest rack over the coils, NOT directly on top of them.
My flavorings and thickener for the filling. Salt and sugar not shown.
Bottom crust done. Pie bird deployed.
Pears arranged in the pie plate.

Rolling out top crust. I guess I haven't forgotten all I knew because it didn't bother me at all when my crust looked like this. I knew I had more than I needed so I just kept rolling.
After rolling it as thin as I wanted it was fine.

Ready to go in the oven. I didn't use the flash and it was hard to adjust the color in this picture.
After 20 minutes I put this thing on there and put it back in one rack higher.
 I just pulled the extra rack out of the oven for cooling.
Not sure what my plan is for eating the pie yet. I'm a little worried about where to leave it overnight. I've been hearing something running around in my ceiling downstairs. I'll be really really mad if I go down to the kitchen and find the rats ate my pie.

* Update: I ate a piece of the pie. The allspice was too strong for the delicate pears. I think next time I might go with just the bitters and maybe a little ginger. The pears were done al dente and the crust was flakey and nicely browned on the bottom. There was no runny liquid. The moisture was the consistency of warm jelly. I might put more liquid in next time or less tapioca. 

Monday, October 11, 2010


From Miscellaneous

My eyes welled up when I smelled this pine straw today. This photo is from the entrance to the Whole Foods in downtown Austin, TX. Pine straw from back home. I'm sure it's organic too! Nobody fertilizes pine trees. They should say that on the sign. Charge extra. Although $9.99 is more than enough already.

This is just the crappy slash pine straw that goes for about $4 a bale in Georgia. I guess the extra $6 is for transporting it to Texas. Or maybe it's just more prestigious to have some if it's expensive. I haven't seen anybody in Austin use pine straw for mulch, so I guess it's just for piling up on the front porch with pumpkins for a fall display. Wonder what they do with it after that?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Must. Not. Pick. Up. Acorns.

I read a story on Discovery yesterday correlating women's shopping when they travel to their evolution as gatherers. Apparently the men that are traveling with them find this annoying and cannot relate. As I walked back to my office from lunch I noticed what an effort it was for me to not stop and pick up the acorns in the parking lot. They look so green and plump, the little caps are so charming. This compulsion to collect them can only be explained by my evolutionary instincts. Because I know in my logical mind that acorns are impossibly bitter and don't even make good decorations. They shrivel up and get worm holes in them. I know this because I gave in to this base response to acorns in the past. I have collected buckets of acorns, for no discernible reason. I have the same rush of excitement when I see plums on the ground when I'm walking on the greenbelt. I immediately look up to find the tree, marking it in my mind. Do men not do this? This whole time of year fills me with a bit of excitement. Yellow and purple wildflowers mean there are things out there that are ripe and I need to be finding them and collecting them!

But I didn't pick up the acorns or the plums. In my rational mind I know that I can buy more calories worth of food than I'd get out of those acorns if I go back to work and earn money instead. I left the plums because my friend would get bored waiting for me to pick them up, plus I recall the dozen jars of plum jam I left back in Beachton. I have this year's Christmas presents covered already. Back when I didn't have a job it was acceptable to be a gatherer. Now I have to be efficient. Gathering is not efficient.

I suppose finding a plum tree feels similar to finding a great faucet for 85% off at Home Depot. But I can repress the urge to buy a faucet I don't need the same way I can repress the urge to pick up the acorns. I think it's pretty rude of these women to insist on going shopping when the men want to do something more unique to the destination. I do enjoy shopping in foreign cities a little bit, but only if I'm by myself, and I won't go in chain stores. Seeing an familiar facade on the Champs-Élysées because it looks identical to the one in Lenox Mall in Atlanta kind of fills me with revulsion, not an urge to buy eyeliner.

Some things are better as a shared experience, like a beautiful view or anything involving crowds. But when I'm trying to blend in with the French I feel comfortable in a fruit market. And I will always get excited when I find something edible in the wild. I am grateful I don't have the instincts of a male to kill any meaty looking animal that crosses my path. As much trouble as it is to make mayhaw jelly, cleaning and cooking a turkey is WAY worse.